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6. The Birth of Ishmael (16:1-16)
The period of waiting appointed for Abram is not yet at an end. The fact that the promise of God does not become a reality leads Abram and his wife to take recourse to human ingenuity. God, however, wants it to be clearly understood that the child involved is in every sense to be a child of promise. Yahweh’s grace will give him, man can contribute nothing. The experience of this chapter makes this fact most clearly apparent to Abram and to Sarai.
When in days of old reverence for the venerable patriarchs led commentators to make attempts completely to exonerate these holy men of God from all guilt or blame in connection with an episode such as this, the present day lack of reverence for the Word and for the worthy men of antiquity results in expositions that impute the cheapest of motives to the characters involved and that evaluate their individual deeds at as low a value as possible. The truth does not really lie between these two extremes, for a prophetic word (Mal. 2:1-5) ascribes a good motive to Abram for his share in this case: he sought the seed promised of God. There is no reason for excluding Sarai from having a share in such a good motive. Consequently, we shall be justified in our approach to the problem involved to aim to put the best construction on everything, and by so doing we shall not lay ourselves open to the charge of unseemly partiality. Calvin’s summary of the case is quite commendable: "The faith of both was defective; not, indeed, with regard to the substance 1.494of the promise, but with regard to the method in which they proceeded." Luther’s attitude is the same.
1, 2. Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children, but she had an Egyptian maid, whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram: Behold, now, the Lord has prevented me from having children; suppose you marry my maid; perhaps our household would be built through her. And Abram approved of Sarai’s suggestion.
As is evident from v. 16, Abram had been in the land about ten years. If we consider the advanced age of both Abram and Sarai, they had surely waited a long time. The Hebrew uses the verb without an object in stating the case: "She did not bear for him" (lo’ yaledhah lô). To Sarai the thought comes that perhaps customary devices may be resorted to. Women of standing like Sarai had their personal maids, who were their own in a special sense. They were the personal property of the wife and were appointed specially to wait upon her. The maid under consideration here happened to be an Egyptian, having been acquired, no doubt, during the brief stay in Egypt (12:10 ff.). The custom of those days allowed in a case of this sort that the wife give her maid to her husband as a secondary wife in the hope that the new union would be blessed with offspring, which offspring would then promptly be claimed and adopted by the mistress. No stigma attached to the position of the maid: she was a wife, though not, indeed, of the same social standing as the first wife. For Sarai to take such a step certainly involved self denial, even a kind of self-effacement. It was this rather noble mode of procedure on Sarai’s part that may in part have blinded the patriarch’s eyes so that he failed to discern the actual issues involved. Then, also, if we consider the chief servant, Eliezer, and the 1.495excellent faith he later displays, we may well suppose that the chief maid may well have been a woman who was indeed imbued with the faith that reigned in the household and may modestly have been desirous of having a part in the achievement of the high purpose to which this household was destined.
Yet, in spite of all that may be said by way of extenuating the fault of the parties involved, it was still a double fault and sin. First, it clashed with the true conception of monogamous marriage, which alone is acceptable with God. Secondly, it involved the employment of human devices seemingly to bolster up a divine purpose which was in any case destined to be achieved as God had originally ordained. In so far the fault involved was unbelief.
"Hagar," from the root "to flee," stamps her as "the fugitive," apparently because of the later event when she fled from her mistress. This later name, then must have replaced a former one now unknown.
How keenly barrenness was felt to be a curse and how highly offspring were prized as a manifestation of divine favour, appears from a comparison of the following passages: Gen. 19:31; 31:123 with Gen. 21:6; 24:60; Exod. 23:26; Deut. 7:14.
2. Correctly Sarai ascribes her failure to bear children to Yahweh’s not having given them to her. Literally translated, the Hebrew says: "Yahweh hath shut me up, or restrained me, (A. V.) from bearing," the min with lédheth here constituting the equivalent of a negative clause of result (K. S. 406n; G. K. 119x). Bo-na’ ‘el, "Go, pray, unto," etc., is a euphemism, to which the na’ imparts a certain mildness of suggestion, which Meek has cleverly reproduced in colloquial English: "Suppose you marry." A very distinct Hebrew idiom lies at the basis of what we have rendered: "perhaps my household would be built through 1.496her"; for the Hebrew says: "perhaps I may be built up through her." The verb ’ibbaneh, from banah, "build," rests on the root ben, "son." "To be built up," therefore, is the same idea as "to have children" or "build up a family," (Meek). ’Ibbaneh is potential (K. S. 186). The min of agent (K. S. 107) appears in mimménnah. When Abram "hearkens" (shama’) to his wife’s "voice" (qôl), he "approves of Sarai’s suggestion." No doubt, the patriarch was impressed by Sarai’s utter selflessness.
3. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar, her Egyptian maid, after ten years of Abram’s dwelling in the land of Canaan, and gave her in marriage to Abram, her husband.
The somewhat more circumstantial style of the verse is manifestly a device for making it the more apparent what it cost Sarai to take such a step; for she was "Abram’s wife," and Hagar was only "her Egyptian maid"; and, for all that, Abram was still "her husband." Besides, to indicate that these good people had really waited quite patiently, at this point the author indicates how long Abram had dwelt in Canaan—a full ten years. So the particular character of the verse on purely literary grounds appears to be quite readily accounted for. However, according to the critics, who seem to lack appreciation for all niceties of a good and flexible style, every instance where the style grows more circumstantial is supposed to mark the insertion of a portion from P.
The infinitive shébheth here functions as a noun in the construct state (K. S. 229 f.). Lô le’ishshah, "to him for wife," is a condensed purpose clause (K. S. 407 d). It must be quite apparent that "to give as wife" must mean "to give in marriage." Here was no concubinage but a formal marital union, though Hagar was but the second wife.
1.4974. And he went in unto Hagar and she conceived. When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was lightly esteemed in her eyes.
The plan works out, apparently according to schedule. Bo’ ‘el, "to go in unto," is a delicate euphemism.
Now at this point the evils of polygamy begin to rear their ugly head. It is always bound to be the fruitful mother of envy, jealousy, and strife. The baser elements in man are unleashed by it. Each of the three characters now appears to disadvantage. Yet we are not compelled now to suppose that such extremes resulted as Jamieson suggests—"bursts of temper, or blows." The fine praise that Peter bestows upon Sarai (1 Pet. 3:6) hardly allows us to think of her as degenerating into a shrew. When it is remarked of Hagar that "her mistress was lightly esteemed in her eyes," that need involve nothing more than that she thought that God had bestowed upon her what He had denied Sarai, and so she thought herself superior to her mistress and showed her disdain in certain ways. This attitude was bound to pain Sarai, who was, no doubt, a woman of high position, while Hagar was only an Egyptian slave.
5. Then Sarai said to Abram: The wrong done to me is your fault. I gave my maid into your arms, and when she saw that she had conceived, I became lightly esteemed in her eyes. May Yahweh judge between me and thee.
Now Sarai’s judgment becomes impaired by the bitter feelings roused in her. Hagar’s wrong leads Sarai to do further wrong. Sin grows more involved. Sarai blames Abram for doing what she had in reality suggested. At least, so it seems. Luther attempts to avoid so crude a charge on her part by supposing that she rather charges Abram with showing certain preferences 1.498and honors to Hagar and so becoming the cause of her arrogance. Then her charge would be correct: "The wrong done to me is your fault." But the explanation that follows does not interpret the wrong thus. So we shall do better to call hers an unreasonable charge growing out of her wounded pride. Our translation here corresponds with the Greek rendering, ἀδικοῦμαι ἐκ σοῦ. Chamasi, "my wrong," must mean "the wrong done to me," the pronominal suffix being an objective genitive (K. S. 37). To supply the verb "may it be" results in an idle repetition; for afterward she says: "Yahweh judge between me and thee." So instead of making the clause voluntative ("may"), we make it indicative: "My wrong is on thee"＝"The wrong done me is your fault." The statement: "May Yahweh judge between me and thee," is rightly explained (K. W.) "to decide the controversy at issue between two parties."
The injustice of the charge made by Sarai might well have roused Abram to a heated reply. Indeed, with excellent self-control he replies moderately (v. 6).
In the last word of the verse the second yodh is redundant.
6. But Abram said to Sarai: See, thy maid is in thy power; do to her what pleases thee. So Sarai humbled her, and she fled from her.
