Genesis 16:1 MEANING

Genesis 16:1


(1) Now Sarai.--The history of Abram is given in a succession of brief narratives, written possibly by the patriarch himself; and though papyrus was known at Ur (Trans. Soc. Bibl. Arch., i. 343, ii. 430), yet the absence of any convenient writing material for ordinary use would oblige men in those ancient days to content themselves with short inscriptions, like those tablets of clay brought from Ur, many of which now in the British. Museum are said to be considerably older than the time of Abram. The narrator would naturally make but few alterations in such precious-documents, and hence a certain amount of recapitulation, like that which we find in the Books of Samuel, where again we have not a narrative from one pen, but the arrangement of materials already ancient. As, however, the Divine object was the revealing to mankind of the way by which God would raise up man from the fall, the narrator would be guided by inspiration in his choice of materials, and in the omission of such things as did not fall in with this purpose; and the evident reverence with which he deals with these records is a warrant to us of their genuineness. Such additions as the remark that the "Valley of Shaveh" was many centuries later called "the King's Dale" (Genesis 14:17; 2 Samuel 18:18) are generally acknowledged to have been the work of Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue, after the return from the exile.

Hagar.--As this word apparently comes from the Arabic verb to flee, it cannot have been her original name, unless we suppose that she really was an Arab fugitive who had taken refuge in Egypt. More probably she was an Egyptian woman who had escaped to Abram when he was in the Negeb, and had then received this appellation, which virtually means run-away.

Verse 1. - Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children (literally, bare not to him, notwithstanding the promise; the barrenness of Sarai being introduced as the point of departure for the ensuing narrative, and emphasized as the cause or occasion of the subsequent transaction): and she had - literally, to her (there was) - an handmaid, an Egyptian (obtained probably while in the house of Pharaoh (Genesis 12:16) - whose name was Hagar - "flight," from hagar, to flee. Cf. Hegirah, the flight of Mahomet. Not her original designation, but given to her afterwards, either because of her flight from Egypt (Ambrose, Wordsworth), or because of her escape from her mistress (Michaelis, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Though not the imaginary or mythical (Bohlen), it is doubtful if she was the real (Ainsworth, Bush), ancestor of the Hagarenes (1 Chronicles 5:10, 19, 20; 1 Chronicles 27:31; Psalm 83:6, 8).

16:1-3 Sarai, no longer expecting to have children herself, proposed to Abram to take another wife, whose children she might; her slave, whose children would be her property. This was done without asking counsel of the Lord. Unbelief worked, God's almighty power was forgotten. It was a bad example, and a source of manifold uneasiness. In every relation and situation in life there is some cross for us to bear: much of the exercise of faith consists in patiently submitting, in waiting the Lord's time, and using only those means which he appoints for the removal of the cross. Foul temptations may have very fair pretences, and be coloured with that which is very plausible. Fleshly wisdom puts us out of God's way. This would not be the case, if we would ask counsel of God by his word and by prayer, before we attempt that which is doubtful.Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bare him no children,.... She is before said to be barren, and he to be childless, Genesis 11:30; God had promised him a seed, but as yet he had none, which was a trial of his faith; he had been married many years to Sarai his wife, she was his wife when they came out of Ur of the Chaldees, and how long before cannot be said; they stayed and dwelt some time at Haran, the Jews (x) say five years, and they had been now ten years in the land of Canaan, Genesis 16:3; and were advanced in years, the one being seventy five, and the other eighty five, so that there was no great probability of having any children, wherefore the following step was taken:

and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar; no doubt but she had many, but this was a principal one, that might be over others, and was chiefly entrusted with the care and management of family affairs under her mistress; she might be the daughter of an Egyptian, born in Abram's house, as Eliezer was the son of a Syrian of Damascus, born there also; or she might be one of the maidservants Pharaoh, king of Egypt, gave to Abram, Genesis 12:16; the Jews (y) have a tradition, that she was a daughter of Pharaoh, who, when he saw the wonders done for Sarai, said, it is better that my daughter should be a handmaid in this house, than a mistress in another, and therefore gave her to Sarai; others say (z) she was a daughter of his by a concubine, but neither is probable: from her came the people called Hagarites, 1 Chronicles 5:10, and Hagarenes, Psalm 83:6; and there were a people in Arabia called Agraei, both by Strabo (a) and Pliny (b); and the latter speaks of a royal city in that country called Agra, which seem to have their names from this person. Melo (c), an Heathen writer, speaking of Abram, says, that he had two wives, one of his own country, and akin to him, and the other an Egyptian, a servant; of the Egyptian he beget twelve sons, who, going into Arabia, divided the country among them, and were the first that reigned over the inhabitants of it; as to her twelve sons, he mistakes, for these were not Hagar's sons by Abram, but her grandsons, the sons of Ishmael, see Genesis 17:20.

(x) Seder Olam Rabba, p. 2.((y) Targum Jon. & Jarchi in loc. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 45. fol. 40. 2.((z) Pirke Eliezer, c. 26. (a) Geograph. l. 16. p. 528. (b) Hist. Nat. l. 6. c. 28. (c) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 19. p. 420, 421.

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