The Son of the Bondwoman

I. Abram is required to trust God’s promise (Genesis 16).

A. Much time has elapsed – and the promise is not yet realized.

1. Abram was 75 years old when he left for Canaan (12:4).

2. Abram had asked for Eliezer’s son to substitute (15:2-3).

3. Abram is told that the “nation” would not exist for 400 years (15:13-14).

4. Abram is promised a “land” for “thy seed” (15:18).

B. Much time was too much for Abram and Sarai (Genesis 16:1-4).

1. Abram is 85 years old when Ishmael is conceived (16:16).

2. Sarai’s request was socially and legally acceptable then.

a. Hagar (Egyptian Maid) is Sarai’s property.
b. “Primary” wife could provide “heir” by proxy.
c. Later, Jacob did so through Bilhah and Zilpah.
d. The Nuzi tablets authenticate this practice.
1) A library of tablets dating from 1600 to 1350 BC was located at Nuzi, an ancient trade center in Assyria. The site possibly had been settled since 3000 BC and was first called Gasur. Among the more interesting discoveries in the tablets were some of the social and religious practices of the periods as recorded in the deeds, wills, marriage agreements, and adoptions. They shed light on many of the customs that are documented in the Scriptures that may appear to us as being unusual.

In the case of a childless couple, the wife could locate another wife for the husband.

"If Gilimninu (the wife) will not bear children,
Gilimninu shall take a woman of Lulluland as a wife for Shennma (the husband)."

Sarah provided Hagar for Abraham (Genesis 16:3) for the purposes of bearing children. Should the first wife later bear a son, he would rank over a son born to the second wife. Such was the case when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-10).
[Source:  Biblical Archaeology; Editor: H. Daily]

II. Abram and Sarai learn that “OK” is not always “Right”.

A. There are many polygamous marriages recorded in Scripture.

1. None met the standard set by God at creation.

2. None are happy marriages.      

B. There are many “excuses” for this action.

1. Abram is getting “too old” (he is 85).

2. Sarai is barren – plenty of time and “proof” of her infertility.

3. God has been “silent” for several years.

4. God’s promise is 10 years old – not fulfilled.

5. “Everybody” does it and it’s perfectly “normal.”

6. Sarai (and maybe Hagar) is “sacrificing” for “the good.”

C. There are serious consequences to this incident.

1. Just as with Adam (Genesis 3:17) -- so now, Abram, “hearkened to the voice” of his wife.

2. Adam’s action impacted all of mankind (Romans 5:12).

3. Abram’s action impacted “many nations” (Arabs, Jews – and those who side with either of them).

D. There are several biblical principles involved.

1. “…to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

2. “…followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)

3. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  (Hebrews 10: 35-36)

4. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

5. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58

III. Abram, Sarai and Hagar all quickly suffer consequences.

A. Hagar “despised” Sarai and Sarai “dealt hardly” with Hagar (16:4-7).

1. Sarai’s early shame at being barren turns to anger.

2. Hagar’s willing submission turns to rebellion.

B. Sarai blames the “problem” on Abram (16:5).

1. Very similar to Adam and Eve and the Serpent

2. Abram delegates “justice” back to Sarai (was his job).

C. Hagar flees and is rescued by “the Angel of the Lord”.

1. Sarai’s hostility causes Hagar to run away (16:6).

2. Hagar is still pregnant with the child – may have been early (16:11)

3. The “Angel of the LORD” (verse 7) is “the” LORD (verse 13).

a. Hagar is desperate and alone (16:8).
b. Hagar is told to return and submit (16:9).
c. Hagar is given God’s promise of physical blessing (16:10).
d. Hagar is told to name the child “Ishmael”.
1) Ishmael = “God Hears” (16:11)
2) Ishmael will be: a “wild ass” (like) man (16:12)

4. Hagar names the well – “The Well of Him who Sees and Lives”.

IV. Abram receives a new name for an old covenant (Genesis 17).

A. The Bible narrative skips over thirteen years (17:1).

1. Abram is 99 years old (17:24).

2. Ishmael is 13 years old (17:25).

B. The LORD appears again (personally) to Abram.

1. God uses the name “El Shaddai” for the 1st time.

a. Used some 48 times in the Old Testament
b. Used most in the book of Job (31 times)
c. Composed of “El” (mighty one) and “Shadday” (almighty)

2. God is first known as “Elohim” – plural form of “El” (Genesis 1:1)

a. “El” is used of angels, strong men, judges, etc.
b. “El Shaddai” compounds two terms, with a focus on “supply.”
1) The word has two possible roots: Shad = “breasts” (of females) or Shadad = “spoils” or “spoiler”
2) Thus it means: The “strong one who feeds/supplies” or The “strong one who conquers and provides all”
3) Hence: The “Almighty God” or “God Almighty”

C. The LORD gives new names.

1. Abram is called “Abraham” (17:5) = “Father of Many Nations”

2. Sarai is called “Sarah” (17:15-16) = “Princess”

D. The LORD reiterates and expands the “Covenant” with Abraham.

1. “A father of many nations I HAVE MADE thee” (17:5).

2. Future promises:

a. You will be exceeding fruitful.
b. You will have Kings come from thee.
c. The land of Canaan is an “everlasting possession” for you and your seed that will come after you.

3. Current responsibilities:

a. You are to keep my covenant – and all your seed.
b. You are to be circumcised – and all your male seed.
1) Every male at eight days old
2) Applies to every “purchased” male, as well

4. Ishmael is remembered for Abraham’s sake (17:18-20).

a. God will bless and make him fruitful (17:20).
b. God will bring 12 princes from Ishmael.

5. However – the “covenant” is to be through Isaac.

E. The LORD requires circumcision of Abraham and male descendants.

1. Abraham is 99 and Ishmael is 13 when this occurs (17:24-25).

2. Circumcision was intended to be practiced going forward.

a. This was the case through Joseph’s time.
b. The practice was stopped in Egypt.
c. The practice was made into Law under Moses.

3. Circumcision was to be the identifying “mark” of God’s people.

a. It was “private,” “personal” and “national.”
b. It was intended to “mark” the Nation of Israel.
c. It emphasized the “genetic” relationship.
d. It emphasized the “male” leadership.

4. Circumcision has many parallels to New Testament baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).

a. It is to be administered only once -- as was circumcision.
b. It is designed to identify the people of God -- as was circumcision.
c. It is the picture of union with God -- as was circumcision.
d. It requires the recipient to be wholly passive (receives what another performs) -- as was circumcision.
e. It is now administered upon all individuals rather than just on the male (Galatians 3:26-29).
The Patriarchs
ch. 16-17


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