Genesis 16:7-16 “God Finds Hagar”

Posted on January 31, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 16:7-16 “God Finds Hagar”

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read Gen. 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/review: Where were you when God found you with his saving grace? And that “where” can be geographical, it can be a location in time, or, most importantly, it can be a spiritual location. Today we will continue studying this important encounter between God and Hagar in the wilderness.

We have already looked at the literary structure of the text and have seen how it fits in with some other passages by Moses. One of the themes in this text is that of dissension in the family. A geographical reference to Shur would have been important to Israel in Moses’ day as they, too, passed that way on their exodus out of Egypt. In the story we see Hagar rebelling against her God given authority, Sarai, and is pregnant and alone in the wilderness. We left off last week with the beginning of the encounter between the Angel of the LORD and Hagar.

  1. II.                Theological Analysis and Application



  1. 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 primordial 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 Matt 7:13f “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.
    9. 9.        As a Believer we know that our eternal destiny is secure, we are heaven bound. But, do we know where we are going in the meanwhile? Are we on the path of holiness and sanctification? Are we on mission for God? Do we have a plan for growing in this grace we have received? Or, are we like Hagar wandering in the wilderness?
    10. 10.    “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai”…Hagar answers the first question from the Angel of the Lord, but not the second. Perhaps this answer shows some positive sign of humility and repentance, she admits to running away. Keep in mind that the Lord already knew the answer, just as in Gen.3 he knew where Adam was even though he asked. To admit where you come from, sin, can be a sign of God’s grace, but some will admit with a “So what?” attitude. The fact that she did go back to submit to Sarai’s authority shows genuine repentance perhaps. But she does not answer the second question, Where are you going? Perhaps she was wandering aimlessly, or maybe she was ashamed to admit she was returning to Egypt. Considering that Israel wanted to return to Egypt, this could be a subtle warning.
    11. C.     Vs.9 The Angel Speaks To Hagar Again
      1. 1.         Return to your mistress- Hagar is being told to return to the oppression from which she had fled. This is an imperative, a command, not a suggestion. God doesn’t do suggestions. The idea of returning is a frequent theme in the Bible, for good and bad. Israel wanted to return to Egypt- bad; when we stray we are called to return to the Lord-good. Moses was called to return to Egypt to bring his people out. The prophets called on the people to return to the Lord and they prophesy that the Lord will cause his people to return from exile. To an extent, the Christian life is a life of returning because, like sheep, we always wander and stray from Christ. Every day we must seek to return to the Lord.
      2. 2.         “…and submit to her” this is literally humble yourself under her hand. She was called of God to return to an unpleasant, oppressive life of slavery. In fact, the word is the same used above in v.6 translated as “dealt harshly” or “afflicted”. Sailhamer writes, p.135, “The key term throughout the chapter is ‘misery’ which occurs as a noun in v.11b and as a verb in v.6 (mistreated) and v.9 (submit).” How do we as Americans respond to that? We don’t like it one bit. God is not overly eager for our happiness, but is passionately concerned for our holiness, our obedience and faithfulness. Hagar was removing herself from the blessings that would be hers under Abram’s household. She was despising Abram by her attitude towards Sarai and was thus in violation of 12:3. God is calling her back to outward slavery for that would be the way to blessing and true freedom.
      3. 3.         Suffering and obedience frequently go together. When we answer the call to follow Jesus, suffering is very often the result. We are not called to the easy path, or the broad road, but to the narrow gate/path, the way of the cross, dying to self. Sacrifice is not just what Jesus did on the cross, it is to be our lifestyle. We are called of God to be living sacrifices for his glory. When we run away from God given struggles we choose comfort over holiness. Pastor Tim’s sermons on Job are touching this issue of suffering while remaining faithful. Job’s suffering came about because he was righteous and God was using him for His own glory.
    12. D.    Vs.10 The Angel Speaks Again
      1. 1.         “I will surely multiply your offspring”- Mathews writes, p. 189, “It is striking that Hagar is the first woman to receive a birth annunciation and the first woman to receive promises from the Lord. By remaining submissive in Abram’s household, she and her son will someday enjoy the benefit of the patriarchal blessing.” I will surely multiply is taken from 3:16 where it is part of the curse, but here it is reversed into a blessing. Waltke writes, p.254, “God’s command to Hagar to submit is graciously accompanied by a promise. The promise is reaffirmed in Gen. 17:20 and fulfilled in 25:13-16. Abraham will father many descendants (13:16), both elect and nonelect. The nonelect will also be protected by God and made into a great nation (17:20).
    13. E.     Vs.11-13 The Angel Speaks for the Fourth Time and Hagar’s Response
      1. 1.         “You shall call his name Ishmael”… Ishmael means God hears. God has heard Hagar’s affliction, her misery, yet he calls her to submit to more.
      2. 2.         “He shall be a wild donkey of a man…” Back in November I spoke on this passage in relation to the attack on the soldiers at Ft Hood by the muslim traitor Maj. Hasan. The character of Ishmael would be very rebellious and aggressive. He is the ancestor of the Arabs and the spiritual ancestor of all muslims. This pugnacious attitude prevails in islam. Mathews writes, p.191, “Taken together, each part of v.12 intensifies the picture of Ishmael as antagonist whose hostilities are indiscriminate and without restraint. Hostility toward one’s brother characterized the nonelect line in Genesis, beginning with Cain (4:8, 23-24); Esau, like Ishmael is portrayed as a wild belligerent (27:39-40).”
      3. 3.         Application: Notice the amazing Grace of God in this encounter. You have a rebellious woman fleeing her lawful authority, heading back to pagan Egypt carrying Abram’s son inside her body. She was fleeing the place she could hear the gospel and running into darkness. But God found her in her wilderness and exhibits multiple signs of Grace to her. He calls her by name, he gently confronts her with her sin, he commands her to return home and submit. He then blesses her with a promise of many descendants and names her son.
      4. 4.         “You are a God of seeing”- El Roi, the God who sees me. This is the only place in Scripture that a person names God. God is the one who hears, Ishmael, and sees, El Roi. God is omniscient and omnipresent; he knows your need, he sees your condition, he hears your cries and sighs. He saw Hagar’s suffering, but he also saw her exalt herself against her mistress. He saw her run away when she was supposed to stay. The French existentialist philosopher, novelist and playwright, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about being caught by the Other, while peeping through a key hole at someone else. There is this sense of shame and guilt in man as a result of thinking of God always watching us. Psalm 139 comes to mind:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain! 
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts! 
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! 

