You will remember in the Genesis 16:1-6 article, we discussed the situation as perceived by Sarai and also the fallout of that perception. Sarai treated Hagar harshly because Hagar was portraying an air of superiority to her mistress because she was pregnant with Abram's child and Sarai could not conceive. Without giving away to much more, lets read the passage for this article:
Genesis 16:7-16 -- King James Version:
7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
So, starting in verse 1, we see as Hagar escaped from Sarai, she was sitting by a "fountain of water" which for us modern folks brings to mind something man-made, but in Hebrew the word is ʿayin and means "an eye", the place that water flows naturally out of the body, thus in this context it means a fountain of water as though flowing naturally from below the earth's surface.
Although Hagar had water and presumably a small portion of food, she was pregnant and in the wilderness. Whatever treatment Sarai had dealt to her was severe enough to cause Hagar to choose to wonder into what would surely be a death sentence, rather than continue to live under her treatment. Why would this be a death sentence? Well in ancient times, being part of the family group served two purposes; not only was food hard to find naturally in this area, but for a woman, let alone being pregnant, think of all the dangers of being alone in the wilderness. We see a prime example of this in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. There were far more dangers to be had than starvation, although that would be a very real danger for someone in her position.
The question of where this "fountain of water" was located is told to us directly in the text; "in the wilderness...in the way of Shur" is the King James way of saying "on the way to Shur". There is sometimes confusion between Shur and the Wilderness of Shur, but this is cleared up by taking account of the name given to the fountain which was later made into a well. Beerlahairoi (pronounced be-ayr'lakh-ah'ee ro-ee' - if that helps at all maybe bee-air-la-hi-roy will be easier for some) was located specifically on the eastern border of the Wilderness of Shur, which is just slightly west of Kebesh-Barnea (Kadesh-Barnea in some transliterations) on your map from chapter 12 (click the link to view the image again if you don't have it).
Based on the placement and her nationality, Hagar was probably heading back to Egypt. Does this diminish the danger at all? Probably not, although I would say she had traveled quite some distance, roughly 150 miles, with no reported interference, from Abram's camp to the fountain of Shur. That's not an easy walk to make and one that would have taken at least a week, possibly more. Keep that in mind when "the angel of the LORD" tells her to return to Sarai, what He is telling her to do is turn around and walk 150 miles back the other way and submit herself to further harsh treatment; not an easy thing to do, I would imagine.
OK, so what does "the angel of the LORD" mean? In Hebrew it is mal'ak YHWH and literally translated means "one who was dispatched [as a deputy or messenger] of the LORD." Often times we are told that "the angel of the LORD" is God Himself, or the Son before his incarnation rather than an actual "angel" in the same way that Michael or Gabriel is an angel. So, why would that be? Why would this assumption be made? And do groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that it is Michael have it right in their interpretation?
Taking a look at the text, what "the angel of the LORD" says to Hagar here is not fitting for an "angel" but is fitting for God. Listed below are a few key features of this passage that indicate that we are not reading about an "angel" but of God Himself, and more specifically of the Son:
1.) He promises to perform what God alone could do: "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly," (Genesis 16:10)
Notice He does NOT say "The LORD will multiply thy seed exceedingly." This is also reminiscent of the promise made to Abram where God spoke to Abram in Genesis 13 and Genesis 15.
2.) He foretells knowledge that only God would know: "Thou art with child, and shalt bear a son," (Genesis 16:11) "He will be a wild man," (Genesis 16:12). Now, while it is often the case that angels give prophecies of future events, it is also clear that it is as a mere messenger and that the information is given to them by God; it is never the case that they combine that prophecy with "I will..."
3.) Hagar considers the person who spoke to her as God. She calls him El (God), and submits herself in a fashion of worship. Had this been a created angel, He would have refused, as other angels have shown themselves to do; Revelation 19:10; 22:9 are great examples of this.
4.) The author, Moses, calls this angel Jehovah (actually written "YHWH" here) when he writes qara shem YHWH dabar, "the NAME of the LORD that spake to her" (Genesis 16:13). It is NEVER the case that any created being is entitled to this name, not to mention that it is stated explicitly that the LORD was speaking to her, although one might validly say that the LORD speaks through His servants on numerous occasions.
5.) This "person" is called mal'ak YHWH, "the Angel of the LORD" which is the same "person" called hammal'ak haggoel, "the redeeming Angel" or "the Angel the Redeemer" in Genesis 48:16; mal'ak panaiv, "the Angel of God's presence" in Isaiah 63:9; and mala'k habberith, "the Angel of the Covenant" in Malachi 3:1; and is the same person which the Septuagint, in Isaiah 9:6, calls megas boule aggelos, "the Angel of the Great Counsel" the one that is said to redeem man and fill the earth with righteousness.
