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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 16

 

 

Introduction

Genesis 16. Hagar's Flight from Sarah's Tyranny and the Angel's Promise of Ishmael's Birth Fulfilled.—This is shown by stylistic indications to be in the main from J E's parallel is contained in Genesis 21:8-21. Genesis 16:1 a, Genesis 16:3, Genesis 16:15 f. belong to P. Genesis 16:9 f. is probably an insertion designed to harmonise the two stories of Hagar's leaving Sarah. Originally, it would seem, our story said nothing about her return, Ishmael being born in the desert; but when J and E were combined, Genesis 16:9 f. had to be inserted. Observe that there is no statement of the return, and that the awkward threefold occurrence of "and the angel of the LORD said unto her" (Genesis 16:9-11), without any intervening answer by Hagar, points to some manipulation of the text, all the more that the literary art of the story is so masterly. Still, the two stories fill their present places well, and the narrative runs on quite smoothly. The object of both is to explain the desert life of the Ishmaelites; their ancestress, escaping from intolerable tyranny, betakes herself to the desert, with its glorious, untamed freedom, its independence, and its feuds. The story may well be of Ishmaelite origin. Since Ishmael's name means "may God (El) hear" rather than "may Yahweh hear," it is probable that the name of the deity was originally El-roi (Genesis 16:13, mg.), and that he was the deity of the fountain Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16:14).


Verses 1-16

Genesis 16:1-16. Sarah has no children, so she hits on a plan of which we have other examples (Genesis 30:3; Genesis 30:9). She hands over Hagar to Abraham, that the maid may compensate for the deficiency of her mistress. The maid is the wife's peculiar property, and therefore not, like ordinary slaves, at the master's disposal. Nor, presumably, would Abraham's child by one of his slaves have been a legitimate son. It is through the connexion between mistress and maid that Hagar's child can be reckoned as Sarah's. Hagar succeeds, and shows in her bearing the contempt of an Eastern woman for the barren. Stung by her maid's insolence, Sarah turns upon Abraham and hotly demands redress for a "wrong" she had herself invited. He meekly abandons the maid, who had now a claim on his protection, to the vindictiveness of his unreasonable wife, who handles Hagar so harshly that she is driven to escape. But Yahweh's angel finds her by a well in the desert. He appears in visible form, and at first she is unaware of His nature. He knows her name and her situation, He recognises the injustice that has justified her flight (Genesis 16:11). He comforts her with the promise of a son, who shall dwell in the desert with all the wild ass's splendid freedom (Job 39:5-8), boldly confronting all his neighbours and scorning alliance with them. The angel vanishes, and there bursts on Hagar a sense of His Divine nature. God is normally invisible, the sight of Him brings death, she has seen Him and lives (Judges 6:23; Judges 13:22 f.); He, too, has seen her and marked her wrongs. Hence the well bears its name, Beer-lahai-roi. Genesis 16:15 f. gives P's account of Ishmael's birth when his father was eighty-six.

Genesis 16:1. Hagar probably means "flight," and the name may have suggested the story. It is used for the Hagarenes or Hagarites (E. of Gilead) (Psalms 83:6, 1 Chronicles 5:10; 1 Chronicles 27:31). The rendering "Egyptian" is probably correct, though Winckler and others have thought Hagar belonged to a N. Arabian land called Musri.

Genesis 16:7. the angel of the Lord: originally, when there was a Divine manifestation, the Deity Himself was thought to appear; when this was felt to be objectionable, His angel was substituted. But the language vacillates between identification with Yahweh and distinction from Him; cf. Exodus 23:20-23, Judges 2:1; Judges 6:11-23; Judges 13:3-23.—Shut: may be a border fortress at NE of Egypt.

Genesis 16:12. The author sketches the character of the Bedouin. Ishmael is "a wild ass of a man," unbroken by servitude, disdaining the yoke of civilisation. What it is among animals Ishmael will be among men.

Genesis 16:13 b, Apparently corrupt. Read, with Wellhausen, "Have I seen God and lived after my seeing." (‘ĕlohîm for hătom and wâ'ehi before ahărç). El roi, "god of seeing" means presumably God who is seen, as well as God who sees.

Genesis 16:14. Beer-lahai-roi (p. 100) seems to mean, "The well of the living one who seeth me" (mg.). Michaelis suggested that we should read lehi, "jaw-bone" (cf. Judges 15:15-20). Wellhausen suggested further that "roi" was an obsolete name of an animal, probably an antelope, and supposed that the name "Lehi-roi," "antelope's jawbone," was originally given to a series of rocky teeth near the well, and that a misunderstanding of the name gave rise to the story.—Kadesh: Genesis 14:7*.—Bored: unknown. The well is perhaps ‘Ain-Muw-eileh, 12 miles W. of Kadesh.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 16:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-16.html. 1919.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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