Chapter 16
In chapter fifteen Abram has been comforted concerning the promises of God of posterity and inheritance of the
land. Abram "believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Now we see the doubt in Sarai
manifested concerning the promise of posterity.


It seems very strange to us that Sarai would give her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband to have sexual relations so
that he might have an heir from his own loins. Notice, however, it was not just that Abram might have children;
Sarai said, "it may be that I may obtain children by her." This was Sarai's idea. In Mesopotamia, from where
they had originally come (Ur of the Chaldees), it was a common practice to give the handmaid unto the husband
to give the mistress children in the occasion she was barren. The Code of Hammurabi shows that a Babylonian
wife would give an handmaid to her husband as a sort of secondary wife and the children were considered as
those of the mistress. Thus, Sarai reverted back to a practice of the idolatrous land they had lift to give children
to Abram. This was not the fulfilling of the will of God as can be seen from the rejection of Ishmael as Abram's
legitimate heir (17:15-22).


It might be well at this time to note the practice of polygamy in the Old Testament ("the practice of having
more than one wife or female mate at one time").  The first mention of the practice is found in chapter four
where Lamech, the fifth from Cain and sixth from Adam, took two wives. This, however, is from that line of
men who "went out from the presence of the Lord" It is in Abram that the first mention is made of polygamy in
that line of individuals who would truly be called "the sons of God." It must be noted, however, as we have
mentioned above that Abram borrowed the practice from his idolatrous homeland. When we go back to chapter
two and the beginning of marriage, we see one man and one woman. "They twain [two -- rlr] shall be one flesh."
(Matthew 19:5) Thus, polygamy was a perversion of marriage, even as polytheism is a perversion of the
worship of he one true God. God tolerated polygamy but never approved of it; even as He tolerated divorce but
hated a putting away (Malachi 2:16). Whether it be Lamech, Abram, David or Solomon, there is no consolation
for the advocate of poygamy in Biblcal examples.


When Hagar found out that she was pregnant by Abram, she "despised" her mistress, Sarai. Sarai had been
unable to get pregnant, but Hagar now was. Thus Hagar looked down upon Sarai.

Sarai, in turn, blamed Abram for Hagar's attitude since he was responsible for Hagar's condition. Therefore
Abram gave Sarai over to treat Hagar as she pleased. Sarai then treated Hagar so badly that she fled into the


As Hagar flees into the wilderness, she is met at a spring by the angel of Jehovah. She is told by the angel to
return to her mistress. Hagar is promised by the angel of the Lord that she will have seed that are innumerable.
She is also informed that she will bear a son, who is to be named Ishmael (meaning "God is hearing"), because
God heard her in her affliction. Then she is told how Ishmael will be. Literally, she is told that Ishmael will be a
"wild ass" (the literal translation of pere, translated in the KJV "wild man"). He would constantly be involved in
fights. And, he would always be before his brethren. Not only will we see this prophecy fulfilled in the life of
Ishmael, but also in the lives of the Ishmaelites.

Evidently, Hagar did not know the name of Jehovah, for she calls him "Thou God seest me," or the God that
sees me. And thename of the well, or spring,  where she met the angel of the Lord was called Beerlahairoi
(meaning "well of the living one that beholds me").


As the angel told Hagar, she bore a son whom Abram named Ishmael.

Notice how old Abram is here, "fourscore and six," or 86 years old.


1. Why did Sarai give Hagar to Abram?
2. Upon what basis did Sarai give Hagar to Abram?
3. Is polygamy part of the will of God?
4. Why did Hagar despise Sarai?
5. Why did Hagar run away?
6. Who met Hagar at the well in the wilderness?
7. What did he tell her?
8. What does Ishmael mean?
9. What does Beerlahairoi mean?
HOw old was Abram when Ishmael was born?