Genesis 16:7-16 “Where Are You Going?”

Posted on January 23, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 16:7-16 “Where Are You Going?” 01-24-2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read Gen. 16:1-16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.  5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael, 
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”  14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

 Introduction: Welcome to the Genesis class! In this class we are studying the book of Genesis in detail; we do not just hit the highlights, we dig for the gold in every verse and take our time doing it. This is the beginning of our third year in Genesis and we are in the middle of chapter 16.

My approach to the study of God’s Word is built upon my faith in God’s Word as being inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient. We try to look at Genesis in the context of the rest of Moses’ writings in the Pentateuch and in the whole Old Testament. I seek to find that which points us to Christ. These are not just interesting stories that have a moral or practical application. There is much about God here that must be believed. There are many doctrines here that are expanded and further explained in the New Testament.

In each chapter I first examine the literary structure of the text so as to discover what Moses is actually saying. Next I look at the historical situation and the theological meaning of the text to understand what Moses means. I seek to relate the text to the rest of Scripture and will present the opinions of the scholars throughout church history with frequent citations from Luther and Calvin to the present day. Along the way I seek to apply the meaning of the text to our daily lives because doctrine should touch us where we live. We cannot afford to simply study the Book of Genesis academically for in this book is the Tree of Life, the Ark of our Salvation and the Child of Promise.

While the class is built upon lectures, I am always open to questions and I desire good discussion even to the point of chasing rabbits. If it is a minor rabbit, I will seek to bring us back on topic quickly, but if the rabbit is big enough…we may do a whole class on that side topic!

I do post my class notes on my blog at

I pass around a sign in sheet every week simply to assist in learning everyone’s name. I know that our church’s primary ministry unit is not Sunday School, but the Home Care Groups, but, nonetheless, I would like for our class to get to know each other better and perhaps even have a fellowship together at some point.

Review: With the beginning of a new semester there will likely be some new faces in the class and some who might return after a stint in another class, so the problem becomes for me, how much of a review should I give? Do I go back to ch.1? Do I review just the material from last semester? Do I just jump in where I left off? I think what I will do this morning is give a brief review of ch. 16 and then pick up where we left off, with verse 7.

First though, I want to give a small tease for this chapter: Who is the only woman in ancient Near Eastern literature, including the Bible, who is called by name by a deity? Who is the only person in the Old Testament who confers a name upon God? Whose story in the Old Testament most closely resembles the story of Mary’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1? The answer to these questions is Hagar, mother of Ishmael.

(The link below will take you to the previous lesson that I will summarize in class)

  1. I.                   Literary Analysis of Gen. 16:1-16
    1. A.     Compare the structure of ch. 16 with ch.21 (Waltke, p.250)
      1. 1.      16:1 Sarai’s Infertility/ 21:1-5 Sarah’s fertility
      2. 2.      16:2-3 Sarai’s response- “sleep with my maidservant”/ 21:6-8 Sarah’s response- laughter.
      3. 3.      16:4 Hagar pregnant, abuses Sarai/21:9 Ishmael abuses Isaac
      4. 4.      16:5-6 Sarai complains and drives out Hagar/21:10 Sarah complains and drives out Hagar.
      5. 5.      16:7-9 Angel of the LORD sends Hagar back/21:11-12 God says, “Send Hagar out”
      6. 6.      16:10 God promises Hagar to increase her descendants/21:13 God promises Abram to make a nation out of Ishmael.
      7. 7.      16:11-14 Angel of the LORD says Ishmael will be a lone wanderer in the desert/21:14-18 Hagar and Ishmael are alone in the desert.
      8. 8.      16:15 Ishmael is born to Abram/21:19-20 Ishmael is saved in the desert.
      9. 9.      16:16 Ishmael born of Hagar/21:21 Hagar gets Ishmael a wife.
    2. B.     Outline and Structure
      1. 3.      The Angel of the LORD’s Plan
      2. a.      vs.7 The Angel finds Hagar at the well A
      3. b.      vs.8 The Angel speaks and Hagar responds B
      4. c.       vs.9 The Angel speaks to Hagar again C
      5. d.      vs. 10 The Angel speaks to Hagar again C1
      6. e.      vss.11-13 The Angel speaks and Hagar responds B1
      7. f.        vs.14 The name of the well C1
        1. 4.      vs. 15 Hagar bears Abram a son, Ishmael
        2. 5.      vs. 16 Conclusion
    3. C.     Similarities to Mary in Luke 1
      1. 1.      Gen. 16:8 Greeting/Lk. 1:28
      2. 2.      Gen. 16:11 announcement of conception/Lk. 1:31
      3. 3.      Gen.16:11 God’s favor/ Lk. 130b
      4. 4.      Gen. 16:11 the name of the child with meaning/ Lk. 1:31
      5. 5.      Gen. 16:12 the child’s future accomplishments/ Lk. 1:32f
      6. 6.      Gen. 16:13 a thankful response/ Lk. 1:48