Some charge Abram at this point with being "strangely unchivalrous" (Procksch). He is not suggesting cruelty to Sarai nor condoning it. He is merely suggesting the natural solution of the problem. In reality, Sarai is still Hagar’s mistress. That relation has not really been cancelled. Abram suggests that she use her right as mistress. He does, however, not suggest the use of cruelty or injustice. It is not really said that Sarai did what is unjustifiable. Nor should it be forgotten that Hagar had begun to do wrong and 1.499required correction. Apparently also, according to the custom of the times, Abram had no jurisdiction over Hagar directly, for she was esteemed Sarai’s maid. The Hebrew idiom "do what is good in thine eyes" is our: "do what pleases thee."
Here, we believe, Sarai is usually wronged. Of the various meanings of ’innah the more severe are chosen, like "deal hardly with" (A. V.), or "treated cruelly" (Meek). Luther may well be followed: wollte sie demuetigen—"wanted to humble her." When the problem is thus approached, Sarai is merely regarded as having taken steps to bring Hagar to realize that she had begun to be somewhat presumptuous, such as making her to live with the servants and perform more menial tasks. But, of course, we must allow for sinful excesses also on her part. Sarai may not have proceeded with due tact and consideration, in suggesting such a course Abram may too have failed to counsel due caution. Every actor in this domestic drama may have given evidence of shortcomings in one way or another. Hagar, on her part, being somewhat self-willed and independent, refused to accept correction and "fled from her."
7. But the Angel of the Lord found her by the spring of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the road to Shur.
A singular honor is conferred upon Hagar by the appearance of the Angel of the Lord. This would seem to lend added weight to our contention that Hagar was a woman of godly disposition, and one who may have given evidence of such a disposition by prayer to the God of Abram, made at the time of her present difficulty. Luther’s suggestion may also be approved of, when he suggests that after Hagar’s flight Abram and Sarai made prayer to God in behalf of the fugitive. The Hebrew text says he found her "by the spring," not "a spring." This is best understood 1.500as the article applied to the customary, (der Connexitaet, K. S. 299 b), that is, the spring where travellers on the way to Shur were wont to stop. "Shur" is regarded by many as meaning "wall," a meaning quite possible according to the Aramaic. In that event it may be the name of a line of fortresses erected by the Egyptian king, perhaps at the Isthmus of Suez, to keep out Asiatic invaders. In that case Hagar quite naturally was on the way back to her home country, Egypt. Having come to this well, she had come far enough away from Abram’s home, which may at this time have been at Hebron, to allow for the settling of her thoughts and feelings, and she may already have begun to view the situation a bit more soberly and justly than she did at the time when she first resolved upon flight. So the Angel’s approach appears to be well timed.
But the angel of the Lord (mal’akh Yahweh), who was He? We believe Hengstenberg and Keil demonstrated adequately both that He was divine and that He is to be regarded as a kind of pre-incarnation of the Messiah—using the term "pre-incarnation" as indeed open to criticism if pressed too closely. For our passage His identity with Yahweh is fully established by v. 13. For the present we offer Whitelaw’s five arguments (condensed) for this position. The Angel of the Lord is not a created being but the Divine Being Himself; for
1. He explicitly identifies Himself with Yahweh on various occasions.
2. Those to whom He makes His presence known recognize Him as divine.
3. The Biblical writers call Him Yahweh.
4. The doctrine here implied of a plurality of persons in the Godhead is in complete accordance with earlier foreshadowing.
1.5015. The organic unity of Scripture would be broken if it could be proved that the central point in the Old Testament revelation was a creature angel, while that of the New is the incarnation of the God Man.
K. C. attempts to dispose of all such arguments by the too simple explanation that an ambassador most readily makes a transition into the words of the one who commissioned him. Granting that such a thing might be done by ordinary human ambassadors—a thing of which we personally are still very doubtful—we feel that the Almighty stands too far above the creature, even an angel, to allow for such a piece of presumption on the part of His representatives. If Exod. 3:6 be examined, as one of the passages bearing upon the case, one could hardly venture to say that such a transition from one person to another takes place. The claim to being none other than Yahweh Himself is too distinct.
The attempted translation "an angel of the Lord" is rightly rejected by K. S. 304 e. This Angel of the Lord is in a class by Himself and distinctly recognized as a superior being by the writers of the Old Testament books.
8. And He said: Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence hast thou come and whither art thou going? And she said: Away from Sarai, my mistress, I am (now) fleeing.
