Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 16:4, 6, 7, 11-12, 15

4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

6 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.

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.

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.

15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

Hagar’s success in conceiving a son became a point of competition between her and Sarai, not an unusual thing in these Biblical records. When Sarai dealt harshly with her, Hagar ran away, but while out in the wilderness she was met by an angel who told her to return and pronounced the future of her posterity.

Ultimately Hagar was not to bear the covenant line. This was the Lord’s domain, and He had chosen to reserve the promised blessings for Isaac. But Hagar and Ishmael were not forgotten by the Lord, He had reserved a destiny for them as well.

Hagar and her son were to become vagabonds, their path would be fraught with hardship and competition, just as Hagar had competed with Sarai, but in the end they would become one of the most prolific cultures in the entire world. Today the Islamic way of life, which perpetuates from Ishmael’s line, is second only to Christianity, comprising about a quarter of the entire world population! