Genesis 16


Sarai, having no child, gives Hagar her maid to Abram

for wife, 1-3.

She conceives and despises her mistress, 4.

Sarai is offended and upbraids Abram, 5.

Abram vindicates himself; and Hagar, being hardly used

by her mistress, runs away, 6.

She is met by an angel, and counselled to return to

her mistress, 7-9.

God promises greatly to multiply her seed, 10.

Gives the name of Ishmael to the child that should be

born of her, 11.

Shows his disposition and character, 12.

Hagar calls the name of the Lord who spoke to her,

Thou God seest me, 13.

She calls the name of the well at which the angel met

her, Beer-laharoi, 14.

Ishmael is born in the 86th year of Abram's age, 15, 16.


Verse 1. 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 Ge 12:16. Her name

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.

Verse 2. 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 labour, with all her children, were her owner's property also.

The children, therefore, which were born of the slave, were

considered as the children of the mistress. It was on this ground

that Sarai gave her slave to Abram; and we find, what must

necessarily be the consequence in all cases of polygamy, that

strifes and contentions took place.

Verse 3. 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

Verse 5. 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.

Verse 6. Sarah dealt hardly with her] 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.

Verse 7. 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:-

1. From his promising to perform what God alone could do, and

foretelling what God alone could know; "I will multiply thy seed

exceedingly," &c., Ge 16:10;

"Thou art with child, and shalt bear a son," &c., Ge 16:11;

"He will be a wild man," &c., Ge 16:12. All this shows a

prescience which is proper to God alone.

2. Hagar considers the person who spoke to her as God, calls him

El, and addresses him in the way of worship, which, had he

been a created angel, he would have refused. See Re 19:10; 22:9.

3. Moses, who relates the transaction, calls this angel

expressly JEHOVAH; for, says he, she called shem Yehovah,

the NAME of the LORD that spake to her, Ge 16:13. Now this is a

name never given to any created being.

4. This person, who is here called malach Yehovah, the

Angel of the Lord, is the same who is called hammalach

haggoel, the redeeming Angel or the Angel the Redeemer,

Ge 48:16;

malach panaiv, the Angel of God's presence,

Isa 63:9;

and malach habberith, the Angel of the Covenant,

Mal 3:1; and is the same person which the Septuagint, Isa 9:6,

term μεγαλησβουλησαγγελοσ, the Angel of the Great Counsel or

Design, viz., of redeeming man, and filling the earth with


5. These things cannot be spoken of any human or created being,

for the knowledge, works, &c., attributed to this person are such

as belong to God; and as in all these cases there is a most

evident personal appearance, Jesus Christ alone can be meant; for

of God the Father it has been ever true that no man hath at any

time seen his shape, nor has he ever limited himself to any

definable personal appearance.

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.

Verse 8. 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.

Verse 10. 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.

Verse 11. And shalt call his name Ishmael] Yishmael,

from shama, he heard, and 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!

Verse 12. He will be a wild man] pere adam. As the

root of this word does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is

probably found in the Arabic [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 ( pere) free? or

who hath loosed the bands ( 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 endeavoured 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 endeavoured to conquer

Arabia, but in vain. From the beginning to the present day they

have maintained their independency, 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.

The country which these free descendants of Ishmael may be

properly said to possess, stretches from Aleppo to the Arabian

Sea, and from Egypt to the Persian Gulf; a tract of land not less

than 1800 miles in length, by 900 in breadth; see Ge 17:20.

Verse 13. And she called the name of the Lord] She invoked

( 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 acharey, which we render simply after, in other

places signifies the last days or after times, (see Ex 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.

Verse 14. Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi] It

appears, from Ge 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

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.

Verse 15. And Hagar bare Abram a son, &c.] 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."

IN the preceding chapter we have a very detailed account of the

covenant which God made with Abram, which stated that his seed

would possess Canaan; and this promise, on the Divine authority,

he steadfastly believed, and in simplicity of heart waited for its

accomplishment. Sarai was not like minded. As she had no child

herself, and was now getting old, she thought it necessary to

secure the inheritance by such means as were in her power; she

therefore, as we have seen, gave her slave to Abram, that she

might have children by her. We do not find Abram remonstrating on

the subject; and why is he blamed? God had not as yet told him

how he was to have an heir; the promise simply stated, He that

shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir,

Ge 15:4. Concubinage, under that dispensation, was perfectly

lawful; therefore he could, with equal justice and innocence, when

it was lawful in itself, and now urged by the express desire of

Sarai, take Hagar to wife. And it is very likely that he might

think that his posterity, whether by wife or concubine, as both

were lawful, might be that intended by the promise.

It is very difficult to believe that a promise which refers to

some natural event can possibly be fulfilled but through some

natural means. And yet, what is nature but an instrument in

God's hands? What we call natural effects are all performed by

supernatural agency; for nature, that is, the whole system of

inanimate things, is as inert as any of the particles of matter of

the aggregate of which it is composed, and can be a cause to no

effect but as it is excited by a sovereign power. This is a

doctrine of sound philosophy, and should be carefully considered

by all, that men may see that without an overruling and

universally energetic providence, no effect whatever can be

brought about. But besides these general influences of God in

nature, which are all exhibited by what men call general laws, he

chooses often to act supernaturally, i.e., independently of or

against these general laws, that we may see that there is a God

who does not confine himself to one way of working, but with

means, without means, and even against natural means, accomplishes

the gracious purposes of his mercy in the behalf of man. Where

God has promised let him be implicitly credited, because he cannot

lie; and let not hasty nature intermeddle with his work.

The omniscience of God is a subject on which we should often

reflect, and we can never do it unfruitfully while we connect it,

as we ever should, with infinite goodness and mercy. Every thing,

person, and circumstance, is under its notice; and doth not the

eye of God affect his heart? The poor slave, the stranger, the

Egyptian, suffering under the severity of her hasty, unbelieving

mistress, is seen by the all-wise and merciful God. He permits

her to go to the desert, provides the spring to quench her thirst,

and sends the Angel of the covenant to instruct and comfort her.

How gracious is God! He permits us to get into distressing

circumstances that he may give us effectual relief; and in such a

way, too, that the excellence of the power may appear to be of

him, and that we may learn to trust in him in all our distresses.

God delights to do his creatures good.

In all transactions between God and man, mentioned in the sacred

writings, we see one uniform agency; the great Mediator in all,

and through all; God ever coming to man by him, and man having

access to God through him. This was, is, and ever will be the

economy of grace. "The Father hath sent me:-and no man cometh

unto the Father but by me." God forbid that he should have cause

to complain of us, "YE will not come unto me, that ye might have


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