Genesis 16:1-4 – In Genesis 15, Abram is rewarded for his faith, by God giving him the land of Canaan. He guaranteed this promise with an unconditional covenant in which God swore by Himself. In this chapter Abram stumbles in faith once again. It is a fact that Satan will always attack us where we are weakest. In this case the attack came through Sarai whose faith was weakened by her outward circumstances.
Sarai felt incomplete and fruitless in her inability to have a child. To his credit Abram showed no sign of impatience with Sara or God, except that he listened to Sara surrogate wife proposal and acted on it. The natural instinct of man is to embrace the philosophy that God helps those who help themselves. Sarai exercises her right to give her maid Hagar as a surrogate mother for her since she is her property.. Abram was 85 and Sarai 75 at this time Genesis 16:16.
Hagar in all likelihood came from Egypt acquired as part of the dowry given to Abram by Pharaoh when he was about to acquire Sarai as one of his wives. Hagar was considered the property of Sarai and so any children born to her by Abram would belong to Sarai.
Abram listened to Sarai just as Adam listened to Eve and the results once again were disastrous. Just as the children of Adam and Eve continue to reel from the effects their sin, so also the children of Abram and Sarai continue to reel from the effects of their failure to trust God. The entire Middle East conflict today would not exist for all Arabs are descendants of Abram and Hagar.
One of the hardest lessons for us to learn is (Hebrews 6:12), (Hebrews 10:35-36). When Hagar became pregnant almost immediately Hagar became proud and arrogant toward Sarai. Perhaps Abram thought his listening to Sarai would be a blessing to Sarai, and perhaps accomplish God’s will became a most difficult problems. Man’s plan is always filled with unseen difficulties but God’s way brings blessing and peace.
Genesis 16:5-6 Sarai’s pain of barrenness became multiplied with the attitude problem of Hagar. Possibly Hagar thought of herself as the “real” wife of Abram, since she gave to Abram the child that Sarai could not. In order to assure Sarai that his love was for her was unwavering he gave her permission to exercise her full authority over Hagar. The harsh treatment that Sarai inflicted on Hagar caused her to run away.
While Hagar was not completely without blame God extended to her great compassion and grace. In fact she is the very first person mentioned in Scripture since Adam and Eve to see the Lord. The expression that is used here is the Angel of the Lord. That this is not merely an angel of the Lord is the action and words that He speaks. In Genesis 16:10 He says “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” This is the same words that were spoken by God to Abram in Genesis 12.
There are many appearances by God to man in the Old Testament and performed many actions that are associated with God. We see the Angel of the Lord appearing to Abram in (Genesis 22:11-13). He appeared to Jacob in Genesis 32:24-30, He spoke to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-8, He protected the Israelites from the pursuing Egyptian army Exodus 14:19-20.
Reassured Joshua, in his role as commander and chief of the army of the Lord Joshua 5:13-15. He called Gideon to fight against the Moabites in Judges 6:11-24. He appeared in the fiery furnace to protect Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:25) “He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
V 7-16 The Angel of the Lord addresses Hagar by her name because of His great love for her and because the child she is carrying is a son of Abraham. Hagar was probably heading back to Egypt but the Angel of the Lord constrains her to turn back. The birth of this child was not God’s will but because of His word to Abram this child too would fall under His blessing. God makes a promise to Hagar that she would have a son and that he would prosper. Ishmael means “God hears”, his name would be a continual reminder to Hagar of God’s love and grace extended when he heard her cry. God spoke to her concerning the nature of her son. He would “a wild man” which essentially meant that Ishmael would be the forefather of a hostile desert people. It was the Ishmaelites who carried Joseph to Egypt (Gen 37:28) “So when the Midianites merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.” Hagar did return and in all likelihood she shared with them what happened to her and there was reconciliation and healing in their relationship for a good while.