Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
Ge 16:1-16. Bestowment of Hagar.
1. Now, Sarai … had a handmaid—a female slave—one of those obtained in Egypt.
And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
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.
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
5. And Sarai said … My wrong be upon thee—Bursts of temper, or blows, as the original may bear, took place till at length Hagar, perceiving the hopelessness of maintaining the unequal strife, resolved to escape from what had become to her in reality, as well as in name, a house of bondage.
But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
7. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain—This well, pointed out by tradition, lay on the side of the caravan road, in the midst of Shur, a sandy desert on the west of Arabia-Petræa, to the extent of a hundred fifty miles, between Palestine and Egypt. By taking that direction, she seems to have intended to return to her relatives in that country. Nothing but pride, passion, and sullen obstinacy, could have driven any solitary person to brave the dangers of such an inhospitable wild; and she would have died, had not the timely appearance and words of the angel recalled her to reflection and duty.
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.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
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.
11. Ishmael—Like other Hebrew names, this had a signification, and it is made up of two words—"God hears." The reason is explained.
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.
12. he will be a wild man—literally, "a wild ass man," expressing how the wildness of Ishmael and his descendants resembles that of the wild ass.
his hand will be against every man—descriptive of the rude, turbulent, and plundering character of the Arabs.
dwell in the presence of all his brethren—dwell, that is, pitch tents; and the meaning is that they maintain their independence in spite of all attempts to extirpate or subdue them.
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?
13. called the name—common in ancient times to name places from circumstances; and the name given to this well was a grateful recognition of God's gracious appearance in the hour of Hagar's distress.
Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.