Not only does all this point to God as the speaker, but more specifically to Jesus Christ as the person. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1) "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
No man has, at any time, been said to have seen God the Father, nor has He ever limited himself to any definable personal appearance in scripture, rather what we are told is that God the Father is in Heaven and Jesus Christ is God who came among us, which seems not only to mean after His incarnation, but from the time of creation. It is quite a difficult concept to understand for us humans who live our lives in a single, pre-defined way, and one that no man can ever truly fathom in its true sense. It's a concept that after watching Harry Potter one too many times may seem more inspired by fantasy, than reality. But the question is, as always, "how big is your God?" It is a sad state of affairs which bring mankind to feeling that the truth is fiction and fiction is truth, but it is one that has plagued us from the time of Adam and Eve.
I think that the old saying, "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist" may better be represented by "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world GOD didn't exist." We as faithful servants are called to be in the world, but not of it (a paraphrasing of John 17). I think that is a very poignant idea and one that should stick quite firmly for those who have faith. Remember, we are not told to make believers, rather we are told to make disciples... that's a bit of a difference. We can make many good points in proving God exists to someone, but we can't make them believe; only God can do that.
In verse 8, we see the LORD asking a question again "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" Notice that He knows who she is without being introduced and that He addresses her as "servant of Sarai" making the point to remind her that she is under the employment of another.
This isn't a question that you ask half way through a conversation and its one that the LORD already knows the answer to, so why is He asking it? My point of view on this set of verses relies quite heavily on what Hagar's answer is and what transpires afterwords. Remember when the LORD asked questions of Adam, Eve and Cain what was His intention? We only ask a question that we know the answer to if we want to hear the person tell us the truth from their own lips, to confess as it were.
Hagar's answer is "I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”which if you notice, only answers half the question. He asked, where have you come from AND where are you going? This is either an indication that she doesn't know where she is going, she may be returning to Egypt, but what does she have to return to after-all? A servant who has escaped from their mistress would find it a very difficult challenge to find new employment. The LORD knowing this tells her to return to her mistress Sarai. This isn't a punishment, rather its a blessing, as difficult as the situation with Sarai might be, I can imagine that it would be quite a bit worse to return to Egypt homeless and pregnant. But, as we will see in subsequent chapters, Hagar is necessary and her son is necessary to God's plan. He doesn't intend to have her stay forever, rather she needs to complete the work He has for her to do.
You will note in the following verse that "the angel of the LORD" isn't sending her back empty handed. He tells her "I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” For people of that time, this was a very important thing, not only is He insuring her safety (not the same as comfort) and survival, but is promising that an uncountable number of people would be coming from her lineage. But, He doesn't stop there. He tells her in verses 11 and 12 “Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."
The first half of this statement is obvious, she is going to bear a son and name him Ishmael. The significance of the naming is this; Ishmael (Yishmael - pronounced yish-maw-ale) is made of two words shama, "he heard", and El, "God" so the meaning of the name can properly be understood as "God heard," thus the second half of that sentence "because the LORD has listened to your affliction" is not a statement that someone other than the speaker has heard her, but an explanation of the why the name is what it is. Notice that we were never told that Hagar prayed about this. I think that is a great point in this passage that even when we are too weak to put our afflictions into prayer, the LORD hears the pain of our hearts.
The second half of the statement, starting with "he will be a wild man..." is sometimes rendered as "He shall be a wild donkey of a man.." (ESV) the Hebrew word for "wild" or "wild donkey" is pere (#H6501) and comes from para (#H6500) which means "to bear fruit" and so the meaning of pere means exactly that, only with the sense of "running wild." Many people talk about how Ishmael would be a man who lived in the wild, and who was stubborn or this and that, but my feeling from the text is not this sense, rather that he would run wild with a woman or women, bearing a great number of offspring. That being said, I believe that looking at the descendants of Ishmael can clearly indicate what type of person Ishmael may have been... as you may know Ishmael is the father of the Arab people group. As pere was also a valid word for a true "wild donkey" one can also interpret this in light of Job 39:5-12 which gives us the best description of what might be meant in that way:
Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place? He scorns the tumult of the city; he hears not the shouts of the driver. He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every green thing. Is the wild ox willing to serve you? Will he spend the night at your manger? Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes, or will he harrow the valleys after you? Will you depend on him because his strength is great, and will you leave to him your labor? Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain and gather it to your threshing floor? (ESV)
The Arabs, for a great many centuries lived in the wilds of Arabia, and until more recent times, after Muhammad instituted what has become Islamic government and law between 610 and 630 AD, they were mainly a group of nomads who fought against governing forces... this isn't intended as a slight against them, but a statement of historical fact.