In what form or under what guise Hagar saw Him who now addressed her we are not told. It is most likely that to her it seemed most like an angel. His mode of address is calculated to rouse an awareness in Hagar’s mind that her flight has not altered her position or her duty, nor has her state of pregnancy caused any such alteration: Hagar is still "Sarai’s maid." So the Angel of the Lord still esteems 1.502her. The question following does not have the purpose of eliciting information but again addresses itself to the conscience of the fugitive. From a spiritually favoured home she is setting out in flight to a very uncertain future. Apparently, the mode of address succeeds in producing the desired state of mind: Hagar acknowledges that she is fleeing from her "mistress." By the use of that title for Sarai Hagar admits that the original relation is not cancelled. The pronoun with the participle (’anokhî boráchath) describes a progressive act: "I am (now) fleeing."
9, 10. And the Angel of Yahweh said unto her: Return to thy mistress and submit thyself under her hands. Besides, the Angel of Yahweh said unto her: I will greatly multiply thy descendants so that they cannot be counted for multitude.
Before Hagar does anything else she should correct the existing wrong of her life, her self-willed departure from her regular place in life. She must return to her mistress; for Sarai still is mistress, even upon Hagar’s express admission (v. 8). No man should rashly abandon his place in life unless he have a distinct indication from the Lord to do so. Hith’annî need not here be rendered by so strong a verb as "humble oneself." Plain, dutiful submission in the fulfilment of her duties is sufficient for Hagar. Nor would Sarai, after this experience with the Angel became known, have asked any more. Therefore render: "submit thyself." Our idiom might substitute "under her authority" for "under her hands." We have retained the Hebrew idiom, because it cannot be misunderstood.
10. Three times consecutive verses (v. 9, 10, 11) begin, "And the Angel of Yahweh said unto her." In fact, three distinct facts are revealed to Hagar. So after the first word we do well to translate 1.503"Again," or "besides," or "furthermore," "He said," etc. Criticism does not understand the simple reason for the unusual repetition, which aims only to make each of the three words stand out separately, and claims that such repetition is a proof of interpolation and so discards v. 9, 10.
The second revelation now made to Hagar by the omniscient Angel is that of countless offspring. The Hebrew absolute infinitive functions here: "multiplying I will multiply"—"I will greatly multiply." So it comes to pass that two vast nations, the Jews and the Ishmaelites, are descended from Abraham. No further spiritual advantage is attached to the advantage of numbers.
11, 12. Besides, the Angel of Yahweh said to her: Behold thou art with child and wilt bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Ishmael (God hears), for Yahweh hath heard thy distress. And he will be a wild ass of a man. His hand shall be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he will dwell over against all his brethren.
Now the revelation of the Angel of Yahweh concerns itself specifically with the son that is to be born to Hagar. The child to be born God knows to be a son, and He ordains that this child shall bear a name that shall always be a reminder to him as well as to his mother that God in a very signal way gave ear to the cry of this woman in her distress. For yishma’e’l means "God hears." When God ordains this name, He makes provision for keeping mother and son close to Himself. There is a divine pedagogy behind this name. Besides, when God says that He hears, the inference is almost unavoidable that the mother had cried unto Yahweh in her distress. The words used might allow for the thought that her "distress" (’onyekh) had constituted a plea for mercy with God, for we read, "Yahweh hath heard 1.504thy distress," not thy prayer. However, by metonomy "distress" may signify "cry of distress." At the same time, God would hardly have honored with His personal appearance a woman who did not even know how to call upon Him in the day of trouble.
NB. Yoladht is a mixed form, half perfect, half participle, used as future after hinneh; see G. K. 94 f. Harah with the same word is a participle pointing to the present—(K. S. 237f.). In h’innakh the suffix is an object.
