Genesis 16: Hagar and Ishmael

Earnest Examination

This series is presented as an honest, sincere look into the study of the Bible with my own personal theories, opinions, comments and that of others’ insights and research into what the verses could mean. I cannot claim one way or another that everything that I am stating is fact and the true meaning of what is meant in these verses.

To lay it out in a way that I can manage, I have highlighted the texts of verses that I either don’t understand or have a comment or question about in yellow. And the comments I’ve left beneath it will be of a smaller font and using brown text.

I would love it if you’d join me in this journey and if you have any insights and/or knowledge of these chapters/verses etc., please feel free to share with me and the other readers. Any chance to get a clearer understanding of the Bible and Jesus Christ would be welcomed with open arms.

Version used is from (KJV) Genesis 16

1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

It’s interesting how even though Abram trusted in the Lord that he will have descendants that come from his own body, it did not occur to him that it would come from his own wife, Sarai. Instead, because Sarai thought that she could not bear children, then his descendants would have to come from someone else. Thereby offering up her handmaid so that her husband could have children through his bloodline. Was this planned by God all along? If God is omnipresent and omniscient, then He would already know that this is how the story is going to play out.
3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
I do want to make another point here, about who many believe wrote Genesis to begin with. Of course this question brings up many debates, but the person most referenced as having written Genesis is Moses. Whether that be from word of mouth and passed down traditions and tales, or whether perhaps he had the testimony dictated to him by an angel of the Lord, or the Lord Himself, it is interesting that a lot of these passed down tales give us an inner look into the emotions and feelings of others. Was there written dictation that Hagar began to hate her mistress? Was there proof of some sort that there was animosity brewing between the two because Hagar felt herself better than Sarai because she can conceive and Sarai couldn’t? And this brings into question how these texts could have been written with the knowledge of what people were feeling and thinking. Yes, God would be able to know how everyone’s feeling, so could it be possible that whoever did write Genesis gets insights into everyone’s thoughts and feelings? And if certain chapters were dictated, how can we be, FOR SURE, that the dictation came from an angel of the Lord, or the Lord Himself? Or even if they came from visions or dreams? How can we be sure that these visions/dreams/etc. were not misconstrued?
I also want to bring up the emotion of Hagar herself for her thoughts of pride for being able to conceive and thinking herself better than someone else because of this. I don’t want to judge this characteristic, because I don’t know what’s going on in her mind/thoughts, but thought it was an interesting perspective. Of course this particular version of the text does not reference Hagar’s complete feelings to Sarai like others do, like the NIV for instance. The NIV gives a little more context to this relationship.

5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
Here is another reference to Sarai and Hagar’s relationship, which was never brought up before Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s child. And another wrongdoing, even though it was Sarai’s idea to have Hagar become Abram’s wife as well specifically to have children through her. I also want to make note that at this point, it doesn’t seem as if the Lord has given any instruction as to how to live one’s life. The 10 commandments were not created yet, and the word Love has not even been mentioned yet other than in reference to procreation as can be seen in NIV Genesis 4. In fact, it won’t be mentioned for a few more chapters, and even in that context, as we will see, I have issues with.
So at this point in the Bible, it would appear that people have no way of knowing how to treat each other. We can see such disrespect coming from Hagar to Sarai, and Sarai to Hagar, with not a mention of compassion or kindness. In fact, the last few chapters dealt with gain as far as land and wealth and bloodlines. It’s fascinating that Love has not even been a component yet. Even at the creation of Adam and Eve and the love of a husband and wife, or the love for their children.

7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

The phrase “the angel of the Lord” grabs my attention and to me, implies that this angel is special in some way. Why “THE” angel? Not “an” angel? Why is there this implication that it is not just a “random” angel of the Lord that came to Hagar, but the angel of the Lord? What does this mean? Does this angel have some sort of significance? There are indications of heirarchies within the angelic/heavenly realm, so does this angel hold a particular importance or certain leadership quality that others angels wouldn’t?
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
This gives me an even deeper impression that this angel, for some reason, holds more weight than the others. Why would this angel specifically say, “I will multiply thy seed”? Wouldn’t that be something that the Lord would say? If the angel is speaking for the Lord, then the wording, I would think, would be more like, “The Lord will multiply thy seed”. Not I, as in the angel itself.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
Just a quick note, “Ishmael” means “God listens.” or “God will hear.” or similar variants to this.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
So why would this be? This sounds like more of a curse than a blessing. Is this “angel of the Lord” merely warning Hagar that this is how her son will be considered? Is it just what was in Ishmael’s destiny? There are theories that Ishmael’s descendants are known today as the Muslims, or Arabs, Arabian Muslims, with some history provided by Muhammad/Quran.
So another question I have is, if the angel never mentioned that Ishmael would grow up to be at odds with every man, would this prophecy still play out as told? Did the angel’s prophetic warning have anything to do with how Hagar raised Ishmael, with the expectation that he would be against others and others against him? Did the angel set the precedent with this foretelling?

13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Hm… now I’m really confused. The angel of the Lord was speaking to Hagar… so why is this verse now considering him the Lord? And if this was the angel of the Lord, then surely the text would clearly imply again “the angel of the Lord”. Not “name of the Lord that spake unto her.” Unless it is indicating that by being addressed by this angel, she realizes that Thou God, meaning the angel’s God, and thus God Himself, has seen her in her distress and is appealing to her to return to Sarai even amidst all of the hostility. It still does not explain though why in this verse the angel is considered the Lord… Could “the angel of the Lord” be the Holy Spirit? Therefore indeed a significant part of God? Or perhaps as some theories speculate, could it be the Christ Consciousness before Jesus Christ was incarnate? Even so, the strange prediction that Ishmael will play a substantial role in his dealings with other mankind sets an interesting and perplexing anecdote, as if setting the stage for what is to come.
14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

Throughout this chapter, I have to bring up again how interesting it is that the one message that Jesus Christ teaches, of Love to God and to each other, has not been mentioned yet. In fact, like I stated above, Love is not even a factor and has not been mentioned in Genesis yet, from Adam and Eve’s creation, to Abram’s timeline, 2,000 years since the beginning, according to the Bible. Has this concept, this feeling, not have even manifested yet? Are humans at this point of time just multiplying out of duty to keep one’s heritage/bloodline going? We can see how people have treated each other throughout all of this, with brother against brother, son against father, woman against woman due to pride, jealousy, envy, etc., etc., etc. I think Love will be a specific recurring topic that I will keep a very close eye on going forward.

 

As usual, I want to reiterate that some of my thoughts and theories may be way off base, and I also research some other things on the side as well to try and get a broader understanding of what I’m reading, so please bear with me, or, even better, if you have insights that bring more light to these verses, please let me know.

I enjoy bouncing off theories and theology off of each other and love to hear other people’s perspectives on things. Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!

I'd love to hear your thoughts: