Adam Clarke Commentary
Sarai, having no child, gives Hagar her maid to Abram for wife, Genesis 16:1-3. She conceives and despises her mistress, Genesis 16:4. Sarai is offended and upbraids Abram, Genesis 16:5. Abram vindicates himself; and Hagar, being hardly used by her mistress, runs away, Genesis 16:6. She is met by an angel, and counselled to return to her mistress, Genesis 16:7-9. God promises greatly to multiply her seed, Genesis 16:10. Gives the name of Ishmael to the child that should be born of her, Genesis 16:11. Shows his disposition and character, Genesis 16:12. Hagar calls the name of the Lord who spoke to her, Thou God seest me, Genesis 16:13. She calls the name of the well at which the angel met her, Beer-laharoi, Genesis 16:14. Ishmael is born in the 86th year of Abram‘s age, Genesis 16:15, Genesis 16:16.
She had a handmaid, an Egyptian - As Hagar was an Egyptian, St. Chrysostom‘s conjecture is very probable. that she was one of those female slaves which Pharaoh gave to Abram when he sojourned in Egypt; see Genesis 12:16. Her name הגר (hagar) signifies a stranger or sojourner, and it is likely she got this name in the family of Abram, as the word is pure Hebrew.
Go in unto my maid - It must not be forgotten that female slaves constituted a part of the private patrimony or possessions of a wife, and that she had a right, according to the usages of those times, to dispose of them as she pleased, the husband having no authority in the case.
I may obtain children by her - The slave being the absolute property of the mistress, not only her person, but the fruits of her labor, with all her children, were her owner‘s property also.
And Sarai, Abram‘s wife, took Hagar - and gave her to her husband - to be his wife - There are instances of Hindoo women, when barren, consenting to their husbands marrying a second wife for the sake of children; and second marriages on this account, without consent, are very common - Ward
My wrong be upon thee - This appears to be intended as a reproof to Abram, containing an insinuation that it was his fault that she herself had not been a mother, and that now he carried himself more affectionately towards Hagar than he did to her, in consequence of which conduct the slave became petulant. To remove all suspicion of this kind, Abram delivers up Hagar into her hand, who was certainly under his protection while his concubine or secondary wife; but this right given to him by Sarai he restores, to prevent her jealousy and uneasiness.
Sarah dealt hardly with her - תאנה (teanneha), she afflicted her; the term implying stripes and hard usage, to bring down the body and humble the mind. If the slave was to blame in this business the mistress is not less liable to censure. She alone had brought her into those circumstances, in which it was natural for her to value herself beyond her mistress.
The angel of the Lord - That Jesus Christ, in a body suited to the dignity of his nature, frequently appeared to the patriarchs, has been already intimated. That the person mentioned here was greater than any created being is sufficiently evident from the following particulars: -
In the way to Shur - As this was the road from Hebron to Egypt, it is probable she was now returning to her own country.
Hagar, Sarai‘s maid - This mode of address is used to show her that she was known, and to remind her that she was the property of another.
I will multiply thy seed exceedingly - Who says this? The person who is called the Angel of the Lord; and he certainly speaks with all the authority which is proper to God.
And shalt call his name Ishmael - ישמאעל (Yishmael), from שמע (shama), he heard, and אל (El), God; for, says the Angel, The Lord Hath Heard thy affliction. Thus the name of the child must ever keep the mother in remembrance of God‘s merciful interposition in her behalf, and remind the child and the man that he was an object of God‘s gracious and providential goodness. Afflictions and distresses have a voice in the ears of God, even when prayer is restrained; but how much more powerfully do they speak when endured in meekness of spirit, with confidence in and supplication to the Lord!
He will be a wild man - פרא אדם (pere adam). As the root of this word does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is probably found in the Arabic (farra), to run away, to run wild; and hence the wild ass, from its fleetness and its untamable nature. What is said of the wild ass, Job 39:5-8, affords the very best description that can be given of the Ishmaelites, (the Bedouins and wandering Arabs), the descendants of Ishmael: “Who hath sent out the wild ass (פרא (pere)) free? or who hath loosed the bands (ערוד (arod)) of the brayer? Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.” Nothing can be more descriptive of the wandering, lawless, freebooting life of the Arabs than this.
God himself has sent them out free - he has loosed them from all political restraint. The wilderness is their habitation; and in the parched land, where no other human beings could live, they have their dwellings. They scorn the city, and therefore have no fixed habitations; for their multitude, they are not afraid; for when they make depredations on cities and towns, they retire into the desert with so much precipitancy that all pursuit is eluded. In this respect the crying of the driver is disregarded. They may be said to have no lands, and yet the range of the mountains is their pasture - they pitch their tents and feed their flocks, wherever they please; and they search after every green thing - are continually looking after prey, and seize on every kind of property that comes in their way.
It is farther said, His hand will be against every man, and every man‘s hand against him - Many potentates among the Abyssinians, Persians, Egyptians, and Turks, have endeavored to subjugate the wandering or wild Arabs; but, though they have had temporary triumphs, they have been ultimately unsuccessful. Sesostris, Cyrus, Pompey, and Trajan, all endeavored to conquer Arabia, but in vain. From the beginning to the present day they have maintained their independence, and God preserves them as a lasting monument of his providential care, and an incontestable argument of the truth of Divine Revelation. Had the Pentateuch no other argument to evince its Divine origin, the account of Ishmael and the prophecy concerning his descendants, collated with their history and manner of life during a period of nearly four thousand years, would be sufficient. Indeed the argument is so absolutely demonstrative, that the man who would attempt its refutation, in the sight of reason and common sense would stand convicted of the most ridiculous presumption and folly.
And she called the name of the Lord - She invoked (ותקרא (vattikra)) the name of Jehovah who spake unto her, thus: Thou God seest me! She found that the eye of a merciful God had been upon her in all her wanderings and afflictions; and her words seem to intimate that she had been seeking the Divine help and protection, for she says, Have I also (or have I not also) looked after him that seeth me? This last clause of the verse is very obscure and is rendered differently by all the versions. The general sense taken out of it is this, That Hagar was now convinced that God himself had appeared unto her, and was surprised to find that, notwithstanding this, she was still permitted to live; for it is generally supposed that if God appeared to any, they must be consumed by his glories. This is frequently alluded to in the sacred writings. As the word אחרי (acharey), which we render simply after, in other places signifies the last days or after times, (see Exodus 33:23), it may probably have a similar meaning here; and indeed this makes a consistent sense: Have I here also seen the Latter Purposes or Designs of him who seeth me? An exclamation which may be referred to that discovery which God made in the preceding verse of the future state of her descendants.
Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi - It appears, from Genesis 16:7, that Hagar had sat down by a fountain or well of water in the wilderness of Shur, at which the Angel of the Lord found her; and, to commemorate the wonderful discovery which God had made of himself, she called the name of the well באר לחי ראי (beer-(lachai-(roi), “A well to the Living One who seeth me.” Two things seem implied here:
1.A dedication of the well to Him who had appeared to her; and,
2.Faith in the promise: for he who is the Living One, existing in all generations, must have it ever in his power to accomplish promises which are to be fulfilled through the whole lapse of time.
And Hagar bare Abram a son, etc. - It appears, therefore, that Hagar returned at the command of the angel, believing the promise that God had made to her.
Called his son‘s name - Ishmael - Finding by the account of Hagar, that God had designed that he should be so called. “Ishmael,” says Ainsworth, “is the first man in the world whose name was given him of God before he was born.”
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