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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 16

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2093. B.C. 1911.

Hagar probably was one of those maid-servants which the king of Egypt (among other gifts) bestowed upon Abram, Genesis 12:16 . Concerning her we have four things in this chapter,

( 1,) Her marriage to Abram her master, Genesis 16:1-3 .

(2,) Her misbehaviour toward Sarai her mistress, Genesis 16:4-6 .

(3,) Her discourse with an angel that met her in her flight, Genesis 16:7-14 .

(4,) Her delivery of a son, Genesis 16:15-16 .

Verse 1

Genesis 16:1. We have here the marriage of Abram to Hagar, who was his secondary wife. Herein though he may be excused, he cannot be justified; for from the beginning it was not so: and when it was so, it seems to have proceeded from an irregular desire to build up their families, for the more speedy peopling of the world.

Verse 4

Genesis 16:4. Her mistress was despised in her eyes Thus began the ill consequences of Abram’s marriage to Hagar: much mischief it made presently. Hagar no sooner perceives herself with child, but she looks scornfully upon her mistress; upbraids her, perhaps, with her barrenness, and insults over her. Sarai falls upon Abram, and very unjustly charges him with the injury, suspecting that he countenanced Hagar’s insolence: and as one not willing to hear what Abram had to say, she rashly appeals to God. Those are not always in the right that are most forward in appealing to God. Rash and bold imprecations are commonly evidences of guilt and a bad cause.

Verse 6

Genesis 16:6. Thy maid is in thy hand Though she was his wife, he would not countenance her in any thing disrespectful to Sarai. Those who would keep up peace and love must return soft answers to hard accusations; husbands and wives particularly should endeavour not to be both angry together. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her Making her to serve with rigour; she fled from her face She not only avoided her wrath for the present, but totally deserted her service.

Verse 7

Genesis 16:7. Here is the first mention we have in Scripture of an angel’s appearance; who arrested her in her flight. It should seem she was making toward her own country, for she was in the way to Shur, which lay toward Egypt. It would be well if our afflictions would make us think of our home, the better country. But Hagar was now out of the way of her duty, and going farther astray when the angel found her. It is a great mercy to be stopped in a sinful way, either by conscience or providence.

Verses 8-9

Genesis 16:8-9 . And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid 1st, This was to check her pride. Though she was Abram’s wife, yet he calls her Sarai’s maid, to humble her. 2d, It was a rebuke to her flight. Sarai’s maid ought to be in Sarai’s tent, and not wandering in the wilderness. Whence camest thou? Consider that thou art running away both from the duty thou wast bound to, and the privileges thou wast blest with, in Abram’s tent. She said, I flee from the face of my mistress She acknowledges her fault in fleeing from her mistress; and yet excuses it, that it was from the face, or displeasure, of her mistress. And the angel said, Return to thy mistress Go home and humble thyself for what thou hast done amiss, and resolve for the future to behave thyself better.

Verse 10

Genesis 16:10. I will multiply thy seed exceedingly Hebrews Multiplying I will multiply it; that is, multiply it in every age, so as to perpetuate it. The Hagarenes, Saracens, and various other tribes of Arabs were descended from Ishmael, and they have been, and still are, a great people.

Verse 11

Genesis 16:11. Ishmael That is, God will hear; and the reason is, because the Lord hath heard He hath, and therefore he will. The experience we have had of God’s seasonable kindness in distress should encourage us to hope for the like help in the like exigencies. Even there where there is little cry of devotion, the God of pity hears the cry of affliction: tears speak as well as prayers.

Verse 12

Genesis 16:12. He will be a wild man A wild ass of a man; so the word is: rude, and bold, and fearing no man; untamed, untractable, living at large, and impatient of service and restraint. His hand will be against every man That is his sin; and every man’s hand against him That is his punishment. Those that have turbulent spirits, have commonly troublesome lives: they that are provoking and injurious to others, must expect to be repaid in their own coin. But this prediction chiefly respects the seed of Ishmael, who, it is here foretold, should be wild, free men, like wild asses, mischievous to all around them, and extremely numerous. Such they have been for almost four thousand years; infamous for theft, pillage, robbery, revenge, and murder. “It hath, therefore,” as Mr. Brown justly observes, “been the continued and common interest of mankind to extirpate them from the earth. But though almost every noted conqueror who hath appeared in the world, whether Persian, Grecian, Roman, Tartar, or Turkish, hath pushed his conquests to their borders, or even beyond them, into Egypt or Arabia Felix, not one hath ever been able to subdue these Ishmaelites, or deprive them of their freedom.” Here then we have another remarkable prophecy most evidently fulfilled, and a continued and standing proof, before the face of the whole world, exactly like that which arises from the present state of the Jews, of the truth of divine revelation. He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren Although threatened and insulted by all his neighbours, he shall keep his ground; and, for Abram’s sake, more than his own, shall be able to make his part good against them. Accordingly, we read, Genesis 25:18, that he died, as he lived, in the presence of all his brethren. But this also was chiefly intended of his posterity: for Ishmael had twelve sons, who gave rise to as many tribes or nations, called by their names, and who dwelt southward in Arabia, before the face, or in the presence of the Ammonites and Moabites, of the descendants of Keturah, and of the Edomites and Jews, all nearly related to them.

Verse 13

Genesis 16:13. And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her That is, thus she made confession of his name, Thou God seest me This should be, with her, his name for ever, and this his memorial, by which she would know him, and remember him while she lived, Thou God seest me. Thou seest my sorrow and affliction. This Hagar especially refers to. When we have brought ourselves into distress by our own folly, yet God has not forsaken us. Thou seest the sincerity of my repentance. Thou seest me, if in any instance I depart from thee. This thought should always restrain us from sin, and excite us to duty, Thou God seest me. Have I here also looked after him that seeth me? Probably she knew not who it was that talked with her till he was departing, and then looked after him, with a reflection like that of the two disciples, Luke 24:31-32. Here also Not only in Abram’s tent, and at his altar, but here also, in this wilderness: here, where I never expected it.

Verse 14

Genesis 16:14. The well was called Beer-lahai-roi The well of him that lives and sees me. It is likely Hagar put this name upon it, and it was retained long after. This was the place where the God of glory manifested the special care he took of a poor woman in distress. Those that are graciously admitted into communion with God, and receive seasonable comforts from him, should tell others what he has done for their souls, that they also may be encouraged to seek him and trust in him.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 16". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/genesis-16.html. 1857.
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