  1. II.                Theological Analysis and Application
    1. A.     Vs.7 The Angel of the LORD finds Hagar at the well
      1. 1.        “The angel of the LORD…” Francisco notes that this is the first use of the term in the Bible (BBC, Vol.1, rev. p.168). Is this an angel, is this the pre-incarnate Christ, or is this a theophany? The use of this term can be confusing as it is clearly called an angel, messenger from God, yet also referred to as God by Hagar in vs. 13. Arthur W. Pink views this as a theophany (Gleanings in Genesis, Moody, p.176). Mathews writes, “This passage is the first reference to ‘the angel of the LORD’ in the Old Testament, where it occurs fifty-eight times. In Genesis the theophanic name occurs six times, four in chap.16 (vv.7,9,10,11) and twice in the offering of Isaac (22:11,15). The precise relationship between the ‘angel of the LORD’ and God is puzzling. The angel is equated with the Lord in some texts and yet appears distinctive in others (eg. 22:15-16; Exod. 3:2-4 with Acts 7:30-32; Num.22:22,31,35,38;) ..Chap.16 illustrates the ambiguity of the angel’s identity….Traditionally, Christian interpreters ascribed to the appearance of the angel a Christophany, the preincarnate divine Son of God.” (NAC, vol.1B, pp.188f). It would be too much to be dogmatic either way as it would be common to view the King’s messenger as the king himself in that culture, but it is also clear that God does show up personally at times such as in Gen. 3, 18.
      2. 2.        Shur- this is a border region between SW Canaan and NE Egypt, indicating that Hagar was on her way home to Egypt. Ex.15:22 Moses and Israel went through Shur right after crossing the Red Sea. Including geographical details like this links his audience with the historical realities of their own experience and that of Hagar. There is some irony here is that the obviously fertile Hagar finds herself in a wilderness while her infertile mistress, Sarai, remains in the fertile land of Canaan.
      3. 3.        “on the way to Shur”- Hagar has run away from her rightful authority; as a maidservant she is still a slave and is violating the law by her actions. But, while most of us Americans who value personal liberty above all else would cheer her actions, there is something more important to consider. Hagar was likely born and raised in Egypt and learned to worship the horrific pagan gods of that land. In Abram’s household she had, in all likelihood, been exposed to the worship of the One True God as Abram, we have seen, was frequently building altars and calling on the name of the LORD. He served as the priest of his household and as such would be concerned about all of his people. Hagar was, therefore, fleeing from the place where she could hear of the Lord, and fleeing towards a place of false gods and idols. She was in spiritual as well as legal and physical danger.
      4. 4.        Application- when you were lost, did you ever flee the place where Christians were trying to convert you? Have you ever noticed that with lost friends or family? Even as a Believer, do we ever find ourselves on the way back to Egypt because staying where God has placed us is too hard, too painful, too humbling? Do we sometimes exalt ourselves against the authorities God has placed in our lives just as Hagar did to Sarai?
    2. B.     Vs. 8 The Angel Speaks and Hagar Responds
      1. 1.        “Hagar, servant of Sarai…” As stated earlier, this is a unique occurrence of God speaking the name of a woman. This is in contrast to vss.2,5 where Sarai will not speak her name. This is a remarkable sign of God’s grace to young Hagar. He also rebukes her gently by reminding her that she is in fact the servant of Sarai and she is in rebellion. Luther writes, (Luther’s Works, vol.3, p.60) “This is a very fine example to show that God loves domestic establishments and protects them through the ministry of His angels. It had been the work of Satan that the excited Hagar had fled into the wilderness and had left her mistress; but the angels, who were assigned to the head of this household as guardians, bring Hagar back, in order that the promise in which God had given the assurance that He would be the God of Abraham and of his seed may be kept.”
