Thru The Word Ministries
Genesis 16-17


1 - Now Sarai, wife of Abram, had not bore [children] to him; and she had a maidservant, an Egyptian, and her name [was] Hagar.  

Not only did Abram acquire great wealth while in Egypt, but also this slave girl by the name of Hagar, no doubt.  From this we will see the continuing snowball effect of Abram’s decision-making process that began with the famine.  

2 - And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, Yahweh has restrained me from bearing [children].  Please go into my maidservant.  Perhaps I will obtain children by her.”  And Abram heeded to the voice of Sarai.  

Sarai just knew she had a really novel idea.  “I can’t have children, obviously, since ten years have gone by since God gave the promise to my husband, so maybe God needs my help.  I know - I’ll just give my maidservant to him.  Yeah!  That’s how God will bring about the promise.  After all, by this time it would certainly seem that God needs my help.”  Poor Sarai just knew God couldn‘t get it done without her.  But before we start throwing stones at Sarai, there are a couple of things about this thought process of hers that I believe demands our attention.  

3 - So Sarai, wife of Abram, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maidservant, after Abram had dwelt in the land of Canaan ten years, and gave her to Abram, her husband, to be his wife.  

First off, this is something that was customary at this time and in this place.  Not only was it permissible (legal), but it was encouraged among women of the day who for one reason or another couldn’t bring offspring into the world.  How it happened is another story altogether.  It is said that the ‘third party’ (in this case Hagar) would actually sit on the wife’s lap while the husband inseminated her.  This was similar to a covenant in which it was sealed, as it were, between the two parties that the wife would actually be the mother.  This way there would be no disputing later on once the child was actually born, should it come up again.  

Second, there is this other cultural issue that centers around Abram and Sarai’s perceived plight.  It is according to Jewish tradition that this couple believed childlessness was their punishment for disobeying God and going down to Egypt.  Upon the realization that this was not where they were to be, they ‘put two and two together’ to surmise that being in Egypt truly was not the Lord’s will.  But the wheels were still turning in Sarai’s mind as she came to the ‘logical’ conclusion that ten years had passed since they had gotten back in His will, still with no offspring.  Hence her final deduction could only lead to “helping God out.”  Sarai decided this was the thing to do, and man has been trying to “help God out” ever since.  After all, “God helps those who help themselves,” right?  Isn’t that what the Bible says?  

By the way, I’m still trying to find that Scripture.  Every time I read through the Word I keep an eye out for that one, but for some reason I’ve yet to find it.  Hmmmmm…  

4 - And he went into Hagar and she conceived.  When she saw that she had conceived, then her mistress was cursed in her eyes.  

Operation: Insemination was a success!  But wait…there’s a problem.  Boy, is there ever a problem!  

5 - Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong [be] upon you.  I had given my maidservant into your bosom.  When she saw she had conceived, then I was cursed in her eyes.  May Yahweh judge between me and you.”  

This was all Sarai’s idea.  She was the instigator; the one who set it all into motion.  Then when things don’t go the way she planned, she wants to wash her hands of the whole thing.  It is interesting to note here that Sarai refers to the incident as “wrong.”  Not just that it was wrong, but that it was her wrong.  This is important to see.  But she compounds her wrong by abdicating herself of all responsibility.  She tells her husband, “My wrong be upon you.”  In other words, she was telling Abram this was all his fault.  Can you believe that?  So, as was the case in chapter three, we’re back to playing another round of “The Blame Game.”  When things go right, we have a tendency to take the credit.  When they go wrong, someone else is sure to get the blame, aren’t they?  

Hagar doesn’t exactly get off the hook here either.  She got a little prideful upon the discovery that she could bring offspring into the world when her mistress could not.  Hagar was ’one-up’ on Sarai, or so it would seem to her.  This will bring about quite a bit of consternation as we are about to see.   

6 - Then Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maidservant [is] in your hand.  Do to her [what is] good in your eyes.”  Then Sarai humbled her and she fled from her presence.  

Not once, but twice is Abram remiss in his duties as spiritual head of his household.  The first time was when he went along with Sarai’s ‘brilliant’ plan to ‘help God out’.  Not only did he not lift a finger to stop it, but he became directly responsible for the birth of an entire nation that was directly outside of God’s perfect will for Abram, and for the world.  God permitted it, yes, but His perfect will was for one to be born by both Abram and Sarai.  This would be the child that would fulfill His great promise made originally to Abram.  Of course it would happen eventually, but not without some trials and tribulations eventually on the part of Abram, Sarai, and in time, the entire world.  

To add insult to injury, Abram tells his wife to do with her maidservant whatever she thinks is right.  Do I hear any predictions as to what that would lead to?  Of course Sarai used the occasion to retaliate; that is, she ran her off, but probably not before she verbally berated her.  There may have been physical abuse as well, but there can be a great deal of speculation as to what exactly is meant by “humbling.”  We do know that however Sarai treated her it was enough to communicate to Hagar that she didn’t care to hang around any longer.  

