Genesis | Chapter 16

Genesis 16:1-16

“Castles from mud pies”

  1. Intro.
  2. Vs. 1-6 Trying to obtain promises through the flesh
  3. Vs. 7-16 Drinking from the well of the One who Lives & Sees


God had assured Abram that He could handle his fears and Abram said “it is so” and God furthered blessed him. In chapter 16 we again see Abram in a crises of faith. The story unfolds with the list of characters being:

  • Abram
  • Sarai
  • Hagar
  • Angel of the Lord

Vs. 1-6 Trying to obtain promises through the flesh

Vs. 1 There are two circumstances which will lead Sarai and Abram to make the choice that they did:

  1. Adverse circumstances: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.” Three times God had spoken to Abram concerning having a family. The first two times they were general the third time was specific as God said that the child would come from his own body (15:4). The promise made to Abram was also made to Sari as the two were one flesh. Verse 3 tells us that they had been in the land of promise 10 years thus she had been barren for some 20 years.
  2. Appropriate opportunity: “She had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.” Hagar was obtained 10 years earlier while they fled to Egypt instead of staying in the land of promise. Women of high standing, like Sarai, had their own personal maids that were their property and not their husbands.

Vs. 2 “Adverse circumstances” combined with “appropriate opportunity” led to six reasons why they came up with this plan:

  1. See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children.” Sari recognized that the Lord had power over their lives, so she deduces that the problem in fulfilling the promise made them was her and not Abram’s not the Lord’s fault.
  2. Has restrained me from bearing children.” The situation was hopeless by human means, so she was the problem and she could not be fixed.
  3. Please, go in to my maid.” Her motives appear to be pure as she believed God’s promises but God never said that the Child would come from her womb only that he would come from Abram’s body.
  4. Please”: She was believed there was still a way to accomplish God’s promises by justifiable and spiritual means.
  5. Go in to”. Her request involved two good traits:
    1. Self-denial: She had to deny herself her own desire of being the instrument of God fulfilling his promise of a child.
    2. Self-sacrifice: Though she would still be Abram’s wife she would be promoting Hagar to be his second wife and not just her maid.
  6. My maid”. To Sari, Hagar was the opportunity to accomplish what God had promised but she was unable to produce.

Vs. 3-4a This was not some bazaar request but a common practice of their day for a wealthy barren woman to give her handmaid to her husband for the purpose of obtaining children. Today we would call it “surrogate motherhood”. The child born from this union was to be considered Abram’s and Sarai’s and not Hagar’s. The act did NOT involve romance it was only about conception, as the handmaid would actually sit on her master’s lap (Sarai) as Abram inseminated her.

  • Motive was pure
  • Accepted practice
  • Successful results

Their motive may have been pure but the method was still wrong. The ends does not justify the means. This shows us is at what links the flesh will go to obtain the promises of God! The flesh will do anything except die to obtain the promises of God. You can never accomplish anything by doing it in your own strength; you will only prolong the time until God accomplishes what He said He would do as it would still be another 13 years before Isaac would be born. People say, “God helps those who help themselves” but the truth is God only helps those who can’t help themselves. This is NOT an isolated instance in scripture consider:

  • Jacob would live 25 years in exile because he tried to help his father Isaac to make the right choice.
  • Moses tended sheep 40 years in the wilderness because he tried to help God out by delivering Israel out of bondage.

Vs. 4b The worst thing is the plan succeeded as Hagar conceives. Barnhouse wrote; “Christian work that is done through the zeal of human effort without counting the body as dead, may produce great revival campaigns but with few genuine saved, it may produce large numbers in the Church but with many tares in the wheat!”

