Hagar and Ishmael – Genesis16
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.
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.”
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.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi (Beer Lahai Roi means well of the Living One who sees me). It is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Abraham and Sarah had been promised a child. God had even changed their names. Abram means “Exalted Father”, but Abraham means “Father of Many.” Sarai means “Princess” and she was now Sarah, which means “Mother of Nations.” Every time they said their name, or anyone said their names, they were reminded of God’s promise of a son. But they didn’t see it happening. They had waited for over ten years and they were getting past the age where anything could happen naturally.
Sarah decides to “help” God keep His promise. She concluded that Abraham should sleep with her servant, Hagar. Sounded good to Abraham! No one asked Hagar. She was a slave, the property of Sarah.
After Hagar gets pregnant, she gets an attitude – probably looking down her nose at her mistress. Definitely unbecoming for a servant, so Sarah blames the whole mess on Abraham, starts to abuse Hagar, and Abraham thinks this is ok!
Hagar had had enough and runs away, but she is carrying Abraham’s child, and God has promised to bless Abraham’s offspring. All of them.
So God tells her to go back and submit to Sarah.
Why did Hagar call God El Roi, the God Who Sees.
- The only “gods” she had ever seen were the pagan idols, sitting in a shrine or on a shelf. They could see nothing. They could say nothing.
What did God see?
- He could see that she was a slave. He knew where she had come from and how she had come to be a slave.
- She had no choice about Abraham sleeping with her, about her getting pregnant to carry a child for someone else.
- He could see how Sarah mistreated her.
- He could also see how her attitude toward Sarah changed when she found out she was pregnant.
- He could see she had run away, and was not in a good place, in the desert.
- He could see her tears.
The Angel of the Lord not only saw her, but talked to her.
An angel is a messenger of God, characterized as having human form with wings and a halo. … The word angel derives from the Greek angelos, meaning “messenger.” It is used in the Bible to denote God’s attendants, with angels often depicted as being guardians of humans, an idea found in ancient Asian cultures as well.
Though all the good angels are angels of God, or angels of the Lord, there is one special angel who is distinct and unique from all the other angels, he is called the “angel of the LORD.”
What does this mean for me?
When I was growing up, I learned that God is everywhere and He could see whatever I was doing. Kind of like a spiritual Santa Clause. I had better be good, because God could see me and if He didn’t like it, I would be punished.
From this story we learn of El Roi, the God Who Sees.
- He sees me. I am not lost in the crowd. Part of seeing me is that He knows me. Here is Psalm 139:1-18.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
- He sees my circumstances. Some of them, I had no choice. Someone else may have done something to me, or rejected me. Some I might have had a choice – and made the wrong one. This would cover our mistakes, rebellions, bad decisions… even things we did to best of our ability but maybe we lacked knowledge or the skills to do anything differently. And He sees my enemies.
- He is faithful to His promises. God had promised to bless Abraham’s children. Although Abraham and Sarah tried to “help God” and now Hagar, not Sarah, would bear him a child. That child was not part of God’s perfect plan – but God blessed Ishmael anyways. “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”