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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 16

Verses 1-3

GENESIS - CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Verses 1-3:

The passing years deepened Sarai’s concern over her barrenness. Doubtless she was fully aware of God’s promise to Abram regarding the seed. It was not fully clear that Sarai should be the mother of the promised son. So Sarai offered a plan by which the promise could be fulfilled. What she proposed was proper and legal according to custom. Her personal handmaid (slave-girl) was Hagar; possibly acquired during their brief stay in Egypt. Sarai proposed that she should become a secondary wife to Abram, and bear a child by him. According to the law of the time, this child would legally belong to Sarai and Abram.

Sarai’s proposal was not an evidence of her lack of faith. It was prompted by her zeal of faith which led her to desire the fulfillment of the promised blessing. It was a proof of her humility, and her devotion to Abram.

This episode occurred during the tenth year of Abram’s stay in the Land of Canaan. At this time he was past eighty-five years of age, and Sarai was past sixty-five.

Although Sarai’s proposal was legal so far as man’s law and custom was concerned, it was not according to the will and purpose of God. And it resulted in conflict in her home, a conflict still raging today among the world’s nations.

Verses 4-6

Verses 4-6:

The liason between Abram and Hagar resulted in Hagar’s becoming pregnant. Barrenness among the Hebrews was regarded as a reproach, Ge 19:31; 30:1, 23; Le 20:20. Fecundity was regarded as a special mark of God’s favor, Ge 21:6; Ex 23:6; De 7:14. Thus when Hagar realized she was with child, she became insolent toward Sarai (see Pr 30:23). ,

Hagar’s attitude aroused jealousy and irritation in Sarai. She sought to place the blame for this problem upon Abram, though the matter was her own suggestion. But Abram must bear his share of the blame. He was the head of the house, and should have known not to take matters into his own hands. He sought to avoid further conflict and personal responsibility by turning the matter to Sarai. The treatment she meted to Hagar was so harsh that the slave girl fled to escape her mistress’ harshness.

Verses 7-16

Verses 7-16:

Hagar fled in the direction of her homeland, Egypt. Likely she was alone. This was a hazardous undertaking. She was probably young, pregnant, and defenseless. The trip was long. Roving bands of bandits ranged between Canaan and Egypt. These factors combined to make the trip extremely dangerous. Probably she had not gone very far until she stopped by "the" fountain to rest. This was likely a well-known spring, offering rest to the flocks and travelers who ranged that way.

"The angel of the Lord, Maleach Jehovah, is none other than the Angel (Messenger) of the Covenant, Jehovah Himself (Ge 16:13; 18:23-33; Ex 3:6; Jg 6:15, 20-23). He appeared to Hagar, comforted her, and sent her back to Sarai. But the Lord made a promise to Hagar: her son would grow up to become the progenitor of an exceedingly great number of people. He would be a "wild man," literally a "wild ass of a man," indicative of his swiftness, his love of nature’s beauty, his love of freedom, and his contempt for city living.

Jehovah gave Hagar the name for her son: Ishmael, "God shall hear." This was in recognition that Jehovah had heard the affliction and prayer of Hagar, and had answered her cry for help.

Hagar evidenced her faith in Jehovah in the name she assigned to the well: Beer-la-hai-roi, literally "the well of the God of my vision." The modern site is uncertain.

Hagar returned to her mistress Sarai, as Jehovah had instructed. She went back in a spirit of meekness. She likely was well-received and kindly treated. When her son was born, Abram gave him the name Ishmael, perhaps because of a Divine revelation, or because of the request of Hagar. Abram was eighty-six years old at the birth of Ishmael.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 16". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-16.html. 1985.