Genesis 16

 

וְשָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם לֹא יָלְדָה לוֹ וְלָהּ שִׁפְחָה מִצְרִית וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר  16:1

Gene. 16:1      Now Sarai, the wife of Abram, had not given birth for him, and she had a maidservant, an Egyptian, and her name was Hagar.

וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל אַבְרָם הִנֵּהנָא עֲצָרַנִי יְהוָה מִלֶּדֶת בֹּאנָא אֶל שִׁפְחָתִי אוּלַי אִבָּנֶה מִמֶּנָּה וַיִּשְׁמַע  16:2

אַבְרָם, לְקוֹל שָׂרָי

Gene. 16:2      And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold, now the Lord has restrained me from giving birth; go in, please, to my maidservant; maybe I will be built up through her,” and Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

וַתִּקַּח שָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם אֶת הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית שִׁפְחָתָהּ מִקֵּץ עֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים לְשֶׁבֶת אַבְרָם בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן  16:3

וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָם אִישָׁהּ לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה

Gene. 16:3      And at the end of ten years of Abram dwelling in the land of Canaan, Sarai, wife of Abram, took Hagar, the Egyptian, her maidservant, and gave her to Abram, her husband, to him for a wife.

While the chronology in the bible cannot always be ascertained, at this point in the story Abram is probably about 85 years old.  This is ten years after his arrival in Canaan, and he was about 75 years old when he arrived in Canaan (Gene. 12:4).

וַיָּבֹא אֶל הָגָר וַתַּהַר וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וַתֵּקַל גְּבִרְתָּהּ בְּעֵינֶיה  16:4

Gene. 16:4      And he went in to Hagar and she conceived.  When she saw that she had conceived, then her mistress was lowly in her eyes.

וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל אַבְרָם חֲמָסִי עָלֶיךָ אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי בְּחֵיקֶךָ וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וָאֵקַל בְּעֵינֶיה  16:5

יִשְׁפֹּט יְהוָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ

Gene. 16:5      And Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong is because of you; I gave my maidservant into your bosom; when she saw that she had conceived, then I was lowly in her eyes; the Lord shall judge between me and you.”

What is this about?  Didn’t Sarai give Hagar to Abram so Hagar could bear a child, thinking she would be built up through her (v. 16:2)?  Now that Hagar looks down on her, she seems to be placing the blame on Abram.  Did Abram do something to encourage Hagar that we aren’t being told about?  Is this all about how speedily Hagar conceived, and Sarai thinks Abram is more fecund because of his possible greater attraction for Hagar?  Shouldn’t Sarai now rightly conclude (at least to herself) that it is she who is infertile?

Incidentally, the next to last word in the top line of the verse, translated as the phrase “... then I was lowly ...,” is a first-person imperfect verb containing a vav prefix that is inverting; it is also a consequence of a preceding verb.  Another double anomaly example of the exception to the rule (the third so far)!

וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל שָׂרַי הִנֵּה שִׁפְחָתֵךְ בְּיָדֵךְ עֲשִׂי לָהּ הַטּוֹב בְּעֵינָיִךְ וַתְּעַנֶּהָ שָׂרַי וַתִּבְרַח מִפָּנֶיהָ  16:6

Gene. 16:6      And Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maidservant is in your hand; do to her what is good in your eyes,” and Sarai punished her so that she fled from her face.

וַיִּמְצָאָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה עַלעֵין הַמַּיִםבַּמִּדְבָּר עַלהָעַיִן בְּדֶרֶךְ שׁוּר  16:7

Gene. 16:7      And an angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur.

For the first time we are told of an angel, or messenger, of the Lord.

וַיֹּאמַר הָגָר שִׁפְחַת שָׂרַי אֵי מִזֶּה בָאת וְאָנָה תֵלֵכִי וַתֹּאמֶר מִפְּנֵי שָׂרַי גְּבִרְתִּי אָנֹכִי בֹּרַחַת  16:8

Gene. 16:8      And he said, “Hagar, maidservant of Sarai, from where are you coming, and where will you go?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the face of Sarai, my mistress.”