12. In this interview, in which Hagar is highly honored by receiving such extensive revelation, the less complimentary revelation concerning her son is not made with the idea of humiliating the mother, but, most likely, that in her training of her son she may take proper steps to curb the wild and lawless elements of his nature. The first fact communicated to her concerning his nature is that he will be by disposition a pére’ ‘adham, "a wild ass of a man," the second noun in the construct relationship with the first (K. S. 337-c). A similar construction appears Prov. 15:20, "a fool of a man"＝"a foolish man." The unrestrained love of liberty on the part of these wild desert animals is further depicted, Job 39:5-8. Ishmael’s descendants, the Arabs, roving over the wide expanses of the desert lands adjacent to Bible lands, are still characterized by this trait. In addition, he cannot be said to be distinguished for amiability and love of peace. He personally shall be the aggressor against all others (hakkol with the article of totality, K. S. 301 a), and as a result "every man’s hand shall be against him." This idiom, of course, conveys the idea of being continually at loggerheads with others. Even in the matter of a dwellingplace, this antagonistic spirit, brooking no restraint or interference, shall express itself in his dwelling "over against all his brethren." ’Al-peney1.505may signify "to the east of." But here, apparently, more than mere direction is involved, for the phrase means "upon the face of" or "against the face of," and that plainly involves hostility, as it does Job 1:11. Apparently, the fellow himself as well as his descendants will not be of a peaceable disposition. We should say, he will carry a chip on his shoulder and have his finger on the trigger.
13. And she called the name of Yahweh who spoke unto her, Thou art El Roi (a God of seeing); for she said: Have I indeed here been permitted to look after Him who sees me?
Such a rare experience as Hagar here had calls for a response, first for an immediate reaction, then for the reaction of obedience. The immediate reaction is recorded here. Since the full revelation that is ours was not yet available in early days, each new revelation of God’s character and being was memorialized in a new name or by some remark that epitomized the experience. So here Hagar very aptly invents the name for Yahweh—’El Ro’î, "a God of seeing,"＝a God "who sees" (B D B). For "see" may also mean "consider," "have regard to," "concern oneself about," sich kuemmern um (K. W.), as is indicated by Gen. 39:23; Exod. 4:31; 1 Kings 12:16; Isa. 5:12, etc. Hitherto Hagar’s position had been growing increasingly difficult. Yahweh had done nothing to relieve her when she cried unto Him: She thought she had been abandoned. Now comes not only hope but a glorious revelation of the future and a personal appearance of the Angel of the Lord. Now she knows that Yahweh cares, He looks after her, He is "a God who sees." This is more intimately expressed as a prayer in a direct address to Him: "Thou art El Roi." She herself offers the explanation for this appropriate name, in that she says in a question that reflects the astonishment that is still strong upon 1.506her: "Have I indeed here been permitted to look after Him who sees me?" Literally this statement begins, "Have I indeed here seen?" But that expresses surprise at such a rare privilege. Hagar well knew that God’s manifestations had been very rare in the history of the human race. That she had thus been honored is recognized as a rare privilege. Therefore, "have I indeed seen?" must certainly mean: "have I indeed here been permitted to see?" as K. C. happily suggests. But really ra’îthî ‘acharey is not so much "see" as "look after," as we have translated. For no mortal to whom God appeared ventured to look directly into or upon the glorious countenance of the Lord. Even Moses in answer to his special request could not venture to take such a step (Exod. 33:23). So here very tersely Hagar described what happened in her case. When Yahweh appeared, she indeed conversed with Him; but only as He departed did she "look after Him." So at least she appears to have understood that no sinful mortal can see God’s countenance directly and live (see Exod. 33:20). So she did not even attempt so rash a thing. But to her God now is a God "who sees me," i. e., "cares for me." Therefore we construe the final ro’î as participle active ro’eh with object suffix, "my seer"—"who sees me." If it were to be taken as a pausal form of the ro’î (with short "o"—the noun "seeing") found in the middle of the verse, the accent would have to stand on the penult, as Job 33:21 indicates.
Consequently we feel constrained to abandon the views of Hengstenberg (in his "Christology") and of Keil (ad loc.) which render: "Have I also seen here after seeing" in the sense: "Am I still alive and able to see after having looked upon God?" Keil, usually very conservative about textual changes, admits that he must shift the accent of the last word in order to translate thus. However, at best, Hagar 1.507would have chosen a very involved way of expressing her thought, as for example Procksch’s treatment of the case indicates. For in an effort to make the text say this, he makes three major insertions in the text—with the license of the critic—and then secures this rendering: "Thou art a God whom one can see and live. For she said: Have I really been able to see God and stay alive after seeing Him?" It takes almost too many insertions to secure this thought. Besides, the text ought to read thus. But it does not. Hagar’s problem is not so much the more theological one concerning the possibility of seeing God and surviving but the more practical one: Does God see me? does God really care?
