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Genesis 16

Hagar and Ishmael (16:1–16)

We can see from this episode the results of bypassing God and taking things into our own hands. Human plans that are contrary to God’s will cannot lead to a happy outcome. God’s blessing cannot be engineered by human efforts.

7–10 As Hagar was fleeing, the Lord showed mercy to her. Appearing to Hagar in the form of an angel,70 the Lord first told Hagar to return to her mistress. Then He promised that her descendants (from her as yet unborn child) would be too numerous to count (verse 10)—the same promise the Lord had given Abram years earlier (Genesis 15:5). Notice that the Lord’s promise to Hagar was connected with her returning in submission to her mistress. Submission to God’s will is always a requirement for receiving God’s blessing.

11–16 Then the Lord told Hagar that she would have a son and that his name would be Ishmael (verse 11). He would be a wild donkey of a man (verse 12)—that is, he would roam outside human settlements and live in hostility toward his brothers, especially toward his half-brother Isaac, who would be born to Sarai fourteen years later. Thus the hostility between Sarai and Hagar would pass on to their two sons—Ishmael, ancestor of the Arabs; and Isaac, ancestor of the Jews—a hostility that continues to this day.

Hagar identified the angel as the Lord Himself—“the God who sees me” (verse 13). The Lord not only “saw” her in the desert, but He also “saw” right through her and identified her unborn son. So the well where the Lord found her was given a Hebrew name which means “the well of the Living One who sees me” (verse 14).

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