The text records for us six consequences from trying to obtain the promises of God through the work of the flesh:

  1. Pride: “When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.” Hagar became prideful of her ability to conceive and Sarai’s inability. Pride did not come from Sarai or Abram but rather the instrument chosen in the flesh. The plans and people we use to get what God has promised us will be what cause us to stumble.
  2. Pity: “Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you!” Sarai shifts the blame to Abram even though the idea came from her, thus we see self-pity. Yes, Abram should have trusted in the Word of the Lord and not listened to his wife but she could not blame him for her actions. Ministry in the flesh will always attempt to look for an escape goat if the outcome is not what was expected.
  3. Jealousy: “I gave my maid into your embrace;” The next logical consequence is jealousy. Ministry preformed in the energy of the flesh is prone to jealousy when others receive what we think belongs to us after our self-effort. Hagar received what had only been Sarai’s alone the embrace of her husband.
  4. Envy: “and when she saw that she had conceived,” Sarai also envied Hagar’s success. Ministry produced in the energy of the flesh will always be looking at results and numbers and because of this it will become envious of others when we don’t get the same results.
  5. Strife: “I became despised in her eyes.” For 10 years Sari and Hagar had been together perhaps even friends (why else would she have given Hagar to Abram)? Ministry produced in the flesh will cause strife against others in ministry, which will lead to separation.
  6. Injustice: “So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.” Abram was in a tuff place as Hagar was not his property. The final outcome of trying to obtain the promises of God in the energy of the flesh, injustice. Sarai treated Hagar poorly even though she was the cause of her own frustration.

The progression of ministry produced in the flesh is: Wounded pride leads to envy, which leads to jealousy, which is at the center of cruelty and injustice.

Vs. 7-16 Drinking from the well of the One who Lives & Sees

Vs. 7 We know where this incident occurred and we know which way Hagar was running when she was fleeing Sarai, back to Egypt, a typology of the world. Based upon Hagar’s response towards the Lord in verse 13 she had begun to trust in the God of Abram and Sarai. But as a result of Sarai and Abram trying to obtain the promises of God in the energy of the flesh, a young believer is running back to the world she had left! She is an example of a wounded sheep fleeing fleshly ministry. People leave a church wounded by servants who were trying to help God out in their own strength.

What great comfort this verse is to me, “the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness”. Man blunders along, causing some to turn back towards the world but God intervenes with His love and grace. God had not over looked the situation and will bring about the best possible result even after His children have sinned. As Hagar attempted to flee we see based upon this two things we can never escape from:

  1. We can never elude or out run our real problem. Because our greatest problem is us and no matter how far you go when you stop you are still there.
  2. We can never out run the Lord. He is there every step of the way.

Vs. 8 The “Angel of the Lord” is a “christophany” or pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.  He begins to question Hagar to show her that she is he own problem. He reminds her that she is Sarai’s maid this is what she was called to. He also asks her “where have you come from, and where are you going?These are always the right questions to be asked when we are fleeing difficult situations. She needs to realize that she is not where He wants her to be and that she is responsible for that.

Vs. 9 The Lord also tells her to do the opposite of what she thought was right, “return” and “submit”. If we seek to change our circumstances by a change of climate we will only worsen our situation. What we need is a change of heart not a change of environment. You see the flesh wants to run away but God wants to demonstrate His power right where we have known the greatest failures. Life’s disappointments become His appointments. It is always humbling to return to the place of failure but it is only there that we will discover triumph in His power.

Vs. 10-12 Three things are revealed to Hagar:

  1. 10 That He will bless her offspring, even though her offspring and child will not be the child of promise.
  2. 11 That He will rule over the fleshly attempt of man to obtain the His promises but He has done so in love. Every time she would call her son’s name it would remind her of the fact the God hears.
  3. 12 That her son will live in contention and thus will live independent from other.

Vs. 13-16 Hagar knew that this was not just some angel as she declares this area to be where “God sees”. She had met the One that alone is acquainted with all our grief’s and sorrows. He alone is the One that who looks upon them and does something about them. She has a memorial service and names the well as the “One who lives and sees”. She returns with a broken and submissive heart and tells Sarai and Abram what happened to her as they name the boy Ishmael.