Genesis 16


Abram had been in Canaan for ten years, and he and his wife Sarai still had no children. God had promised Abram that he would have a real heir and he had even reassured him of that promise. However, the years spent waiting were leading to despair and not hope. Impatience can result in imprudent actions and instead of seeking discernment and direction, Sarai took matters into her hands. When we find ourselves waiting, we sometimes mistake patience with failure and take matters into our hands. God helps those who help themselves, right? Sarai and Abram resort to a desperate scheme to gain an heir. 

Desperate Times

Barrenness was an insufferable curse for women during this time. Sarai may have blamed herself and at her age, there was little hope of conceiving a child. Maybe Sarai thought it was her duty to offer her handmaid to Abram. The practice of providing a servant to be a surrogate mother for a childless woman was an accepted practice. Perhaps Sarai's motives were pure, and she wanted to see her husband happy. Sarai recognized God's providence in her childlessness (vs. 2) but then used that as her justification for this scheme. 
Sarai’s servant girl was named Hagar, and she was probably acquired during their Egyptian sojourn. It seems that when Abram's faith is tested, and it concerns his wife, he fails. Abram chose the path of worldly wisdom, listened to his wife, and fell into sin. Hagar became Abram's concubine, and during the ceremony, Sarai presented her to her husband. Abram's relationship may have been legal, but it was not right. God never intended for a man to have more than one wife.

Painful Consequences

The reckless actions taken by Sarai and Abram created a chain of negative consequences. When Hagar saw that she was pregnant, she began to look with contempt on her mistress. This plan did not bring peace and happiness; it brought conflict and strife. Abram's marriage was in trouble. Sarai blamed Abram and appeals to both he and God for justice. Abram relinquishes his responsibilities as the family disciplinarian and gives Sarai the opportunity to retaliate, which she does immediately. Hagar's arrogance was met with harsh treatment that was so untenable that the servant fled from her mistress. Sin brought insults for Sarai, calamity to Abram, and oppression for Hagar. 

Where Are You Going?

Hagar might flee from Sarai, but not from God. Hagar encountered the angel of the Lord, a theophany which is a manifestation of God himself. God does not address her as Abram's wife, he calls her by name and addresses her as Sarai's servant. Hagar tells God that she is fleeing but does not answer the query about her destination. The heavenly messenger tells Hagar to return to Sarai and to submit to her authority. Hagar's obedience would demonstrate contrition and repentance. God promises Hagar that he would multiply her offspring to a multitude that could not be numbered. He announces that she will have a son and that he is to be named Ishmael which means, "God hears." God tells her that her son would roam the desert and that he would be strong. Hagar responds in faith by expressing her gratefulness, marking the spot of the encounter, and obeying what God had commanded. Hagar gave birth to a boy when Abram was eighty-six years old, and they called him Ishmael.

Things To Consider:

  • Why does failure lead us to question God?
  • Why is it so difficult to trust God's timing?
  • How are you trying to help God currently?
  • Is a life of faith filled with struggle? Why or why not?
  • Why is success a double-edged sword?
  • How does success breed contempt?
  • How are repentance and faith related?
  • How should a Christ follower look at polygamy? Why?
  • How many places do you see God's grace?
  • If Ishmael was not God's plan, why did he allow Hagar to conceive?
  • What do we learn about Hagar's faith?