1-6 Abram, Sarai and Hagar 7-14 Hagar and Ishmael 15-16 Abram Gets Ismael
Abram, Sarai and Hagar

1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no [children], and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing [children]. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. 4He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. 5And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

Abram’s stay in Egypt (Gen 12:10-2010Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.11It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman;12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.13Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.”14It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.15Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.16Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.17But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.18Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.”20Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.) brought him quite a lot: a lot of shame, a lot of goods, and also Hagar. Here it appears that his stay in Egypt will have a terrible and long aftermath. A believer can be recovered from a stay in the world, but his stay can have long-term consequences. Ishmael was born of Hagar and his descendants will be Israel’s most bitter enemies – and they are to this day.

There are more lessons in this history. God had promised Abram numerous offspring. That seems to fail, because Sarai can’t have children. Sarai acknowledges that her infertility is from the LORD, because He prevented her from bearing children. However, she can no longer bear this test and comes up with an idea to have children by another way, by her own way. She proposes that Abram go into Hagar. Maybe there will come from Hagar an heir from whom her offspring will be built.

Abram listens. He is as guilty here as Sarai is, or in fact even more guilty. He too succumbed to the temptation to do something himself, because it takes so long for God to keep His promise. And the intention succeeds. But this is not the way God fulfills His promise.

Lack of patience and confidence that God will truly fulfill His promises has led many to premature, self-perpetuating action, the consequences of which sometimes have to be borne throughout the rest of their lives. In Genesis it becomes increasingly clear that every human being and every people who owes their existence to the election of God must live in faith. Human efforts will not help.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul extensively teaches that Hagar and Sarai represent two principles (Gal 4:21-3121Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.23But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.24This is allegorically speaking, for these [women] are two covenants: one [proceeding] from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.25Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.26But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.27For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband.”28And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.29But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also.30But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”31So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.). Hagar is the law and Sarai is the grace. God wants to give Abram and Sarai the heir by grace. But man by nature is not inclined to live by grace. Making a personal contribution, an effort to earn what God promises, fits much more his nature. That is why Hagar proposes the law.

The law is given to tell man what he must do to get life: “Do this and you shall live” (Lev 18:55So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.). However, every human being fails in keeping the law and thus comes under the curse of the law. By keeping the law, by one’s own power, the promise of God is not obtainable. God’s promises are only for those who live by grace. That is the lesson Abram is taught and we have to learn through him.

At first it seems that their method is successful. People can go very far. Just look at Paul, who can say that he is blameless as to the righteousness which is in the law (Phil 3:66as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.). But he is a persecutor of the church. The law calls upon the flesh, but nothing that is pleasing to God can come forth from it. Abram has to learn that and we have to learn that.

If someone succeeds in building up his own righteousness, he always will look down on others who have no high opinion of themselves and only want to live by grace. Thus Hagar becomes arrogant and looks despicable down on Sarai (cf. Lk 18:1111The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.).

When Sarai presents things again as they are to God– Hagar is a slave after all – Hagar flees.

Hagar and Ishmael

7Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11The angel of the LORD said to her further,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.
12“He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand [will be] against everyone,
And everyone’s hand [will be] against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”
13Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

“The Angel of the LORD” is the form in which the Lord Jesus appears in the Old Testament, that is, before His coming as Man on earth. He is Yahweh, the LORD. He follows Hagar and finds her on the way to Sur, that is the way to Egypt, the land where she comes from. He calls her by her true name: “Sarai’s maid.”

The questions He asks are meant for her. He knows her well and knows everything about her (cf. Jn 4:2929“Come, see a man who told me all the things that I [have] done; this is not the Christ, is it?”). Through His questions He wants to remind her of where she comes from and make her see where she is going. She comes from a place of blessing and is on her way to destruction. It will be a great humiliation to return to Sarai, but it will be the best choice.

As for the child that she will bear, the LORD also makes an announcement concerning him. She must give him the name “Ishmael”, which means “God hears”. In his name he will carry with him the constant memory of God. Will he live by that? The LORD also makes an announcement on this subject. He will be “a wild donkey” (verse 1212“He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand [will be] against everyone,
And everyone’s hand [will be] against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”
). His character will not match his name. Untied, free, without taking anyone into account, the boy will develop. He will show in his life that he is a son of Hagar.

In a symbolic sense it means that he will be an animal of burden, that is a donkey, that will throw his burden off. He is a picture of Israel under the law, which takes no account of that law. The result is that all chase away and repress Israel (Deu 28:25,3325“The LORD shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be [an example of] terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.33A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually.).

Thankful for His looking after her – she did not look for Him, but He for her – she calls him “a God who sees”. She acknowledges the grace He has shown her. The place where she has spoken with the LORD is called “Beer-lahai-roi”, meaning “the (or: well) of the Living One looking at me” or “the pit (or: well) of the Living One revealing Himself”. Here we have a picture of the Word of God, for therein God reveals Himself, in it He shows Himself. This well is mentioned twice more (Gen 24:6262Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev.; 25:1111It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.). Later God also reveals Himself in the Lord Jesus at a well to a woman who is actually fleeing (Jn 4:6-7,25-266and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.7There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, “Give Me a drink.”25The woman *said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”26Jesus *said to her, “I who speak to you am [He].”).

Hagar has come to know God as the God Who hears – that is how she had to call her son – and the God Who sees. To know God as the God Who hears and sees is a great encouragement for the faith that is put to the test.

Abram Gets Ismael

15So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

Abram gets Ismael when he is eighty-six years old. He gives him the name which the angel of the LORD called Hagar. Maybe he has mistaken him for the promised seed, until the moment God’s counsel has got through to him. It will take another fourteen years before the true heir is born.

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