7 - And the Messenger of Yahweh found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  

Was this merely happenstance?  And who was this “Messenger of Yahweh”?  I would submit to you that here we have another Christophany; an appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh for moral man to see.  True to His character, He goes seeking and saving that which was lost (Luke 19:10).  

8 - And He said, “Hagar, maidservant of Sarai, from where did you come, and where will you go?”  And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”  

Notice the line of questioning here.  The Messenger asks a two-part question of Hagar.  The first part has to do with her past with the second part concerning her future.  Her response only deals with the present.  Isn’t that just like the Lord?  But many times all we’re concerned with is the present.  I see that attitude more often than not in young people.  All they seem to care about is the present or the moment.  Truth be known, that can be many adults as well if we’re not careful.  The Lord simply wants to use passages such as this to remind us that He’s concerned with the totality of our lives.  None of us can really know who we are until we know from whence we’ve come.  Likewise, we can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been and who we are.  Yet God wants to show us that He’s brought each of us to where we are and, most important of all, where it is He desires for us to go.  He wants us to go with Him, wherever that is and whatever that will be.  Once we have accepted His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the debt for our sin that we could never pay, He comes to live on the inside of us.  Anything outside of what He has for us is not something the believer will be able to live with for long thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  

9 - Then the Messenger of Yahweh said to her, “You are to return to your mistress and submit yourself to her.”  

10 - And the Messenger of Yahweh said to her, “I will make your offspring to be very, very many; that it shall not be counted because of abundance.”  

11 - Then the Messenger of Yahweh said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son, and you shall call his name, ‘Yishmael’, because Yahweh has heard your affliction.  

12 - “And he will be a wild donkey man; his hand [shall be] against every man, and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brothers.”

A threefold promise is given to Hagar in that she is to return to Sarai and submit to her authority, a nation will come from her child, and she will give birth to a son, named according to what God has declared.  Literally, verse twelve says “he will be a wild ass of a man.”  Not the most flattering prophecy ever spoken and yet look at the description: he will oppose pretty much everyone plus he will dwell, literally, “to the disadvantage of” all his brothers (not paternally speaking, but nationally).  How many times has that prophecy been fulfilled in the world from the time this was spoken?  

13 - And she proclaimed the name of Yahweh that spoke to her, “You are God Who is seeing [me],” for she said, “Have I seen Him here who is seeing me?”  

God is called (proclaimed) by His personal name here.  She as a result gives to God a personal name - personal to her, that is.  The best testimonies I have ever heard given by Christians is how God showed Himself to them in a personal way.  That is, He did it in a way that ministered to their particular need in that specific time in/of their life.  In the case of Hagar, it was when she no doubt felt the most desolate and abandoned.  The Lord ministered to her need in letting her know that all is not lost even though she felt as if it was.  The Lord gave to her a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  

14 - Thus the well was called Beer-lahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.  

She named the well after the name she had given Yahweh.  Perhaps most importantly, she learned how to triumph under adverse circumstances knowing that the Lord is there to help.  She had God’s assurance that He would continue to be with her, even in the ordeal of having to submit to Sarai.  Folks, this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.  Donald Grey Barnhouse puts it rather succinctly:

If we seek to change our circumstances, we will jump from the frying pan into the fire.  We must be triumphant exactly where we are.  It is not a change of climate we need, but a change of heart.  The flesh wants to run away, but God wants to demonstrate His power exactly where we have known our greatest chagrin.1

15 - Then Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram called the name of the son whom Hagar bore to him, ’Yishmael’.  

“Yishmael” means “God hears.”  Notice in the above passage the Lord gave the name to Hagar.  It is obvious she was effective in communicating the name the child was to be given to Abram.  

16 - And Abram was eighty and six years old when Hagar bore Yishmael to Abram.  

Even at age eighty-six, there was a little bit of fight left in Abram, biologically speaking.  Therefore God was not quite ready to do what only He could do in the life of both Abram and Sarai.  Not to mention there was a bit more of a preparation process that needed to transpire in their lives prior to the “blessed event.”


1 - When Abram had become ninety and nine years old, then Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God.  You are to walk before Me and be blameless.  

2 - “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you very, very numerous.”

We see the chapter opening with another conversation between God and Abram.  Notice again as we have previously Who is the initiator.  Whenever the Lord is about to do something, we always find that He is the instigator; the One who devises it and brings it about.  We can devise and scheme and plot all we want about what we’re going to do for God but in the end, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that  build it” (Psalm 127:1).  

When the Lord says Abram is to walk before Him “blameless,” 1) the Hebrew word tamiyim means he is to do so completely, and 2) it is not considered a condition but rather an admonition.  And isn’t this an admonition to all who claim to follow the Lord as well?  In fact we are commanded to love the Lord our  God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, not to mention loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31).  This brings us back to the issue of completeness or blamelessness.  

3 - Then Abram fell on his face, and Elohim spoke to him, saying,

4 - “According to Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall become father in regard to a multitude of nations.  

5 - “So your name shall not be called Abram again, but your name shall be Abraham, because I have made you father of a multitude of nations.  

6 - “And I will make you very, very fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.  

7 - “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  

8 - “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land [where] you are a sojourner; all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.  And I will be Elohim to them.”