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה שׁוּבִי אֶל גְּבִרְתֵּךְ וְהִתְעַנִּי תַּחַת יָדֶיהָ  16:9

Gene. 16:9      And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit yourself into her hands.”

Two comments about this verse:  First, the verb yNI[;t.hiw> is in the imperative form, so the vav is non-inverting; it’s just a vav. Second, the preposition tx;T; usually means under, and that is being implied in the wording.  So Hagar is to put herself under Sarai, i.e., she is being subtly instructed not to look down on Sarai.

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת זַרְעֵךְ וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב  16:10

Gene. 16:10   And the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your seed that it shall not be numbered because of multitude.”

Does this promise mean greater multitude for Ishmael’s descendants than for Abram’s descendants?  Which is the greater, the stars in the heavens or an innumerable multitude?  Certainly at the present time in history Ishmael’s descendants are far more numerous than Abram’s.

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ יִשְׁמָעֵאל כִּי שָׁמַע יְהוָה אֶל עָנְיֵךְ  16:11

Gene. 16:11   And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are with child and shall bear a son and you will call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.”

The name Ishmael means God will hear or let God hear.

וְהוּא יִהְיֶה פֶּרֶא אָדָם יָדוֹ בַכֹּל וְיַד כֹּל בּוֹ וְעַל פְּנֵי כָל אֶחָיו יִשְׁכֹּן 16:12

Gene. 16:12   “And he shall be a wild man, his hand toward all and the hand of all toward him, and he shall dwell against the face of all his brethren.”

The phrase wyx'a,-lk' ynEP.-l[, “against the face of all his brethren”, can support a number of different translations.  For example, some other bibles have in the presence of all his brethren.  I believe that translating it that way adds nothing to the meaning of the rest of the verse.  The translation I prefer implies more – that he will continue to make trouble for all his brethren.  Admittedly, one translation is as reasonable as the other, but the translation contained here seems more indicative of the situation throughout much of our history, and is substantially corroborated in Gene. 25:18.

וַתִּקְרָא שֵׁם יְהוָה הַדֹּבֵר אֵלֶיהָ אַתָּה אֵל רֳאִי כִּי אָמְרָה הֲגַם הֲלֹם רָאִיתִי אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי  16:13

Gene. 16:13   And she called the name of the Lord speaking to her, “You are a seeing God,” for she said, “Do I also see here after my being seen?

An important point is illustrated in this verse.  Either Hagar or the scribe writing this is saying that he or she thinks the angel is himself the Lord.  This and other similar incidents later have fueled the belief that God does indeed walk the earth as a Man.  Aside from this controversial belief (which I will address again), the verse is also cryptic.  What does Hagar’s question mean?  Is she thinking that now she sees herself in the image of God?  Or is she discovering the awesome God of Whom Abram may have spoken?

עַל כֵּן קָרָא לַבְּאֵר בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי הִנֵּה בֵין קָדֵשׁ וּבֵין בָּרֶד  16:14

Gene. 16:14   Therefore he gave the name Beer-lahai-roi to the well; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

The name of the well means the Well of the Living One Seeing Me.  Because the verb “gave the name” is masculine and all the other possible subjects (Hagar and the well) except the angel are feminine, I have to presume that it was the angel who named the well.                           [Return to Gene. 24:62]

וַתֵּלֶד הָגָר לְאַבְרָם בֵּן וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָם שֶׁם בְּנוֹ אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה הָגָר יִשְׁמָעֵאל  16:15

Gene. 16:15   And Hagar bore a son for Abram, and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore Ishmael.

We must assume that Hagar returned to Abram’s house, although it doesn’t say so, and that she told him to name the baby Ishmael

וְאַבְרָם בֶּן שְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים בְּלֶדֶת הָגָר אֶת יִשְׁמָעֵאל לְאַבְרָם  16:16

16:16   And Abram was eighty-six years of age when Hagar bore Ishmael for Abram.

We can indeed surmise from this verse that Hagar conceived soon after Sarai gave her to Abram.

 

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