|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:1-3 Sarai, no longer expecting to have children herself, proposed to Abram to take another wife, whose children she might; her slave, whose children would be her property. This was done without asking counsel of the Lord. Unbelief worked, God's almighty power was forgotten. It was a bad example, and a source of manifold uneasiness. In every relation and situation in life there is some cross for us to bear: much of the exercise of faith consists in patiently submitting, in waiting the Lord's time, and using only those means which he appoints for the removal of the cross. Foul temptations may have very fair pretences, and be coloured with that which is very plausible. Fleshly wisdom puts us out of God's way. This would not be the case, if we would ask counsel of God by his word and by prayer, before we attempt that which is doubtful.
Verse 3. - And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan (i.e. in his eighty-fifth, and her seventy-fifth year; a note of time introduced, probably, to account for their impatience in waiting for the promised seed), and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. Afterwards styled a pilgash or concubine (Genesis 25:6), she is here improperly called a wife quae praeterDei legem is alienum thorum inducitur (Calvin), from whom the pilgash or concubine differed
(1) in power over the family, which belonged solely to the true wife, not to the secondary;
(2) in the manner of espousal, which in the case of the former was accompanied with solemn rites of espousal and liberal gifts of dowry; and
(3) in privilege of issue, the offspring of the secondary wife having no title to inherit. The act of Sarai (cf. the similar behavior of Stratonice, the wife of King Deiotarus, who, according to Plutarch, gave her maid Electra to her husband, and so obtained an heir to the crown) is as little to be imitated as the conduct of Abram. The apparent repetitions in Vers. 1-3 do not require the hypothesis of different authorship (Tuch, Colenso, Bleek, Davidson) for their explanation, but are characteristic of the genius of Hebrew composition (cf. Genesis 7:1-10), and may even be considerably removed by connecting Vers. 1, 2 with Genesis 15, and commencing the new sub-section with Genesis 16:3 (Quarry, p. 331).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian,.... Took her by the hand, it is probable, and led her into the apartment where Abram was, and presented her to him; their characters are very exactly described, and the contrast beautifully given, that the affair might be the more remarkable and observable:
after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan; so that he was now eighty five years of age, for he was sventy five when he departed from Haran and came into Canaan, Genesis 12:4; and Sarai, being ten years younger than he, must be sventy five; the Jews from hence have formed a rule or canon; that if a man marries a woman, and she has no children in ten years, he is obliged to marry another (h):
and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife; his secondary wife, or concubine; which, though contrary to the first institution of marriage, was connived at of God, and was practised by good men: nothing can excuse them but their earnest desire after the Messiah, the promised seed; and one may conclude, that nothing but this especially could move Sarai to take such a step, so contrary to the temper and disposition of women in common.
(h) Bereshit Rabba, ut supra. (sect. 45. fol. 40. 2.). Jarchi & Aben Ezra in loc.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. Sarai … gave her to … Abram to be his wife—"Wife" is here used to describe an inferior, though not degrading, relation, in countries where polygamy prevails. In the case of these female slaves, who are the personal property of his lady, being purchased before her marriage or given as a special present to her, no one can become the husband's secondary wife without her mistress consent or permission. This usage seems to have prevailed in patriarchal times; and Hagar, Sarai's slave, of whom she had the entire right of disposing, was given by her mistress' spontaneous offer, to be the secondary wife of Abram, in the hope of obtaining the long-looked-for heir. It was a wrong step—indicating a want of simple reliance on God—and Sarai was the first to reap the bitter fruits of her device.
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