The Pastor's Class

A Maidservant named Hagar

Genesis 16

Today we continue our story in chapter 16 of the book of Genesis. As you can imagine a lot has happened between chapter 12 and 16.

Abraham responded to the voice of God and, by faith, set out on a journey to a place where God would show him. Abraham departed from his family clan taking only his wife Sara and his nephew Lot. He took also his possessions and his servants.

When Abraham arrived in the land he built an alter and worshipped.

Some time later there was a severe famine in the land and Abraham decided to go to Egypt. Fearful for his own safety while in Egypt he decided to pass his beautiful wife Sarah off as his sister. It was a plan that the Lord exposed.

Chapters 13 - deals with the separation of Abraham and Lot. Their herds of livestock became so large that they could no longer stay together. Abraham said to Lot, you choose a direction and whatever direction you choose I will go in the opposite direction. Chapter 13: 10 says that Lot set out toward the east. (Remember what we said about going east?) Symbolically, east seemed to be a direction away from God.

(Note: In Acts when Paul wanted to go east what happened? Twice the Spirit said no and he ended up going west.)

In the last part of chapter 13: 14-17 God reaffirms his covenant with Abraham stating that his offspring would be as the dust of the earth. (By the way, how old is Abraham? How many Children does he have?)

In Chapter 14 the nations (family clans) went to war and Lot was captured. Abraham is made aware of this and calls out 318 men born in his household (14:14) to rescue Lot. (This should give you come idea of Abrahams clan at this time.)

After the battle is over and Abraham is victorious he meets a mysterious figure named Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of God Most High. (Notice that in his hand there was bread and wine). Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. (14:20)

In Chapter 15 the Lord comes to Abraham in a vision and again reaffirms the covenant promise. This time he states that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens. ( How old is Abraham? How many children does he have?)

Genesis 16:1-2

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

Today as we begin our lesson we see that the Genesis writer states a fact that is of great concern to Sarah and Abraham. "Sarai had born Abram no children".

1. How important was it to have children in the culture and time of Abraham and Sarah?

Children were of utmost importance. Children were a parents pride and joy. They were the means by which a patriarchal clan could grow and extend. They were the only means of social security for parents.

Probably most important of all children (Sons especially) were the means through which they were able to achieve eternity or immortality. The concept of eternal life was seen only through the succession of Sons.

Abraham and Sarah were well beyond childbearing age. They had already considered leaving their inheritance to a trusted servant named Eliezer of Damascus. However, God continued to promise them that they would have a Son. 15: 2-4

2. Why do you think Sarah suggested the idea of Abraham sleeping with Hagar?

1. Sarah was well beyond childbearing age.

2. It was now 10 years past the time that God first made his promise to Abraham.

3. Sarah knew how much Abraham wanted a Son.

4. Her suggestion was both legal and even ethical according to the code of Hammurabi. (The Hamurabi code is a code that governed the Mesopotamian area as far back as 1800 B.C.

Genesis 16:3

3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

It was not uncommon for women of wealth or prominence to have handmaidens or servants. Some have questioned whether or not Hagar was actually Egyptian. As you might expect servants were property and had little or no say so over their treatment.


Abraham casting out Hagar and Ishmael



3. It you were Abraham how would you have responded to Sarah's invitation?

From what we know and understand today about God it is easy to see where Abraham and Sarah made a mistake. However, given their limited knowledge of God they probably saw their actions as an attempt to fulfill the will of God for their lives.

Even today, many people struggle with similar issues. God call us to do something that, at the moment seems impossible, and we attempt to apply earthly logic to a divine problem.

God will never call upon anyone to do anything that He will not adequately equip them to do.

Genesis 16:4 - 5

4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

4. What is the source of the conflict in verses 4 - 5?

At this point in time Sarah had failed in her number one duty as a wife, namely to give Abraham a Son. Immediately Hagar conceived. In effect Hagar was now fulfilling the role of the wife and yet she was still being treated as a servant by Sarah.

Some commentators suggest that this action would have promoted Hagar to the status of wife. In a sense this would be true, however, Sarah would still be the superior or number 1 wife. ( Note that in verse 6 Abraham still sees Hagar as a servant.)

In this situation it would have been Hagar's duty to give the child over to Sarah and the child would be raised as if it were here own. The conflict here may indicate that Hagar was not willing to do so.

There is no indication that Abraham had any romantic interest in Hagar. He simply sought to have a son.

