This chapter follow hard on the heels of Abram having believed the Lord’s promise of innumerable descendants (Genesis 15:6). His wife Sari is despairing of ever being able to conceive and so she ‘lends’ her maidservant to raise up an heir in her place. Abram’s obedience to his wife on this occasion is somewhat questionable. (When the scripture says he listened to her voice, it means that he obeyed her.) Why he didn’t call upon the Lord to enquire is not stated. Perhaps he reasoned that a descendant through Hagar would still be the fruit of his loins (Genesis 15:4).

Religious painters and commentators have very mixed views about the willingness or reluctance of both Abram and Hagar to this arrangement and it is likely that Hagar was considerably younger than both Abram and Sarai. Whatever the truth it worked to produce an heir apparent in quick time.

Once Hagar was pregnant, she began to look down on her mistress, causing enormous resentment by Sarai who complained to Abram. Abram gave Sarai a free hand to discipline Hagar. Sarai used her free hand harshly and pregnant Hagar fled to a fountain in the wilderness. There she cried and an angel answered, assuring her that her child was a boy, and he should be called, Ishmael meaning ‘God will hear’. Hagar returned as directed by the angel and gave birth to Abram’s first son, Ishmael, when he was aged 86.

The chapter underlines that tensions between races have existed from the earliest of times. It shows that long before the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians, the wife of this foremost of Hebrews, Abram, had an Egyptian slave. It shows the Angel of the Lord appeared and spoke a blessing over Hagar and blessed, named and prophesied over Ishmael before Isaac was spoken of. Therefore, God is truly no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).


Lord help me not to run ahead of your plan just because the alternative is appealing. May you hear me when I call, and may I obey you fully when You answer and direct me. May you free me from prejudices and make me just to all.

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