Once Abram realized Who was speaking and what was being said by Him, this prompted the supreme act of reverence toward the Lord: that of falling on his face before Him.  One can only think of worshiping the Lord once they know who He is and what He is saying to them.  The only thing that is left of the true servant of the Lord is the desire to obey completely.  

The second part of the conversation has its center in a new name being given to the servant of the Lord.  Abram is told that up until now he has been “exalted father”; now he will be “father of many nations.”  So much so that royalty will descend from his lineage that will rule over the nations descending from him.  As if that’s not enough, they’ll have all the land they need and then some on which to get by.  They’ll be provided for by God Himself.  

9 - Then Elohim said to Abraham, “Now you shall keep My covenant; you and your offspring after you in their generations.  

10 - “This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you, and your offspring after you.  Every male belonging to you shall be circumcised.  

11 - “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a reminder of the covenant between Me and you.  

12 - “And he belonging to you that is eight days old shall be circumcised, every male in your generations, the one born in your house or purchased with money from any foreigner which is himself not of your offspring.  

13 - “He that is born in your house or he that is purchased with money must absolutely be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14 - “And the uncircumcised male whose flesh of his foreskin is not cut off, then that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Part three of the monologue covers how the covenant between Elohim and Abraham.  Circumcision was not a new thing at this point in time, but it was about to take on a new meaning.  You see, circumcision was done primarily for health reasons and still is among the Jews.  This is just one of the reasons given by those in the medical profession for long life among them.  Yet the significance it takes on now is greater by far than anything in the physical realm.  Since man is born physically, God uses the process as a reminder between the husband and wife that whenever they bring male offspring into the world, the Promise is still in effect as it was given to Abraham.  

15 - And Elohim said to Abraham, “[Regarding] Sarai, your wife, you will not call her name ‘Sarai’; rather, her name [shall be] ‘Sarah’.

16 - “And I will bless her, and I also will give to you a son from her.  Then I shall bless her, and she shall become nations.  Kings of people shall come from her.”

His wife receives a new name as well.  She is equally represented in the covenant.  Whenever one is to think of how women are to be treated in a society, they need only look to the Christian faith.  We see as far back as Genesis that women are treated by the Lord with equal respect.  This special recognition of Sarah, as she now is, shows the significance of this truth.  

17 - Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a son be born of a hundred-year-old [man]?  And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”  

18 - And Abraham said to Elohim, “Would that Yishmael live before You!”

Abraham, as we see, is not necessarily ready to recognize God can do the impossible.  He’s too busy caught up in the fact that he’s 100 years old and his wife is 90.  But once we’re able to realize that God transcends all those supposed obstacles, then we’re in a position to see Him do wonderful, great, and mighty thing in our lives.  In the meantime, poor Abraham is caught in the trap of thinking that it is going to happen, or can only happen, by way of Yishmael.  

19 - And Elohim said, “Verily, Sarah shall indeed be bearing a son to you, and you shall call his name ‘Yidshach‘.  And I shall establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant regarding his offspring after him.  

20 - “And regarding Yishmael, I have heard you.  Behold, I have blessed him and I will make him fruitful, and I will multiply him very greatly.  Twelve princes he will beget, and I will turn him into a great nation.  

21 - “But My covenant will I establish with Yidshach, whom Sarah shall bear to you at such an appointed time in the following year.”

He and his wife will have a little boy, are given the name by which he’ll be named, gives them His Word he too will be included in the covenant, and even gives him a timeline for when it will happen.  I don’t know about you, but I would be the least little bit encouraged by a word from the Lord this specific.  As I see it, if Abraham didn’t respond any other way, he could’ve just resigned himself to see what God will do.  Not necessarily a defeatist attitude by any stretch, but the line of thought being that if God is who He says He is and can do what He says He will do (which He had until that time), then Abraham would’ve been willing to at least go along for the ride, so to speak, as opposed to saying there was no way a thing like that could ever happen.  In other words, he would’ve had what could be termed a willing desire.  

22 - And He finished speaking with him, and Elohim went up from Abraham.  

God began the conversation and He ended it.  Mostly it was a monologue, though.  Two were involved but one was doing the talking for the most part.  

23 - And Abraham took Yishmael his son and all born in his house, and all purchased with money, every male among the men of the house of Abraham, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin within the same day, according to [that] which Elohim spoke to him.  

24 - And Abraham was ninety-nine years old [when] he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  

25 - And Yishmael his son was thirteen years old [when] he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  

26 - Within the same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Yishmael.  

27 - And all the men of his house, [those] born in his house, and [those] purchased with money by the foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Here we have the biblical example of obedience.  It was not partial nor was it delayed.  It all happened the very day God spoke to him about it.  

And while we’re at it, let’s take this occasion to let the text say only what it can say: Partial obedience is total disobedience; delayed obedience is immediate disobedience.  We see neither of these in the case of Abraham.  He spent time with the Lord, he heard a Word from the Lord, and he acted in obedience to the Lord.  How much more clear and concise can it get?! 


1Donald Grey Barnhouse as quoted at