Genesis 16: 6-9

6 “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now with child

and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the LORD has heard of your misery.

12 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.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

Even though Sarah desired for Abraham to handle the issue he refused to do so. Abraham stated that Hagar was still Sarah's servant and she was free to discipline as she saw fit.

The bible simply says that Sarah mistreated her.

5. What was the Lord's promise to Hagar?

God's Promise to Hagar

Hagar was promised that her son would be a great nation (even though he wasn't the promised heir of Abraham). Along with this promise was an interesting prophecy - her son's hand would be against every man and every man's hand against him. The promise was "inherited" from his father, that is, it was because of Abram that Ishmael was blessed. The prophecy was inherited from his mother. It was a prophecy of the bitterness, which would saturate the man, and the nation that came from him. Hagar taught bitterness to Ishmael. She taught him to be against Isaac and she taught him that everyone was out to hurt him. To this day there is envy and bitterness between the Arabs and the Jews.

Charlotte Crowder

Genesis 16: 13 - 16

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

6. What name did Hagar give to the Lord and why?

She gave Him the name of El Roi (the God of seeing or the God who opens our eyes).

Remember that at this point in time God had not yet revealed his name. This would not happen until the time of Moses. Many would name God according to their particular experience with him therefore God has many names in the bible.

7. How many other names can you recall for God in the bible?

JEHOVAH: LORD in our English Bibles (all capitals). Yahweh is the covenant name of God. Occurs 6823 times in the OT First use Gen. 2:4 (Jehovah Elohim). From the verb "to be", havah, similar to chavah (to live), "The Self-Existent One," "I AM WHO I AM" or 'I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE" as revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Ex.3. The name of God, too sacred to be uttered, abbreviated ( . . . . ) or written "YHWH" without vowel points. The tetragrammaton. Josh., Judges, Sam., and Kings use Jehovah almost exclusively. The love of God is conditioned upon His moral and spiritual attributes. (Dan. 9:14; Ps. 11:7; Lev. 19:2; Hab. 1:12). Note Deut. 6:4, 5 known to Jews as the Sh'ma uses both Jehovah and Elohim to indicate one God with a plurality of persons.

JEHOVAH-JIREH: "The Lord will Provide." Gen. 22:14. From "jireh" ("to see" or "to provide," or to "foresee" as a prophet.) God always provides, adequate when the times come.

JEHOVAH-ROPHE: "The Lord Who Heals" Ex. 15:22-26. From "rophe" ("to heal"); implies spiritual, emotional as well as physical healing. (Jer. 30:17, 3:22; Isa. 61:1) God heals body, soul and spirit; all levels of man's being.

JEHOVAH-NISSI: "The Lord Our Banner." Ex. 1:15. God on the battlefield, from word which means "to glisten," "to lift up," See Psa. 4:6.

JEHOVAH-M'KADDESH: "The Lord Who Sanctifies" Lev. 20:8. "To make whole, set apart for holiness."

JEHOVAH-SHALOM: "The Lord Our Peace" Judges 6:24. "Shalom" translated "peace" 170 times means "whole," "finished," "fulfilled," "perfected." Related to "well," welfare." Deut. 27:6; Dan. 5:26; I Kings 9:25 8:61; Gen. 15:16; Ex. 21:34, 22:5, 6; Lev. 7:11-21. Shalom means that kind of peace that results from being a whole person in right relationship to God and to one's fellow man.

SHEPHERD Psa. 23, 79:13, 95:7, 80:1, 100:3; Gen. 49:24; Isa. 40:11.

JUDGE: Psa. 7:18, 96:13.

JEHOVAH ELOHIM: "LORD God" Gen. 2:4; Judges 5:3; Isa. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9; Psa. 59:5, etc.

JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU: "The Lord Our Righteousness" Jer. 23:5, 6, 33:16. From "tsidek" (straight, stiff, balanced - as on scales - full weight, justice, right, righteous, declared innocent.) The God Who is our righteousness.

JEHOVAH-ROHI: "The Lord Our Shepherd" Psa. 23, from "ro'eh" (to pasture).

JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH: "The Lord is There" (Ezek. 48:35).

JEHOVAH-SABAOTH: "The Lord of Hosts" The commander of the angelic host and the armies of God. Isa. 1:24; Psa. 46:7, 11; 2 Kings 3:9-12; Jer. 11:20 (NT: Rom. 9:29; James 5:24, Rev. 19: 11-16).


