Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.Sarai is barren, Genesis 16:1. She gives Hagar, her servant, to Abram to be his wife, Genesis 16:2,3. Hagar conceives and despises her mistress, Genesis 16:4. Sarai complains of it, Genesis 16:5. Abram leaves her to Sarai’s disposal, who deals hardly with her: Hagar runs from her, Genesis 16:6. The angel of the Lord meets her, commands her to return and submit, Genesis 16:7-9. Promising her a numerous seed, Genesis 16:10; names the child, Genesis 16:11; foretells his disposition, Genesis 16:12. God’s looking on her in her affliction comforts her, Genesis 16:13,14. Her son born, and named, Genesis 16:15. Abram’s age, Genesis 16:16.
No text from Poole on this verse.
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.She reckons the children of her bond-woman (as Hagar was, Galatians 4:22) would be accounted her children. See Genesis 30:3 Exodus 21:4 2 Samuel 21:8 Esther 2:7.
Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai; supposing that God would accomplish his promise of a seed to come out of his loins by this way; and knowing that Sarai was not yet mentioned in the promise, as the person by whom he should have that seed; and not consulting with God, which he should have done.
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.1911 i.e. His concubine, or secondary wife. Polygamy, though it was forbidden by God’s first institution, Genesis 2:24, compared with Matthew 19:5, and brought into the world by wicked Lamech, yet it was sometimes practised by the patriarchs, either by God’s permission, who could rightly dispense with his own laws when and where he pleased; or by their mistake about the lawfulness of it. As for the present case, it is most evident this action was not the effect of an inordinate lust, but of an earnest desire of having children, and especially of obtaining the blessed and promised Seed.
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.For barrenness in itself was a reproach, and especially to Sarai, who seemed to be a person rejected by God, as one whom he would not honour with being the mother of that Seed; and Hagar being suddenly made Sarai’s partner in the privilege of Abram’s bed, and superior to her in respect of that great blessing of child-bearing, it is no wonder if she grew insolent upon it, especially being advanced so highly from so low a condition.
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.i.e. The injury done to me by Hagar, who thus wickedly requites my kindness to her, be upon thee. i.e. is to be imputed to thee; thou art the cause of it, because thou dost not maintain my reputation, and repress her arrogancy.
The Lord give forth a righteous sentence between us, and deal with each of us according to our guilt or innocency in this matter. Compare 1 Samuel 24:12,15.
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.Thy maid is in thine hand, i.e. subject to thy power and authority, as the phrase is taken, Genesis 24:10 39:4,6,8 Num 31:49. For though she be my concubine, yet she is thy inferior; and therefore if she exalt herself above her measure, I give thee power to exercise thy authority over her. But whether this was not one of Abram’s infirmities, to give up his second wife into the hands of the first, may well be questioned. Use whatsoever power God hath given thee over her; for we must not think that Abram gave her power of life and death over her, especially now when she was with child. Therefore here, as often elsewhere, the general words must be limited from the nature of the thing, and from other texts of Scripture, which forbid cruelty even to our servants.
And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, either by imposing labours upon her above her strength, or by grievous stripes which she could not bear,
she fled from her face, contrary to God’s command, Ecclesiastes 10:4, and to the laws of justice, because both her person and the fruit of her body were not her own, but Abram’s right in possession.
And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.The Son of God, who oft appeared in man’s shape, before he took man’s nature, is called an Angel or Messenger, because he was the Angel of the covenant, Malachi 3:1, and was sent upon divers messages to men in the Old Testament, and at last was to be sent in the flesh as God’s great Ambassador, or Messenger of peace and reconciliation.
Shur, a place near Egypt, Genesis 25:18 1 Samuel 15:7 Exodus 15:22, being her native country.
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.By this title he admonisheth her, that though she was Abram’s wife, yet she was Sarai’s maid, to whom she owed subjection and service, from which she could not lawfully withdraw herself. Consider with thyself what thou art doing: what a sad exchange thou art making. Thou forsakest not only an excellent master and husband, but also me and my worship, which thou wilt not find in any other family, and so castest thyself out of the true church, and art running headlong into a place of all idolatry and impiety, to thy utter undoing; and this merely through pride and impatience.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Hath heard thy cry in 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.He will be a wild man; Heb. A wild-ass man, i.e. a man like a wild ass, fierce and untamed, and unsettled in his habitation; or as that creature is, Job 39:5,8 Jer 2:24 Hosea 8:9, living in deserts and mountains, warlike and violent, exercising himself continually in hunting beasts, and oppressing men. See Genesis 21:20. He will provoke and injure all that converse with him, and thereby will multiply his enemies; which is to be understood not only of him, but also of his posterity.
And he shall dwell in the borders of the other sons and kindred of Abram and Isaac, who though they shall be vexed and annoyed with his neighbourhood, yet shall not be able to make him quit his habitation. See Genesis 25:18.
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?Thou God seest me; thou hast been pleased to take notice and care of me, and graciously to manifest thyself unto me.
After him that seeth me, i.e. after that God whose eye is upon me for good. So she chides herself for her neglect of God, and of his providence, and that not only in her master’s house, but even here in the wilderness, where her desolate and miserable condition should have made her look after and call upon God for help. Or rather, these are words of admiration: q.d. Have I also here, i.e. in this desolate wilderness,
looked after him that seeth me, i.e. seen the face of my gracious God! That God should appear to me in my master’s house, where he used to manifest himself, was not strange; but that I should have such a favour here, that God should not only look upon me, but admit me to look upon him, and visibly appear to me after I had run away from him, and from my godly master, this was more than I could hope or expect! Others thus, Have I here seen after him that sees me? i.e. after the vision of him that hath appeared to me? i.e. Do I yet see and live after I have seen God? She wonders at it, because it was then the common opinion that an appearance of God to any person was a forerunner of death. See Genesis 32:30 Exodus 33:20 Judges 6:22 13:22. And seeing is here put for living, one function of life for life itself, as Exodus 24:11 Ecclesiastes 11:7,8. But the word seeing put by itself, as here it is, is neither in those places, nor elsewhere, used for living. And had that been her meaning, she would have expressed it plainly, as they do in the places alleged, and not have used so dark and dubious a metaphor, nor would have said, after him that sees me, but rather, after I have seen him.
Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.This name may have respect, either,
1. To God, The well of him that liveth (i.e. of the true and living God) and seeth me, i.e. taketh care of me. Or,
2. To Hagar, The well of her that liveth, i.e. who though she gave up herself for dead and lost, yet now is likely to live, both in her person and in her posterity, and seeth, or did see, namely, God present with her.
And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.Hagar bare Abram a son, to wit, after her return and submission to her mistress, which is evident from the following history.
And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.No text from Poole on this verse.