Genesis 16 – The Family Feud

I like the NIV heading as it doesn’t mention Abram or Sarai and just reads ‘Hagar and Ishmael’. Not surprising, given that this chapter reveals more details about the chosen family that we generally would not associate with the father of faith.

After patiently waiting for 10 years, Abram and Sarai both ignored God’s promise of a son and tried a different route. Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with her slave Hagar and Abram happily complied. I am paraphrasing but verse 2 reads that Abram listened to Sarai’s voice unlike listening to God’s voice and the covenant he had made in the previous chapter.

Hagar gets pregnant with Abram’s child and what follows next is nothing short of a daytime soap opera script. Hagar starts despising her mistress and when Sarai brings this to Abram’s attention, he seemed least bothered by the whole situation. The guy who did not want quarreling between his and his nephew Lot’s herdsmen is suddenly indifferent to the tensions brewing in his house.

Sarai starts mistreating Hagar to the extent that she runs away from home. But the angel of the Lord met her in the desert and made a similar promise to Hagar that God had made to Abram.

I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count – Genesis 16:10

The Bible is full of women who got to name their child according to their wishes. From Eve naming her firstborn Cain to Rachel and Leah naming her kids to keep score of their husband’s affection towards them and so on. But when Abram names his firstborn Ishmael a slave also got to name the son of her master.

Abram and Sarai had been waiting for the Lord to fulfil his promise for ten years. When is the last time we had to wait for something that long from God? How often do we want to take matters in our own hands when God does not answer our prayers.

If anything this chapter shows us that Abram is not that special as God chose to reveal himself to an Egyptian slave who had lost all hope in this so called ‘blessed family’. Much like his time in Egypt we don’t see Abram consult or even talk to God in this chapter. We see both Sarai and Hagar calling on the name of the Lord but Abram is conspicuously silent.

I think like Abram, we have the same tendency to seek God when things go our way and walk away when we want something apart from his will. Later when we read about Ishmael we see that God was with the boy.

Only God can bring out the good even in our disobedience.

Questions Discussed in this Podcast

V1: Is Hagar Sarai’s slave or Abram’s?

V2: How could Sarai give her husband to someone else? Why did Abraham agree to what Sarai suggested especially after we read in the previous chapter Abram’s faith was credited to him as righteousness?

V4: Why did Hagar despise her mistress?

V5: Why is Sarai blaming Abram for what happened? She says, “May the Lord judge between you and me.”, What is there to judge?

V6: Abram’s response is even worse, he says to Sarai “Your slave is in your hands”, why not have the  same attitude when Sarai suggested that he sleep with Hagar? Doesn’t Abram care that Hagar had to leave, especially now that she was pregnant with his child?

V10: Hagar received the same blessing as that of Abram, then what was special about Abram’s blessing if Hagar and Ishmael also received the same from the Lord?

V12: The Angel of the Lord describes Ishmael in a vivid manner. Using words like ‘wild donkey of a man’, what does that mean?

V13: Did Hagar see the face God? That would put her in an elusive company, Even the father of faith had not seen God face to face.

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