In Adam Clarke's commentary he makes a clear comparison to Job 39 and the Arabs of that time when he says:
"God himself has sent them out free - he has loosed them from all political restraint. The wilderness is their habitation; and in the parched land, where no other human beings could live, they have their dwellings. They scorn the city, and therefore have no fixed habitations; for their multitude, they are not afraid; for when they make depredations on cities and towns, they retire into the desert with so much precipitancy that all pursuit is eluded. In this respect the crying of the driver is disregarded. They may be said to have no lands, and yet the range of the mountains is their pasture-they pitch their tents and feed their flocks, wherever they please; and they search after every green thing-are continually looking after prey, and seize on every kind of property that comes in their way.
It is farther said, His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him. -Many potentates among the Abyssinians, Persians, Egyptians, and Turks, have endeavoured to subjugate the wandering or wild Arabs; but, though they have had temporary triumphs, they have been ultimately unsuccessful. Sesostris, Cyrus, Pompey, and Trajan, all endeavoured to conquer Arabia, but in vain. From the beginning to the present day they have maintained their independency, and God preserves them as a lasting monument of his providential care, and an incontestable argument of the truth of Divine Revelation. Had the Pentateuch no other argument to evince its Divine origin, the account of Ishmael and the prophecy concerning his descendants, collated with their history and manner of life during a period of nearly four thousand years, would be sufficient. Indeed the argument is so absolutely demonstrative, that the man who would attempt its refutation, in the sight of reason and common sense would stand convicted of the most ridiculous presumption and folly.
The country which these free descendants of Ishmael may be properly said to possess, stretches from Aleppo to the Arabian Sea, and from Egypt to the Persian Gulf; a tract of land not less than 1800 miles in length, by 900 in breadth; see Genesis 17:20."
The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The text carefully printed from the most correct copies of the present Authorized Version. Including the marginal readings and parallel texts. With a Commentary and Critical Notes.
Since I feel Adam Clarke's commentary also covered the "hand against every man" section, I will only say that I think it is fairly clear that this prophecy continues to be fulfilled, even today. Again, this isn't said as a slight against Arabs or Muslims, it is not to stereotype them as terrorists, or any such non-sense. That simply could not be farther from the truth, but what IS truth is that even those Arabs who are not associated with extremists, deal with "every man's hand against" them in a variety of ways and have for centuries. It is an unfortunate truth, but a truth none-the-less.
In verse 13 we are told that Hagar "called the name of the LORD who spoke to her 'You are a God of seeing,'" Notice that it is the LORD who spoke to her... which goes back to our conversation of the "angel of the LORD" and the meaning of that term, its a statement made clearly in the text that the "person" is not an angel, but is the LORD Himself. The calling here is meant to introduce the name she called Him, "You [are a] God of seeing" ('attah El roi)being the name, she called Him.
This second half of the quote is rather difficult to understand as its rendered differently in every translation, but the sense of it should be clearly understood as "Have I really seen Him here who sees me?" or "Would I have looked here for the one who sees me?" The point obviously is that Hagar was not expecting to be visited by the LORD at a fountain of water in the middle of no where, not that she was expecting to see him anyway. It may also be that she was surprised to be permitted to live after seeing God as it was a common idea that those who saw God would be consumed by His glory. The Septuagint gives us further insight into this quotation as it reads (in English) "For even face-to-face I beheld the one appearing to me." All renderings speak clearly that the manner in which God appeared to her here was shocking and unexpected, even for her understanding of God, which living in Abram's house as a close member of the family unit would have certainly been made clear to her, in one way or another.
The Septuagints rendering also makes a bit more sense because of the naming of the fountain; because of the manner in which she saw God here, the fountain is named Beerlahairoi, which means "well of a living [One], my Seer" or as given in the Septuagint (in a clearer rendering) "well of which, face-to-face, I beheld" The sense of the meaning is that this is the well where she saw the one which she called "You [are a] God of seeing." I think, despite the circumstances under which she came to be at the well, this is a very beautiful passage and one that should give the faithful much hope in their walk with Christ.
The last two verses of this chapter are pretty simple and straight forward... Hagar gave birth to a son, as promised and Abram named him Ishmael, and Abram was 86 (fourscore and six) years old when Ishmael was born. How many 86 year old's do we have out there having kids? Not many, but keep in mind that Abram probably wasn't looking as old as we look at 86, he lives to be 175 (Genesis 25:7). So, for us that would be a bit like having a kid at 35 or 40, but as we will see, he is going to have another child when he is 100 years old (Genesis 21:5) and it is said he is "well advanced in years", so the aging process must have been quite a bit different than what we might make a mental picture of, as the equivalent of 50 - 55 years old is not exactly what one might consider well advanced, but is above the "normal" child bearing years... but I guess we will talk more about that in an upcoming article.
For now, please feel free to leave your insight, comments, questions and participate in this study as I am sure there are some very knowledgeable people out there and I would greatly enjoy learning from and with you.
May God continue to bless you in your studies.