Chapter 16

Hagar and Ishmael

    • Abram and Sarai had been in Canaan for 10 years yet had still been unable to have a child. Sarai went to Abram and told him, “Since God has prevented me from having children, go to my Egyptian slave Hagar. Perhaps I can become a mother through her.”

      • This was actually a common practice in the Middle East at that time and has been corroborated archaeologically. One example of such a corroboration is the Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi is a well preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia that dates back to about 1754 BC. It is actually one of the oldest deciphered writings in the world. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says, “Childlessness was, and still is, in the East, a great reproach (cf. 1 Samuel 1:2-20). It was the custom also in Babylonia, as is shewn by the Code of Hammurabi, that ‘if a man’s wife was childless, he was allowed to take a concubine and bring her into his house, but he was not to place her upon an equal footing with the wife. Or, the wife might give her husband a maidservant, and, if she brought up children, he was forbidden to take in addition a concubine.’”

      • David Guzik adds, “According to custom, the child would be considered to be the child of Abram and Sarai, not Abram and Hagar…When we impatiently try to fulfill God’s promises in our own effort, it accomplishes nothing and may even prolong the time until the promise is fulfilled. Jacob had to live as an exile for 25 years because he thought he had to arrange the fulfillment of God’s promise to get his father’s blessing. Moses had to tend sheep for 40 years in the desert after he tried to arrange the fulfillment of God’s promise by murdering an Egyptian.”

Code of Hammurabi image from the Encyclopedia Brittanica

    • Abram agreed. He slept with Hagar and she conceived.

    • When Hagar realized that she was pregnant, she began to feel haughty and despise Sarai.

    • Sarai, upset, went to Abram and blamed him for the whole situation.

    • Abram responded by telling Sarai that she could handle Hagar however she wished. So Sarai treated her so badly that she ran away.

      • “These terribly complicated and difficult situations often arise out of our sin. All in all, it is much easier to live life trusting in and obedient unto the Lord. God wants to spare us from these difficulties.” (Guzik)

    • The Angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness and asked her where she had come from and where she was going.

      • Was “The Angel of the Lord” an appearance of pre-incarnate” Jesus- also known as a “Christophany”?

        • Most likely yes. This article, Who is the Angel of the Lord, from gotquestions.org does an excellent job of presenting the argument that Jesus did indeed appear to Hagar in the wilderness. I’ll summarize:

        • In the Old Testament there are references to “angels of the Lord”, “an angel of the Lord”, and “the angel of the Lord.” When the article “the” is used, it indicates a being separate from the other angels. For example, “the” angel of the Lord speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, exercises the responsibilities of God, and in several of these appearances- those who saw “the” angel of the Lord feared for their lives because they had “seen the Lord.” (Genesis 16:7-12; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; 3:1; 12:8). Also, “the” angel of the Lord never appears after the birth of Christ.

        • We know that it would have to have been Jesus and not God the father because John 1:18 and I Timothy 6:16 both state that no man has seen the person of God the Father.

    • Hagar told him that she was running away from Sarai.

    • The angel of the Lord told Hagar, “You have to go back and put up with Sarai’s treatment. I will ensure that you have too many offspring to count. The child you carry is a boy and you will name him Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your cries. Ishmael’s life won’t be easy- he’ll be at odds with everyone, including his brothers.”

      • “God had great plans for Hagar’s child. He would become a great nation. Indeed, Ishmael would become the father of all the Arabic peoples. Today’s battle between Jew and Arab is nothing new. Both Jews and Arabs are descended from Abram by two half-brothers: Ishmael, and the son to come later from Abram and Sarai, to be named Isaac.” (Guzik)

      • “Ishmael was the first man in the Bible to receive his name before he was born – setting him in the same company as John the Baptist and Jesus.” (Guzik)

    • After her experience, Hagar named the Lord who had spoken to her “The God Who Sees”. She also named the spring where the angel of the Lord had appeared to her “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”

    • When Abram was 86 years old, Hagar gave birth to his son, and he named him Ishmael.

* This leads me to another opportunity to address the subject of the law and those religions that require their members to submit to Old Testament law and also claim that followers of Christ who do NOT place themselves under Old Testament law are living in apostasy. I will summarize the lesson Paul teaches regarding Abram’s sons Ishmael and Issac and the comparison he draws that applies directly to us today. This summary comes from a portion of the article, The New Covenant Makes Some Biblical Laws Obsolete, by Michael Morrison. If you are a former (or current for that matter) member of a legalistic church, this article is a MUST read.

      • Paul is speaking to the Galatians, who wanted to be under the authority of the Torah (the books of Moses- Genesis through Deuteronomy). Paul uses the illustration of children born of slavery (Ishmael) and those born to promise (Issac). Paul says in Galatians 4:21, “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?” Paul explains that Abraham’s son Ishmael (born of a slave) was born in the ordinary way, but Abraham’s son Issac (born of a free woman) was born as the result of a promise. (Sarai was unable to have children her entire life, so God gave Issac to Sarai in her old age and in a miraculous way- not born of normal human ability. God Himself enabled Sarai to conceive.)

      • Paul then says that the two women, Hagar and Sarai, represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mt. Sinai and bears children who are slaves. Here Paul associates Hagar with the old covenant. This covenant produces slave children, and all who place themselves under the old covenant are in effect slave children. In Galatians 4:9-12, Paul pleads with the Galatians: “Now that you know God, why are you turning back to weak, miserable forces? Do you want to be slaves again? You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years! I’m afraid that I have wasted my efforts on you! Please become like me. I became like you and you did me no wrong.”

      • Paul then tells them that they are under the new covenant. They are like Issac- free children of promise. In this context “free” refers to free of old covenant restrictions.

      • Paul then continues by telling the Galatians that the children of the old covenant are persecuting the children of the new covenant by pressuring them to conform to the old covenant. (Galatians 4:28-29)

      • Paul asks the Galatians (Galatians 4:30) to look to the Scriptures and see what they say. Genesis 21:10 is then quoted in the New Testament. Galatians 4:30 is again an analogy using the son of the slave versus the son of the free woman. When you remove the language of analogy and replace it with what the analogy represents the application is abundantly clear: “Get rid of those who teach the old covenant. Don’t listen to them, because they will not inherit the promises of Abraham.”

      • As Michael Morrison states, Paul makes clear in blunt language the premise that “Christian life is not found in the old covenant.”

      • In the last verse of chapter 4 (Galatians 4:31) Paul says, “Therefore brothers, we are not children of the slave. We are children of the free woman.” Without analogy: We are children of the new covenant, not the old.

    • If you are like a Galatian today placing yourself under old covenant law, please listen to Paul’s plea! Accept the new covenant gift of freedom from slavery and inherit the promises of Abraham! At the very least, discontinue your disdain for your brothers and sisters who have accepted their freedom.