Genesis 16:2 MEANING

Genesis 16:2
(2) That I may obtain children by her.--Heb., that I may be builded by her. The words, ben=a son, bath (originally banth)=a daughter, baith (banith) =a house, and banah=to build, all belong to the same root in Hebrew, the idea being that the children build the house, and give a man the pledge of continuance. Until late times the tent was the habitation, while the house was the family (Genesis 7:1). Thus the phrase "to build a man a sure house" meant, to give him lasting prosperity (1 Samuel 2:35). Hence, too, the close connection between building and the bestowal of children in Psalms 127. As then the children of a woman bestowed by her mistress upon the husband were regarded as belonging to the wife (Genesis 30:3), Sarah, despairing of bearing a son herself, as she was now seventy-five, and had been ten years in Canaan, concluded that her heir was to be born of a substitute.

As regards the morality of the act, we find that marriage with one wife was the original law (Genesis 2:24), and that when polygamy was introduced it was coupled by the inspired narrator with violence and licence (Genesis 4:19). Monogamy was the rule, as we see in the households of Noah, Terah, Isaac, and others; but many, like Esau and Jacob, allowed themselves a greater latitude. In so doing, their conduct falls below the level of Christian morality, but everyone's actions are strongly influenced by the general views of the people among whom he lives; and in Abram's case it must be said in his defence that, with so much depending on his having offspring, he took no steps to obtain another wife, but remained content with the barren Sarai. When he did take Hagar it was at his wife's request, and for a reason which seemed to them adequate, and even religious. Rachel subsequently did the same for a much lower motive. The consent of the wife was in such cases all-important; and so in India, in ancient times, it was necessary to make a second marriage valid (see Wilson's Hindu Theatre, i. 179).

Verse 2. - And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained us from bearing. Literally, hath shut me up (i.e. my womb, Genesis 20:18; συνέκλεισέ με, LXX.) from bearing. Her advancing age was rendering this every day more and more apparent. I pray thee go in unto my maid (cf. Genesis 30:3, 9). It is so far satisfactory that the proposal to make a secondary wife of Hagar did not originate with Abram; though, as Sarai's guilt in making it cannot altogether. be excused, so neither can Abram be entirely freed from fault in yielding to her solicitations. It may be that I may obtain children by her. Literally, be built up by her; from banah, to build, whence ben, a son (Deuteronomy 25:9; Ruth 4:11). Calvin notes that Sarai s desire of offspring was not prompted by natural impulse, but by the zeal of faith which made her wish to secure the promised benediction. As yet it had not been clearly intimated that Sarai was to be the mother of Abram's child; and hence her recourse to what was a prevalent practice of the times, while unjustifiable in itself, was a signal proof of her humility, of her devotion to her husband, and perhaps also of her faith in God. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. "The faith of both was defective; not indeed with regard to the substance of the premise, but with regard to the method in which they proceeded" (Calvin).

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.And Sarai said unto Abram, behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing,.... Or, "hath shut me up" (d); that is, her womb, as were the wombs of the house of Abimelech, Genesis 20:18; so that she could not conceive and bear children; she now at this age despaired of having children, perceiving very probably that it ceased to be with her after the manner of women; and this she refers to the will and power of God; for, as children are his gift, and an heritage from him, Psalm 127:3, so it is his will and pleasure sometimes to withhold this blessing from those who are very desirous of them:

I pray thee go in unto my maid; Hagar, the Egyptian before mentioned; her meaning is, that he would take her to wife, and use her as such:

it may be that I may obtain children by her; for whatsoever were born of her handmaid, and in her house, were her own, and so she should account them, and especially as they would be her husband's, see Exodus 21:4; or, "may be builded by her" (e); for women, by bearing children, build up an house, see Ruth 4:11; hence a son in Hebrew is called "ben", from "banah", to build:

and Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai; without consulting God about it, the proposal being agreeable to the flesh, which may be imputed to the infirmity of the good man; though it does not appear to arise from previous lust predominant in him; but both Sarai's proposal, and his compliance with it, might be owing to the eager desire of each after the promised seed; they both believed the promise, but did not know it, being not as yet revealed, that Abram should have a son by Sarai; so that Sarai knowing her own case and circumstances, might conclude it was to be by another, and by her handmaid; and Abram might reason and judge after the same manner, which inclined him to listen to her: Josephus (f) says, indeed, that Sarai moved this to Abram by the direction and order of God himself; and the Jewish writers say (g), that Abram hearkened to the Holy Spirit of God that was in her.

(d) "couclusit me", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Schmidt; "occlusit me", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (e) "aedificatur", Montanus, Piscator, Cocceius, Schmidt, Cartwright; so Ainsworth. (f) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 10. sect. 4. (g) Jarchi in loc. Bereshit Rabba, ut supra. (sect. 45. fol. 2.)

Courtesy of Open Bible