The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 16

Gen 16:1

Gen 16: "These things may be taken figuratively, for the women repr two covenants. One covenant is from mountain Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar" (Gal 4:24). Like Israel, Hagar came from Egypt (v 1), sought profit thru connection with Abraham (v 4; cp Joh 8:33), despised the true seed (v 4), found self homeless and desolate (vv 6-8), but is invited to return and submit (vv 9,10) (WAbr 64).

HAGAR: An Arabic or Semitic name, meaning "wanderer" or "fugitive".

Gen 16:2

THE LORD HAS KEPT ME FROM HAVING CHILDREN (RESTRAINED ME FROM BEARING): Typ, "faith had not yet come" (Gal 3:23) to spiritual Israel. However, "through faith" Sarah later conceived (Heb 11:11).

ABRAM AGREED (HEARKENED) TO WHAT SARAI SAID: Sometimes waiting for the promised fulfillment is the most difficult thing.

Gen 16:3

TEN YEARS: Abram is now 85, Sarai 75.

Gen 16:4

"Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up... an unloved woman who is married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress" (Pro 30:21,23). Barrenness was esteemed a reproach: Gen 19:31; 30:1,23; Lev 20:20. Fertility was esteemed an honor: Gen 21:6; 24:60.

Gen 16:5

YOU (Abram) ARE RESPONSIBLE (MY WRONG BE UPON THEE): That is, for not rebuking Hagar. But the fault is at least partly Sarai's. Should not Abraham and Sarah have foreseen such problems?

Gen 16:7

ANGEL: "Malak". First time used. Sig "messenger, ambassador, or king". Angels are "ministering spirits" (Heb 1:14).

THE ROAD TO SHUR: Located near Red Sea (1Sa 15:7). Possibly same as modern "Suez". Hagar was going back to Egypt! (Apostate Israel was driven back to Egypt.)

Gen 16:8

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?: To point out the utter helplessness of her state. Cp attitude of Jesus at well with Samaritan woman (Joh 4:29).

Gen 16:9

GO BACK... SUBMIT: The frequent call of the prophets to wayward Israel after the flesh, even when in exile.

Gen 16:10

The multiplying of Hagar's seed points to the large number of descendants coming from Ishmael. He had 12 sons and these became the forefathers of a number of the Arab peoples.

Gen 16:11

Hagar is assured that the child will count as hers, not as Sarai's (WAbr 61). Note the 2 names of God: El hears ("Ishmael" = "whom El hears") all nations, but Yahweh hears His people.

Gen 16:12

A WILD DONKEY (WILD MAN): Hardy, swift, difficult to catch or tame. "A wild ass among men" (RV). The rebellious nature of this animal and his longing to dwell in the desert: Job 39:5-8. This fits the character of the Arab as shown through centuries of history even up to the present day. His hand being against every man can be seen in the warlike nature of these peoples. Ishmael mocking Isaac (Gen 21) typ of later conflicts between the Arabs and Jews.

...HAND AGAINST...: A common phrase for violence and injury: Gen 37:27; Exo 9:3; Deu 2:16; Jos 2:19; 1Sa 18:17,21; 24:13,14.

HE WILL LIVE IN HOSTILITY TOWARD ALL HIS BROTHERS: Or, "to the east of" (NIV mg); lit, "in the presence (face) of" (AV). Cp the sons of Keturah, whose rightful place was to the east of Isaac (Gen 25:6).

"The word is: rude, and bold and fearing no man; untamed, intractable, living at large, and impatient of service and restraint. His hand will be against every man -- that is his sin, and every man's hand against him -- that is his punishment. Note, Those that have turbulent spirits have commonly troublesome lives: they that are provoking, and injurious to others, must expect to be repaid in their own coin. 'To run away, to run wild': 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 free? or who hath loosed the bands 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 ancient Arabs than this.

"It is further 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... Cyrus, Pompey, and Trajan all endeavoured to conquer Arabia, but in vain. From the beginning to the present day they have maintained their independence, 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" (CY).

Gen 16:13

THE GOD WHO SEES ME: "El-roi" = the God of seeing. God hears (Ishmael) and sees (El-roi). Therefore he lives ('la-kai': v 14).

I HAVE NOW SEEN THE ONE WHO SEES ME: A question in AV: 'Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?' Or, 'Have I also here seen the latter purposes or designs of Him who sees me?'

"Hagar had trouble. She was pregnant with Abram's baby and as a result had been mistreated by Sarai. The way she was mistreated must have been so bad that Hagar fled from Sarai. But there was something, it seems, that Hagar had not counted on. The LORD was watching. He knew all she had been through, all she was going through, and He also knew the best way to solve her problems. So the LORD appeared to Hagar and he told her what she needed to know.

"Hagar learned a very important lesson from her encounter with God. She learnt that he is the God who sees, the God who hears and the God who knows. Ishmael was named as a result of this lesson. His name means, 'God hears,' or 'God sees.'

"There are times in our lives when we also have trouble. Like Hagar, we may have a relationship that completely breaks down; we may feel like running away, or leaving our marriage or our church because of the difficulties we have. But like Hagar, we have to remember that God sees and hears, and when our trials get too much for us, He will intervene because He will not try us beyond what we are able to bear.

"Running away will not solve anything -- it will only delay or stunt the development of our characters. Instead, let us give our problems to God and trust him to solve them. After all, he is 'The Living One who sees me' " (RP).

Gen 16:14

BEER LAHAI ROI: "The well of him that liveth and seeth me" (AV mg), or "the well of life and vision". Strategically placed between the "storm" ("Bered") and the "sanctuary" ("Kadesh"). Cp Gen 25:11.

Gen 16:15

Hagar gives birth to Abraham's son, as the Mosaic Covenant gave birth to Yahweh's firstborn (Exo 4:12), constituting the people of God as "the ecclesia in the wilderness" (Act 7:38).

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