  1. 5.         She called on the name of the LORD who spoke to her-
  2. 6.         “Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me”- This is the first time in the text that it is indicated that the Angel of the Lord actually appeared in some physical manner for her to see. Notice the positive side of God seeing her, she says that he looks after her. The God who sees her also cares for her, the God who hears her cry also answers. There is a subtle message of fear and grace here as well, she has seen the Lord and lived.
  3. 7.         Apply- It is unfortunately all too easy for us to only view God as the cosmic cop in the rear view mirror who always sees us doing wrong. He is also the God who sees our plight, and cares. When you are going through a Job like time of suffering, there is the natural tendency to forget that God cares and that this time on earth is brief and eternity is long. God will reward the righteous eventually, though we suffer in the here and now. As rich Americans, used to instant results in our pop a pill culture and our fast food or microwave society, we lose sight of eternity, and lose sight of the God who sees me and cares for me.
  4. F.      Vs. 14 The Name of the Well
    1. 1.         The well was called Beer-lahai-roi –  the name means “the well belonging to the Living One, my seeing one”. Again, there is an emphasis on the grace of God. The whole situation and the naming of the well calls to mind the story in John 4 of Jesus and the woman at the well. She was an immoral woman and Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God , and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water…everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

                 G.   Vs. 15 Hagar bears Abram a son

  1. 1.         And Hagar bore Abram a son- here is the bookend of the    chapter, as this matches, and contrasts with, vs.1. This does not solve the problem of childlessness that was introduced back in 11:30, and it is not the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abram in ch.15. This does heighten the tension in the story and create more challenges later, even down to our day.
  2. 2.         Abram called the name of his son…Ishmael- The fact that Abram calls him Ishmael, exactly what the Angel of the Lord commanded Hagar, indicates that Hagar probably told Abram, and maybe Sarai, the whole story of her encounter, and from that communication, we get the naming of Ishmael and the story is passed down through the generations to Moses. Notice that Sarai’s name is not included in this naming section despite the fact that her original intention was to “obtain children by her (Hagar)”. Sarai’s plan has failed utterly as do our plans we act outside of God’s Word and Will.
  3. 3.         Ishmael’s genealogy is in 25:12-18


  1. G.    Vs.16 Conclusion
    1. 1.         Abram was eighty-six years old- Eleven years has passed since he entered Canaan and it will be thirteen before the promised son will be born.

                  Summary- This story is used by Paul in Galatians 4 to illustrate the difference between those under law and those under grace. Here we have seen both the sovereignty of God and the sinful use of man’s freedom of will. Sarai chose to act in the flesh, Hagar became proud then ran away, but God sought her out and brought her back. There is a foreshadowing of Israel’s Exodus here with Deut. 26:6-7; Ex. 14:3-5, 19 and 32:24 with the flight to the wilderness and meeting the angel of the Lord.





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