Some press the halom ("here") unduly. It merely makes the statement of the case more vivid by recalling the scene of the experience—"here." When drawn to the beginning of a statement as here, such adverbs are used in a more general sense, not usually with emphasis (cf. K. S. 339t). So the statement refuses to yield the sense, quite foreign to the whole connection, that Hagar is chiefly surprised that God appeared to her here and not at the place of Abram’s dwellingplace, as though God had already been appearing there to her and to many others. No, she is surprised that he appears at all.
Ro’î, the final word, is a participle treated primarily as noun, object of "after" (K. S. 241 a).
14. Therefore the well came to be called Beer-lahai-roi (a well of the Living One who seeth me). Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
Previously called a "spring" (v.7), it is here called a "well," because, perhaps, the water did spring forth but was walled in in a well more or less deep.
The experience of Hagar became known, and, in memory of what she had said, the well came to bear a name indicative of this experience —"it was called"1.508—gara’ impersonal: "one called," man nannte. This slight difference appears in the name of the well: God is called "the Living One." Quite properly so, because the fact that He has regard for the needs of those who call upon Him, stamps Him as truly a Living God and not a dead conception. He "seeth me" is used exactly as in v. 13. Similar forms of the divine name appear in Josh. 3:10; Hos. 1:10; Ps. 42:2; 84:2; 2 Kings 19:4, 16, For those living at Moses’ time the well is located more definitely. The "Behold" is another way of saying: "See" (if you wish to locate it) it is, etc. "Kadesh" is the site usually designated Kadesh Barnea, forty miles due south and a bit to the west of Beersheba. "Bered" has -never been located. Skinner believes the well must be ’Ain-Muweilih, "a caravan station about twelve miles to the west of Kadesh." A hû’(" it is") is omitted in the statement as self-evident.
15, 16. And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of the son whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. And Abram was a man eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Hagar’s return to Abram’s dwellingplace in obedience to the specific command of the Angel was so self-evident that it is not specially mentioned. The author appears to feel that men will understand that a good woman of Hagar’s disposition would never think of doing otherwise than returning under such circumstances. Abram is strictly obedient to the divine injunction and gives the assigned name. His giving of the name implies the formal acknowledgment of the son as his own, and this could hardly have been taken care of by Sarai, and consequently it cannot be a mark of a particular author’s way of stating the case (as though in J the mother gave the name [cf. v. 11] and in P the father v. 15). In v. 11 the mother is commissioned because she alone 1.509is present; in v. 15 the father carries out the commission because he acknowledges his son. These are plain facts not stylistic peculiarities.
16. Quite appropriately we are told how old Abram was when Ishmael was born. Had the writer not told us, we might justly have charged him with failure to satisfy our justifiable inquiry. Again the customary claim that a verse like v. 16 must belong to P, because it conveys an exact formal statement statistical in character, must yield to the needs of the case, which indicate that such a statement is almost essential to the completeness of the narrative.
Observe the idiomatic use of ben to express age: "a son of eighty-six years." Also, the repetition of the word "year" with compound numbers, like "eighty-six." In the last word of the verse the pronoun is displaced by the less common noun (K. S. 4).
On the chapter as a whole it may yet briefly be observed that the critical analysis wavers, revealing how the results of criticism are far from "assured." Skinner makes J the author of all except vv. 1a, 3, 15, 16, which are given to P; vv. 8, 9 are interpolated. Koenig gives vv. 1-15 to J and only v. 16 to P. Procksch reconstructs: 20:1; then chapter 16; then 25:18; though he, too, assigns vv. 1a, 3, 15, and 16 to P. Strack is uncertain about v. 1 a.
Many, in order to uphold their theory, call the whole chapter another version of Hagar’s expulsion (Ge 21:18 ff.)
The big themes of Genesis should be employed as copiously as possible. They are God’s mercy and man’s faith. So in the case of this chapter the tendency to dwell upon the frailty and the human failings should recede into the background. Not that Abram’s and Sarai’s weakness should be made light of. But these failings of God’s frail children merely offer the background 1.510against which God’s mercy is displayed the more gloriously. In this particular instance that aspect of the case which receives strongest emphasis is the "Strength of God’s Covenant." Grievous as the patriarch’s sin is, and though it might appear as though it might annul God’s gracious promises, yet that covenant survives and God even deals graciously with the person involved more indirectly—with Hagar, and that, for Abraham’s sake, with whom He has made a covenant. Points of view such as these should predominate. Then there will be less danger of falling into a trivial mode of treatment of these portions of the sacred narrative.
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