Genesis 16

Adding a Concubine

The Scheme (1-3)

The promises of God were delayed, and Abraham assumed Sarah was unnecessary to the promise, in that Yahweh had obstructed her from conceiving. Sarah provided Abraham with an idea—let the child of promise come through Hagar, the servant-maid Pharaoh had given them. Abraham did something husbands seldom do, and he listened to Sarah (1-2). After a decade of waiting in Canaan, Sarah brought her servant to Abraham. Abraham, not interested in having a casual affair with a servant, nor wanting to be sexually indiscreet, married Hagar, making her a concubine, or a second-grade wife. In the process, Abraham became a polygamist, about as contrary to God's design as sexual indiscretion (3).  

The Family Consequence (4-6)

Hagar conceived quickly and began acting not at all like Sarah's maid, but as Abraham's wife. Sarah despised Hagar's haughty attitude (4). Sarah, being a first-grade wife, was within her rights of accusing Abraham of treating Hagar so well that she was acting like a first-grade wife, due to his excitement about having a child. So secure had Hagar become in the loving embrace of Abraham's protective care that she was looking at Sarah as a barren, old, inferior wife. Sarah appealed to Yahweh for justice (5).

Abraham immediately relinquished his responsibility of Hagar back into Sarah's hands, to treat as she saw fit. Then Sarah was so cruel to Hagar that she became a runaway (6).  

God's Promise to Hagar (7-12)

Hagar fled toward Shur and came to a spring, where she was visited by an Angel (7), whom Hagar called Yahweh (13). Of course, this was no ordinary Angel—it was what scholars call a “theophany" or a manifestation of God.

It’s important to note that Yahweh addressed Hagar by name and then told her she was Sarah's servant so her spirit should return to a place of humility.

Yahweh then asked her where she thought she was going, as if to ask if she was leaving a favored home for an uncertain future. Hagar, with openness and candor, responded that she was justified in fleeing from her abusive mistress (8).

The Angel of the Lord then told Hagar to return to her mistress, for she was putting the destiny of her child and future children in jeopardy (9).  

Then the Angel began to list out the promises of destiny for the child she was carrying. Her child would:

  1. have innumerable offspring (10),

  2. be a boy;

  3. be named Ishmael to commemorate Yahweh's intervention and listening ear in a time of distress (Ishmael means "God hears") (11);

  4. be like a wild donkey (he would roam the desert lands);

  5. be powerful;

  6. stand his ground against those who sought to harm him;

  7. be a free person not subjugated to other nations (12).

Hagar's Worship (13-16)

Hagar erupted in worship and called Yahweh the "God Who had seen her." Then she continued her worship by rejoicing in her being allowed to see Yahweh.

While the exact location of the well she named Beer-lahai-roi or "the God who sees" is unknown, it is clear that she had not traveled far from Abraham's camp (13-14).

Hagar returned home and had her son when Abraham was 86 years old (15-16).