EL ELYON: 'Most High" (from "to go up") Deut. 26:19, 32:8; Psa. 18:13; Gen. 14:18; Nu. 24:16; Psa. 78:35, 7:17, 18:13, 97:9, 56:2, 78:56, 18:13; Dan. 7:25, 27; Isa. 14:14.

ABHIR: 'Mighty One', ("to be strong") Gen. 49:24; Deut. 10:17; Psa. 132:2, 5; Isa. 1:24, 49:26, 60:1.

KADOSH: "Holy One" Psa. 71:22; Isa. 40:25, 43:3, 48:17. Isaiah uses the expression "the Holy One of Israel" 29 times.

SHAPHAT: "Judge" Gen. 18:25

EL ROI: "God of Seeing" Hagar in Gen. 16:13. The God Who opens our eyes.

KANNA: "Jealous" (zealous). Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 5:9; Isa. 9:7; Zech. 1:14, 8:2.

PALET: "Deliverer" Psa. 18:2.

YESHA: (Y'shua) "Savior" Isa. 43:3. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua." The latter is a contraction of Je-Hoshua. ("Christ", the anointed one is equivalent to the Hebrew Maschiah, or Messiah).

GAOL: "Redeemer" (to buy back by paying a price). Job 19:25; For example, the antitype corresponding to Boaz the Kinsman-Redeemer in the Book of Ruth.

MAGEN: "Shield" Psa. 3:3, 18:30.

EYALUTH: "Strength" Psa. 22:19.

TSADDIQ: "Righteous One" Psa. 7:9.

EL-OLAM: "Everlasting God" (God of everlasting time) Gen. 21:33; Psa. 90:1-3, 93:2; Isa. 26:4.

EL-BERITH: "God of the Covenant" Used of Baal in Judges 9:46. Probably used originally to refer to the God of israel.

EL-GIBHOR: Mighty God (Isa. 9:6)

ZUR: "God our Rock" Deut. 32:18; Isa. 30:29.

Malachi calls Messiah "The Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2).

Isaiah calls Messiah "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God (El Gibhor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).

'Attiq Yomin (Aramaic): "Ancient of Days," Dan. 7:9, 13, 22.

MELEKH: "King" Psa. 5:2, 29:10, 44:4, 47:6-8, 48:2, 68:24, 74:12, 95:3, 97:1, 99:4, 146:10; Isa. 5:1, 5, 41:21, 43:15, 44:6; 52:7, 52:10.

"The Angel of the Lord: " Gen. 16:7ff, 21:17, 22:11, 15ff, 18:1-19:1, 24:7, 40, 31:11-13, 32:24-30; Ex. 3:6, 13:21, Ezek. 1:10-13. Seen in the theophanies, or pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God in the OT (See I Cor. 10:3 NT).

FATHER: Num. 1:9; I Sam. 16:6; Ex. 4:22-23; 2 Sam. 7:14-15; Psa. 2:7; Isa. 63:16, 64:8; Mal. 1:6.

THE FIRST AND LAST: Isa. 44:6, 48:12

8. What does the name "Ishmael" mean?

The Lord Hears

V-11 You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.

9. Was Ishmael the son of God's promise to Abraham?

No. Next week we will learn of the birth of Isaac Abraham and Sarah's son.


By Jewish and Moslem tradition Ishmael came to be regarded as the ancestor of the nomad desert tribes, particularly those inhabiting the area from the Sainai desert across the Negev to southern Jordan. The Hebrews considered themselves superior to these primitive (and usually hostile) desert kinsmen, descended from the common forefather Abraham. The Arabs on their part venerate Ishmael as their forefather, and there is a Moslem legend that he and his mother Hagar are buried in the sacred Ka'Aba at Mecca. It is interesting that in some Arab tribes male children are circumcised at the age of thirteen as Ishmael was in the Bible story.

The Ka'aba is an oblong stone building located approximately in the center of the quadrangle of the Grand Mosque in the Holy City of Makkah. The front and back walls are 40 feet in length; the side walls are 35 feet long; the height of the walls is 50 feet.

Set in a silver surround in the east corner of the Ka'aba, some four feet above ground level, is the Black Stone. This sacred Stone, the focal point of the Hajj, is the only remnant of the shrine which Abraham built when it was given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel.

The Stone (which may be of meteoric origin) is believed to go back still further, to the time of the first man, Adam.

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