corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Genesis 16



Verses 1-16

Abraham and Hagar (Abraham's Temptation) - It is interesting to note that God did not speak to Abraham when he went into Hagar, Sarah's handmaid. Although God had spoken to Him on a number of occasions, He did not speak to him during this particular time in his life. I believe the reason why God often remains silent is to allow us to exercise our free will in order to see if we love Him or not and to see whether we will obey Him willingly, rather than doing it out of compulsion.

Sometimes the devil will use something or someone close to our heart to tempt us to sin. Sarah was the closest thing to Abraham's heart. No one else could have persuaded him to compromise God's Word to him like Sarah when she offered her handmaid Hagar to him. She used the cultural tradition of giving her handmaid to Abraham in an effort to reason with him.

Ancient Customs- The story of Abraham taking Hagar, his handmaid, as his wife was a reflection of the customs of his day. The Code of Hammurabi, believed by some scholars to have been written by a Babylonian king around 2100 B.C, impacted its culture for centuries. Howard Vos believes it is very likely that Abraham yielded to his wife's request based upon laws 145,146 of this Code. 200]

200] Howard, F. Vos, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived (Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), 40. This section of The Code of Hammurabi reads, "If a man takes a [wife] and she does not present him with children and he sets his face to take a concubine, that man may take a concubine and bring her into his house.…If a man takes a [wife] and she gives to her husband a maidservant and she bears children, and afterward that maidservant would take rank with her mistress; because she has borne children her mistress may not sell her for money, but she may reduce her to bondage and count her among the female slaves." (The Code of Hammurabi 145-146)

Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai Abram"s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

Genesis 16:1Word Study on "Hagar" - Gesenius says the Hebrew name "hagar" ( הָגָר) (1904) means, "flight." Strong says it is of uncertain origin. It is first used in Genesis 16:1 and will be used 12times in the Old Testament, being translated "Hagar 12."

Genesis 16:1Comments- We can assume that Abram and Sarai obtained Hagar while in Egypt.

Genesis 16:2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

Genesis 16:2Comments- The promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a nation through Sarah his wife was not yet fully revealed to him. This aspect of God's promise would not be revealed until Genesis 17:15-21. Abraham was eighty-six (86) when Ishmael was born, and ninety-nine (99) when God told him that Sarah would give birth to a Song of Solomon , which is thirteen years later.

Genesis 16:3 And Sarai Abram"s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Genesis 16:3Comments- Genesis 16:3 tells us that Hagar became Abraham's wife, and not his concubine. This is probably because according to laws 145,146 of The Code of Hammurabi the handmaid would now rank equally with her mistress.

Genesis 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

Genesis 16:4Comments- Hagar despised Sarai when she found out that she was pregnant. It has been my experience working in the mission field in Africa that an uneducated servant can have a childlike mentality, which causes them to think and behave in childish ways.

Genesis 16:4Comments- In the Hebrew culture, as well as among the ancients, barrenness was a dishonor, while fertility was considered a blessing from God. 201]

201] J. W. Meiklejohn, "Barrenness," in New Bible Dictionary, second edition (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishing, c 1962, 1982), 125.

Genesis 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.

Genesis 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

Genesis 16:6Comments- The inability of Abram to sell Hagar the handmaid was probably a reflection of the customs of his day. The Code of Hammurabi, believed by some scholars to have been written by a Babylonian king around 2100 B.C, impacted its culture for centuries. It is very likely that this decision was based upon law 119 of this Code, which says, "If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and he sell the maid servant who has borne him children for money, the money which the merchant has paid shall be repaid to him by the owner of the slave and she shall be freed." It seems that Abraham allowed Sarah to lower Hagar's status back to slavery; for she began to treat her like a slave.

Genesis 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

Genesis 16:7Comments- In other words, Hagar was making her way back to Egypt, and had stopped by a spring in order to find rest. The ISBE tells us that Shur was "the name of a desert east of the Gulf of Suez." 202] We find in Scripture that this name is associated with Egypt because of its close proximity ( Genesis 25:18, Exodus 15:22, 1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 27:8).

202] C. R. Conder, "Shur," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v 1511 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

Genesis 25:18, "And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren."

Exodus 15:22, "So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water."

1 Samuel 15:7, "And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt."

1 Samuel 27:8, "And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt."

Genesis 16:8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai"s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

Genesis 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Genesis 16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

Genesis 16:10Comments- We have the record of the genealogy of Ishmael in Genesis 25:12-18, which tells us that he had twelve sons, just as Jacob had twelve. These twelve gave birth to twelve nations. Song of Solomon , God multiplied Ishmael in the same way that he multiplied Israel.

Genesis 16:9-10Comments- The angel of the Lord told Hagar to return to her position of slavery under the hand of Abraham and Sarah, and he would greatly bless her. Sometimes, we make hasty decisions that hinder God's blessings from operating in our lives, because we want an easier lifestyle.

Genesis 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a Song of Solomon , and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Genesis 16:11Word Study on "Ishmael" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "Ishmael" ( יִשְׁמָעֵאל) (H 3458) name means, "God hears." The Enhanced Strong says this word is found 48 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as "Ishmael 48."

Genesis 16:12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every Prayer of Manasseh , and every man"s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

Genesis 16:12 — "And he will be a wild man" - Word Study on "a wild man" - Strong says the Hebrew word "pere" ( פֶּרֶא) (H 6501) means, "the onager, wild ass." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 10 times in the Old Testament, being translated "wild ass 9, wild 1." Ishmael and his descendants will eventually dwell in a wilderness called by a similar Hebrew word called "Paran" ( פָּארָן) (H 6290) (see Genesis 21:21).

Genesis 21:21, "And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt."

Comments- The NIV brings out the meaning of a wild ass and reads, "He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone"s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." As a result, just as the wild ass that roams this region of the Middle East, so do the Arabs roam about nomadically these centuries.

Genesis 16:12 — "his hand will be against every Prayer of Manasseh , and every man"s hand against him"- Comments- Grant Jeffrey explains how this perpetual hatred is handed down from generation to generation to the present day, "In the Middle East, tradition requires that revenge for some ancient crime by an enemy tribe must be pursued by the descendants of the aggrieved tribe even if decades or centuries have passed." The alleged crime that Israel committed against Ishmael is in receiving Abraham's blessing, while Ishmael was sent into exile. 203]

203] Grant R. Jeffrey, The Next World War (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 10.

Genesis 16:12 — "and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren" - Comments- Grant Jeffrey makes the point that the Arabs never set up a nation of their own nor established a central city as their capital. As a result, they continue to roam about nomadically these centuries, but never migrate as do other tribes which have no fixed region to call home. Jeffrey refers to Galatians 4:29 as a testimony to the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy describing the behaviour of the descendants against all those in the Middle East region, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."

Genesis 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

Genesis 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

Genesis 16:14Word Study on "Beerlahairoi" - Gesenius says the Hebrew name "Beerlahairoi" "beer Lamentations -Chay Ro"iy be-ayr" ( לַחַי רֹאִי בְּאֵר) (H 883) means, ""well of the life of vision." Strong says the name means, "well of a Living One my seer." Strong tells us that the name of this well is derived from three Hebrew words, ( בְּאֵר) (H 875) which means, "well, pit," ( חַי) (H 2416), which means, "life, living, alive," and ( רֹאֶה) (H 7203), which means, "vision."

Genesis 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son"s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

Genesis 16:16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 16:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology