The Birth of Ishmael

1 Now Sarai,1 Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children,2 but she had an Egyptian servant3 named Hagar.4 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Since5 the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with6 my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.”7 Abram did what8 Sarai told him.

3 So after Abram had lived9 in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant,10 to her husband to be his wife.11 4 He had sexual relations with12 Hagar, and she became pregnant.13 Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai.14 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me!15 I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you,16 but when she realized17 that she was pregnant, she despised me.18 May the Lord judge between you and me!19

6 Abram said to Sarai, “Since your20 servant is under your authority,21 do to her whatever you think best.”22 Then Sarai treated Hagar23 harshly,24 so she ran away from Sarai.25

7 The Lord’s angel26 found Hagar near a spring of water in the desert – the spring that is along the road to Shur.27 8 He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from28 my mistress, Sarai.”

9 Then the Lord’s angel said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit29 to her authority. 10 I will greatly multiply your descendants,” the Lord’s angel added,30 “so that they will be too numerous to count.”31 11 Then the Lord’s angel said to her,

“You are now32 pregnant
and are about to give birth33 to a son.
You are to name him Ishmael,34
for the Lord has heard your painful groans.35
12 He will be a wild donkey36 of a man.
He will be hostile to everyone,37
and everyone will be hostile to him.38
He will live away from39 his brothers.”

13 So Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,”40 for she said, “Here I have seen one who sees me!41 14 That is why the well was called42 Beer Lahai Roi.43 (It is located44 between Kadesh and Bered.)

15 So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, whom Abram named Ishmael.45 16 (Now46 Abram was 86 years old47 when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael.)48

116:1tn The disjunctive clause signals the beginning of a new episode in the story. 216:1sn On the cultural background of the story of Sarai’s childlessness see J. Van Seters, “The Problem of Childlessness in Near Eastern Law and the Patriarchs of Israel,” JBL 87 (1968): 401-8. 316:1tn The Hebrew term שִׁפְחָה (shifkhah, translated “servant” here and in vv. 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8) refers to a menial female servant. 416:1sn The passage records the birth of Ishmael to Abram through an Egyptian woman. The story illustrates the limits of Abram’s faith as he tries to obtain a son through social custom. The barrenness of Sarai poses a challenge to Abram’s faith, just as the famine did in chap. 12. As in chap. 12, an Egyptian figures prominently. (Perhaps Hagar was obtained as a slave during Abram’s stay in Egypt.) 516:2tn Heb “look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) introduces the foundational clause for the imperative to follow. 616:2tn Heb “enter to.” The expression is a euphemism for sexual relations (also in v. 4).sn The Hebrew expression translated have sexual relations with does not convey the intimacy of other expressions, such as “so and so knew his wife.” Sarai simply sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate. For further discussion see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 (1969): 312-21. 716:2tn Heb “perhaps I will be built from her.” Sarai hopes to have a family established through this surrogate mother. 816:2tn Heb “listened to the voice of,” which is an idiom meaning “obeyed.”sn Abram did what Sarai told him. This expression was first used in Gen 3:17 of Adam’s obeying his wife. In both cases the text highlights weak faith and how it jeopardized the plan of God. 916:3tn Heb “at the end of ten years, to live, Abram.” The prepositional phrase introduces the temporal clause, the infinitive construct serves as the verb, and the name “Abram” is the subject. 1016:3tn Heb “the Egyptian, her female servant.” 1116:3sn To be his wife. Hagar became a slave wife, not on equal standing with Sarai. However, if Hagar produced the heir, she would be the primary wife in the eyes of society. When this eventually happened, Hagar become insolent, prompting Sarai’s anger. 1216:4tn Heb “entered to.” See the note on the same expression in v. 2. 1316:4tn Or “she conceived” (also in v. 5) 1416:4tn Heb “and she saw that she was pregnant and her mistress was despised in her eyes.” The Hebrew verb קָלַל (qalal) means “to despise, to treat lightly, to treat with contempt.” In Hagar’s opinion Sarai had been demoted. 1516:5tn Heb “my wrong is because of you.” 1616:5tn Heb “I placed my female servant in your bosom.” 1716:5tn Heb “saw.” 1816:5tn Heb “I was despised in her eyes.” The passive verb has been translated as active for stylistic reasons. Sarai was made to feel supplanted and worthless by Hagar the servant girl. 1916:5tn Heb “me and you.”sn May the Lord judge between you and me. Sarai blamed Abram for Hagar’s attitude, not the pregnancy. Here she expects to be vindicated by the Lord who will prove Abram responsible. A colloquial rendering might be, “God will get you for this.” It may mean that she thought Abram had encouraged the servant girl in her elevated status. 2016:6tn The clause is introduced with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh), introducing a foundational clause for the coming imperative: “since…do.” 2116:6tn Heb “in your hand.” 2216:6tn Heb “what is good in your eyes.” 2316:6tn Heb “her”; the referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 2416:6tn In the Piel stem the verb עָנָה (’anah) means “to afflict, to oppress, to treat harshly, to mistreat.” 2516:6tn Heb “and she fled from her presence.” The referent of “her” (Sarai) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 2616:7tn Heb “the messenger of the Lord.” Some identify the angel of the Lord as the preincarnate Christ because in some texts the angel is identified with the Lord himself. However, it is more likely that the angel merely represents the Lord; he can speak for the Lord because he is sent with the Lord’s full authority. In some cases the angel is clearly distinct from the Lord (see Judg 6:11-23). It is not certain if the same angel is always in view. Though the proper name following the noun “angel” makes the construction definite, this may simply indicate that a definite angel sent from the Lord is referred to in any given context. It need not be the same angel on every occasion. Note the analogous expression “the servant of the Lord,” which refers to various individuals in the OT (see BDB 714 s.v. עֶבֶד). 2716:7tn Heb “And the angel of the Lord found her near the spring of water in the desert, near the spring on the way to Shur.” 2816:8tn Heb “from the presence of.” 2916:9tn The imperative וְהִתְעַנִּי (vÿhitanni) is the Hitpael of עָנָה (’anah, here translated “submit”), the same word used for Sarai’s harsh treatment of her. Hagar is instructed not only to submit to Sarai’s authority, but to whatever mistreatment that involves. God calls for Hagar to humble herself. 3016:10tn Heb “The Lord’s angel said, ‘I will greatly multiply your descendants….” The order of the clauses has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 3116:10tn Heb “cannot be numbered because of abundance.” 3216:11tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) focuses on her immediate situation: “Here you are pregnant.” 3316:11tn The active participle refers here to something that is about to happen. 3416:11sn The name Ishmael consists of the imperfect or jussive form of the Hebrew verb with the theophoric element added as the subject. It means “God hears” or “may God hear.” 3516:11tn Heb “affliction,” which must refer here to Hagar’s painful groans of This clause gives the explanation of the name Ishmael, using a wordplay. Ishmael’s name will be a reminder that “God hears” Hagar’s painful cries. 3616:12sn A wild donkey of a man. The prophecy is not an insult. The wild donkey lived a solitary existence in the desert away from society. Ishmael would be free-roaming, strong, and like a bedouin; he would enjoy the freedom his mother sought. 3716:12tn Heb “His hand will be against everyone.” The “hand” by metonymy represents strength. His free-roaming life style would put him in conflict with those who follow social conventions. There would not be open warfare, only friction because of his antagonism to their way of life. 3816:12tn Heb “And the hand of everyone will be against him.” 3916:12tn Heb “opposite, across from.” Ishmael would live on the edge of society (cf. NASB “to the east of”). Some take this as an idiom meaning “be at odds with” (cf. NRSV, NLT) or “live in hostility toward” (cf. NIV). 4016:13tn Heb “God of my seeing.” The pronominal suffix may be understood either as objective (“who sees me,” as in the translation) or subjective (“whom I see”). 4116:13tn Heb “after one who sees me.”sn For a discussion of Hagar’s exclamation, see T. Booij, “Hagar’s Words in Genesis 16:13b,” VT 30 (1980): 1-7. 4216:14tn The verb does not have an expressed subject and so is rendered as passive in the translation. 4316:14sn The Hebrew name Beer Lahai Roi (בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי, bÿer lakhay roi) means “The well of the Living One who sees me.” The text suggests that God takes up the cause of those who are oppressed. 4416:14tn Heb “look.” The words “it is located” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. 4516:15tn Heb “and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.”sn Whom Abram named Ishmael. Hagar must have informed Abram of what the angel had told her. See the note on the name “Ishmael” in 16:11. 4616:16tn The disjunctive clause gives information that is parenthetical to the narrative. 4716:16tn Heb “the son of eighty-six years.” 4816:16tn The Hebrew text adds, “for Abram.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons; it is somewhat redundant given the three occurrences of Abram’s name in this and the previous verse.