Birth of Ishmael.#In the previous chapter Abraham was given a timetable of possession of the land, but nothing was said about when the child was to be born. In this chapter, Sarah takes matters into her own hands, for she has been childless ten years since the promise (cf. 12:4 with 16:16). The story is about the two women, Sarah the infertile mistress and Hagar the fertile slave; Abraham has only a single sentence. In the course of the story, God intervenes directly on the side of Hagar, for she is otherwise without resources. 1Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children. Now she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar.#Gn 11:30. 2Sarai said to Abram: “The Lord has kept me from bearing children. Have intercourse with my maid; perhaps I will have sons through her.” Abram obeyed Sarai.#The custom of an infertile wife providing her husband with a concubine to produce children is widely attested in ancient Near Eastern law; e.g., an Old Assyrian marriage contract states that the wife must provide her husband with a concubine if she does not bear children within two years. #Gn 21:8–9; Gal 4:22. 3Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. 4He had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. As soon as Hagar knew she was pregnant, her mistress lost stature in her eyes.#Because barrenness was at that time normally blamed on the woman and regarded as a disgrace, it is not surprising that Hagar looks down on Sarah. Ancient Near Eastern legal practice addresses such cases of insolent slaves and allows disciplining of them. Prv 30:23 uses as an example of intolerable behavior “a maidservant when she ousts her mistress.” #1 Sm 1:6; Prv 30:23. 5#Gn 21:10–19. So Sarai said to Abram: “This outrage against me is your fault. I myself gave my maid to your embrace; but ever since she knew she was pregnant, I have lost stature in her eyes. May the Lord decide between you and me!” 6Abram told Sarai: “Your maid is in your power. Do to her what you regard as right.” Sarai then mistreated her so much that Hagar ran away from her.
7The Lord’s angel#The Lord’s angel: a manifestation of God in human form; in v. 13 the messenger is identified with God. See note on Ex 3:2. found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the road to Shur,#Ex 15:22. 8and he asked, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress, Sarai.” 9But the Lord’s angel told her: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority. 10I will make your descendants so numerous,” added the Lord’s angel, “that they will be too many to count.”#Gn 17:20; 21:13, 18; 25:12–18. 11Then the Lord’s angel said to her:
“You are now pregnant and shall bear a son;
you shall name him Ishmael,#Ishmael: in Hebrew the name means “God has heard.” It is the same Hebrew verb that is translated “heeded” in the next clause. In other ancient Near Eastern texts, the name commemorated the divine answer to the parents’ prayer to have a child, but here it is broadened to mean that God has “heard” Hagar’s plight. In vv. 13–14, the verb “to see” is similarly broadened to describe God’s special care for those in need.
For the Lord has heeded your affliction.
12He shall be a wild ass of a man,
his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
Alongside#Alongside: lit., “against the face of”; the same phrase is used of the lands of Ishmael’s descendants in 25:18. It can be translated “in opposition to” (Dt 21:16; Jb 1:11; 6:28; 21:31), but here more likely means that Ishmael’s settlement was near but not in the promised land. all his kindred
shall he encamp.”#Gn 21:20; 25:18.
13To the Lord who spoke to her she gave a name, saying, “You are God who sees me”;#God who sees me: Hebrew el-ro’i is multivalent, meaning either “God of seeing,” i.e., extends his protection to me, or “God sees,” which can imply seeing human suffering (29:32; Ex 2:25; Is 57:18; 58:3). It is probable that Hagar means to express both of these aspects. Remained alive: for the ancient notion that a person died on seeing God, see Gn 32:31; Ex 20:19; Dt 4:33; Jgs 13:22. she meant, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?”#Gn 24:62. 14That is why the well is called Beer-lahai-roi.#Beer-lahai-roi: possible translations of the name of the well include: “spring of the living one who sees me”; “the well of the living sight”; or “the one who sees me lives.” See note on v. 13. It is between Kadesh and Bered.
15Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram named the son whom Hagar bore him Ishmael.#Gn 16:2; Gal 4:22. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Learn More About New American Bible, revised edition
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc
Hagar the Servant Girl
1Sarai was Abram’s wife, but she did not have any children. She had an Egyptian slave named Hagar. 2Sarai told Abram, “The Lord has not allowed me to have children, so sleep with my slave. Maybe she can have a son, and I will accept him as my own.” Abram did what Sarai said.
3So after living ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai gave her Egyptian slave to Abram as a second wife. 4Abram slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When Hagar realized this, she became very proud and began to feel that she was better than Sarai her owner. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “My slave girl now hates me, and I blame you for this. I gave her to you, and she became pregnant. Then she began to feel that she is better than I am. I want the Lord to judge which of us is right.”
6But Abram said to Sarai, “She is your slave. You can do anything you want to her.” So Sarai was cruel to Hagar, and Hagar ran away.
Hagar’s Son Ishmael
7The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring of water in the desert. The spring was by the road to Shur. 8The angel said, “Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, why are you here? Where are you going?”
Hagar said, “I am running away from Sarai.”
9The angel of the Lord said to her, “Sarai is your owner. Go home to her and obey her.” 10The angel of the Lord also said, “From you will come many people—too many people to count.”
11Then the angel of the Lord said,
“Hagar, you are now pregnant,
and you will have a son.
You will name him Ishmael,#16:11 Ishmael This name means “God hears.”
because the Lord has heard that you were treated badly.
12Ishmael will be wild and free
like a wild donkey.
He will be against everyone,
and everyone will be against him.
He will move from place to place
and camp near his brothers.”
13The Lord talked to Hagar. She began to use a new name for God. She said to him, “You are ‘God Who Sees Me.’” She said this because she thought, “I see that even in this place God sees me and cares for me!” 14So the well there was called Beer Lahai Roi.#16:14 Beer Lahai Roi This means “The well of the Living One who sees me.” It is between Kadesh and Bered.
15Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, and Abram named the son Ishmael. 16Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born from Hagar.
Learn More About Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version
© 1987, 2004 Bible League International