      2. 2.        “Where have you come from and where are you going?”- The asking of Hagar’s wherabouts takes us back to Gen. 3 and 4. In Gen.3 God asks, “Adam, where are you?” and in 4 he asks Cain where is Abel, your brother? This exposes Hagar’s sin of rebellion. While she will answer the first question, she never gets to the point of answering the second.
      3. 3.        Application- we could take a whole class period on these two questions as they have serious implications for man. Where have you come from? We can ask, and answer, that question from a simplistic geographical perspective. Now geography is important and it genuinely helps us in understanding people. If you meet someone who grew up in the Watts district of LA in the 1960’s you will know something about that person that is very important.
      4. 4.        Where have you come from? We can ask that question in regards to a person’s point of view, their worldview, their spiritual background and then we get closer to the real truth. It is a good witnessing tool to be able to explain your spiritual journey in a concise way. But we can also take this question at a much larger level. Our study of Genesis I have called answers to life’s crucial questions, and here we have a crucial question indeed. Where have you come from? Is man a cosmic accident? The result of a meteor strike bringing some amino acids from somewhere else that mixed with the priordial soupy ocean to spontaneously produce a single cell critter? If we are but an accident of nature, then how can we have any kind of purpose or meaning? If we are but the final product of the law of nature- survival of the fittest- then we are not inherently different from the other life forms around us. A baby = a lobster= a puppy. If we came from evolution we have no soul and there is nothing to our brain except chemical reactions. Love, truth, beauty, justice are but contrivances.
      5. 5.        Where have you come from? When we understand and know it in our souls, that we are created by God, in God’s image, then we will be rooted in the eternal truth of God himself. We will know that we are not alone, we have a purpose, we are not here by accident and life does have meaning as we are related to God through Christ. We live in a world that has lost its way and is in the wilderness like Hagar, a world that feels the rootlessness of an orphan who never knew her parents.
      6. 6.        Where are you going? Hagar never answered this question, but the evidence suggests she was going back to Egypt, the land that represents slavery, bondage, and oppression, to God’s people. It is the land of false gods and sin, representing our separation from God. Here in America we are a country with a rich history which we choose to forget and ignore (to our own peril), thus forgetting where we have come from, yet we are eager to go. Go where? We are a people of tomorrow, always optimistic, always looking over the next horizon (here is the influence of geography by the way). God knew that Hagar was going in the wrong direction and was unaware of the consequences of her choices. If we believe that we have come from nowhere, then we mistakenly, sinfully, think we can set our own destination, never realizing that being separated from God always, only leads to hell. To think that we came here by nothing will only lead us to the emptiness of hell. We scurry about, helter skelter, with unceasing pride and motion but only sink further into the morass of sin. Mankind has made tremendous progress in science and technology but not one iota of progress morally. If evolution were true, wouldn’t we make some progress morally?
      7. 7.        Where are you going? Jesus said “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy  that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
      8. 8.        Where are you going? There are only two destinies, heaven or hell, destruction or life. Have you repented of going your own way, repented of sin, and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for your destiny, your salvation? God was wonderfully gracious and merciful to Hagar as he sought her in the wilderness as she fled Abram’s household. God still seeks sinners when they are lost and on the run. We never seek him, we only flee. He always seeks his own to demonstrate his amazing grace and everlasting love.

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