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Self-Sufficiency — Genesis Chapter 16

This blog post will cover the devotionals #85-88 for Genesis Chapter 16.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[85] Genesis 16:1,2,5

We saw (in Genesis 15) that God restated His promise to Abram that he’d have a child of his own loins, but they obviously didn’t get pregnant right away. Sarai still had no child, and in fact, remember that Genesis 11:30 tells us Sarai was barren from the time that Abram married her). However, she had an Egyptian handmaid, Hagar—which she likely obtained from their time in Egypt. Isn’t it interesting that Abram had urged Sarai to do something that goes against God’s principles—within the context of their marriage (in dealing with Pharaoh)—to ensure that something would happen (he’d be protected)—which God Himself had promised to do? And then, the tables were turned, and Sarai urged Abram to do something that goes against God’s principles—within the context of their marriage (in dealing with Hagar)—to ensure that something else would happen (he’d have a son of his own blood)—which God Himself had also promised to do! They were both wrong, but the bigger fault lied with Abram with the example he gave her from the beginning when they departed after getting married. In Genesis 20:12, 13, Abram said, “However, she is indeed my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it happened that, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you should show me—every place we come to, say about me, ‘He is my brother.’’” Then he reminded her to say that when they lodged in Egypt during the famine—which caused some issues with Pharaoh. It should come as no surprise that she’d turn around and follow suit—trying to take matters into their own hands—at the expense of God’s principles, and in spite of His promises. Then, going deeper, if they hadn’t gone to Egypt to begin with, they probably wouldn’t have even ended up having Hagar as a handmaid—let alone be tempted to repeat their mistakes with her. Thus, in Genesis 16:5, when Sarai informed Abram, “My wrong is on you…the Lord will judge between me and you,” she wasn’t wrong at all. Abram would be held in higher responsibility for their sin. It was her suggestion, but he followed through and partook in it. This sounds an awful lot like Adam and Eve. Eve made a grave error, but Adam joining in solidified the fate of their family—and his grandson, Abram, would repeat his folly.

[86] Genesis 16:3-5

In devotional #85, we mentioned what Abram and Sarai decided to do to try to fulfill God’s promise—involve Hagar—her Egyptian handmaid. We saw that, in Genesis 15, God had helped Abram regain his confidence in the fulfillment of His promise—but it’s evident from what we’re seeing here that Abram was placing his confidence in himself and what he could do to make it happen. To make matters worse, he also took a second wife (polygamy was commonplace, but still immoral in God’s eyes—and should never have been considered an option, even if it was Abram’s responsibility to fulfill the plan). He got her pregnant, as planned. However, the plan hadn't involved Hagar despising Sarai (due to her success in conceiving in the face of Sarai’s failure), and Hagar's new ‘equal’ attachment to Abram, her mistress’ husband. It would’ve been very hard for Hagar not to view Sarai differently within their new circumstances. It wasn’t until Sarai was disrespected from her former inferior that she realized she’d erred, and now was angry with Abram for it. Then, when she complained to him about it, he reminded her that Hagar was her responsibility, not his (even as his new 'wife'), and that she had the right to deal with her as she wished. This again, reminds me greatly of the interchange between God and the first couple after they’d sinned. Adam didn’t take responsibility, nor did Abram. These men directly, or indirectly, blamed their wives for the problem. Eve and Sarai also both shifted responsibility away from themselves—even though they were each the instigators of the sin at hand.

[87] Genesis 16:5-14

In devotional #86, we saw that Abram gave Sarai permission to deal with her handmaid’s disrespect towards her. How did she respond? Sarai dealt hardly with her. If we look at the definitions Strong’s Concordance gives for ‘deal hardly with’ here, we find the exact same definition we saw used in Genesis 15:13, where God described how the nation would ‘afflict’ Abram’s offspring for four hundred years. To clarify, their period of sojourning, then bondage, would be roughly four hundred (430, to be exact) years from the time that God called Abraham to go to Canaan (not four hundred years in Egypt). We’ll see the proof of this in future (Exodus) devotionals. It’s intriguing to see that this pre-Israelite afflicted her Egyptian servant, and that her own Israelite offspring would be afflicted as servants of Egyptians later on. It seems that, despite the wonderful things God did with Abram and Sarai—and the symbol of faith and righteousness (in a general sense) that they were—they also were heavily involved in various, vicious cycles with Egypt. When Sarai afflicted Hagar for her disrespect, she fled from her to a water fountain in the wilderness. Now, we know that Hagar took part in this situation—but in all honestly—it seems she was more caught in the crossfire than anything else, and now she’d deal with the natural consequences that would come from their sin—especially involving the breaking of the marriage covenant. Genesis 16:7 shows the interaction between Hagar and the Angel of the Lord when He found her at the fountain. “‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from, and where will you go?’ And she said, ‘I am fleeing from the face of my mistress, Sarai.’ And the Angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands…I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it will not be numbered for its multitude…look, you are with child, and will bear a son, and will call him Ishmael—because the Lord has heard your affliction.’” Notice how Christ Himself told her how she could resolve her issues. She needed to submit to her master (her mistress—Sarai). This confirms that she’d stopped doing so up until that point (from the time she conceived of Abram). So, He gently rebuked her and redirected her steps so that she could continue forward on a path towards blessing. He then showed her how she’d be blessed in having a son (through whom would also come a great, innumerable nation)—who should be named Ishmael, which means ‘God will hear’. Then He explained why He said that and what He meant by it. He told her something that she needed to hear more than anything else: ‘I have heard your affliction.’ She called out who her speaker was: “‘You, God, see me.’” She needed to know that she wasn’t forgotten or forsaken by the One that mattered most in her difficult situation—especially where she was outside of her culture, away from her family, and an inferior in the place where she lived—and even in the middle of the wilderness where she was currently alone, scared, and pregnant. Thus, she named that place of meeting, Beerlahairoi (which is defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘well of a living One—my Seer’), saying, “‘Have I also here looked after Him that sees me?’” She recognized that this angel was the one and only God.

[88] Genesis 16:12,15-22

Part of what Christ told Hagar in the wilderness was about the future character of Ishmael: “‘He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he will dwell in the presence of all his brothers.’” After their conversation, Hagar returned to her mistress and husband, and had their son, which they did indeed call Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born. Hagar had to have recounted her conversation to Abram about how Ishmael would have innumerable offspring—and this probably only served to solidify his belief that God was fulfilling His promise through Hagar and Ishmael. However, after Isaac was born to Sarah, things got more tense between them and Hagar and Ishmael, and she told Abraham to send them away. We’ll discuss this situation more in devotional #103, but I just want to point out what this caused in the heart of Ishmael, and how those effects were directly prophesied by God to Hagar before he was born. Apart from the obvious disappointed hopes at being the heir and the recipient of God’s promise—Ishmael’s separation from Abraham, as well as having a godless home (which was such for the influence of his idolatrous mother and the similar wives she chose for him), made him bitter. This drove him to choose a wild desert life of prowling to steal and attack. Thus, he was indeed a wild man, and his hand was literally against every man, and vice versa—just as God had said. Furthermore, we see (in Genesis 25:17, 18) that when he finally died, he died in the presence of all his brothers. Perhaps this is the fulfillment of the comment God had made about him dwelling in the presence of his brothers. Fortunately, before he died, he did repent and return to Abraham’s God—but his example stayed with his own offspring—leading to lawless, heathen people—who'd become an irritation and affliction for Isaac’s offspring.

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