Genesis 16 The Birth of Ishmael


Chapter 16 records the birth of Ishmael.  There are a number of notable things that happen in this chapter that are important for us to study.


Sarah’s Impatience

According to verse 3, Sarah and Abraham had been in Canaan ten years and still didn’t have a child.  Sarah was tired of waiting.  However, when God makes a promise, he will keep that promise no matter how long he waits to fulfill it.  He waited nearly 4000 years to fulfill the first part of Genesis 3:15, and he will have waited another 2000 years to finally fulfill the last half of Genesis 3: 15.  If you take Genesis 16:3 with 16:16 and 17:1, you will see that God waited 24 years from the time that Abraham entered Canaan to fulfill his promise of the birth of Isaac.


Sarah’s Bad Advice

Sometimes it is good for a man to listen to his wife, but only when her advice lines up with the Bible (Genesis 21:12).  Whenever she steps in as an authority between God and her husband, she is out of bounds and is not to be heeded.  As an example, Eve convinced Adam to eat the fruit against God’s will and that mistake damned the human race.  Consequently, women are to keep silence and are not to teach or usurp authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:11-14).


Abraham’s “Marriage”

The Bible doesn’t say that there was a wedding ceremony when Abraham “married” Hagar.  It simply says that “he went in unto Hagar.”  This shows you that a woman can become a man’s wife by simply joining her body to his.  That’s because they become one flesh (1 Cor. 6:16; Genesis 2: 24).  In the Bible, there are marriages that involve “espousals” (Matt. 1:18-19) and ceremonies (John 2: 1-11).  However, the consummation of the marriage is flesh joining flesh (Matt. 19:4-6).  That’s why men and women should keep themselves pure until they take the spouse with whom they will spend the rest of their lives.


Hagar’s Disrespect

Hagar’s conception brought out the worst in her.  Once she was carrying Abraham’s child, she looked down on her mistress.  That is the wrong attitude for a servant.  Hagar was an Egyptian, which are descendants of Ham.  Sarah was a descendant of Shem.  According to the curse (Genesis 9:25-26), Hagar was to serve her mistress even though she was now Abraham’s wife.  As we see in Genesis 21:10 and Galatians 4: 22-23, Hagar was still a bondmaid.



Abraham’s Fault

In verse 5, Sarah blamed Abraham for Hagar’s insubordination.  This was partly a matter of human nature, like Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the devil (Genesis 3: 12-13).  But it was also Abraham’s responsibility to rule his house and not let something like this happen (1 Cor. 11: 3; Genesis 3:16-17).  Thus men ought to be prepared to take the full blame when they choose to follow bad advice, even if it comes from their wife.


The Angel of the Lord’s Charge

The Angel of the Lord instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and submit herself to her because that is the duty of servants (Col. 3: 22; Eph. 6: 5-8).  The old saying is, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The Angel of the Lord here is a preincarnate representation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He shows up many times in Scripture.  See Exodus 3: 2, 14; 23: 20-25; and Acts 27: 23-25 for a few examples.  Notice the similarity between the Angel (Jesus) meeting Hagar by a well here and Jesus Christ meeting the Samaritan woman by a well in John 4.


Ishmael’s Prophecy

The Angel of the Lord promised several things concerning Abraham’s child:


  1. Hagar would bear a son;
  2. His name would be Ishmael;
  3. He would be a wild man;
  4. His seed would be multiplied greatly;
  5. He would fight with his neighbors and vice versa;
  6. He would dwell in the presence of his brethren.


Yasser Arafat is a fitting example of Ishmael’s descendants.  Arafat is an Egyptian, just like Ishmael.  He’s wild, he fights with his neighbors (Arabs or Jews, it makes no difference) and he dwells in the presence of his brethren (currently the West Bank).



This is the name that was given to the well by which the Angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness.  That is the name that she gave to the Lord when he spoke to her.  It means “the well of him that liveth and seeth me.”  Hagar was glad to have a living God who was looking out for her, even if he did tell her to go back and serve Sarah.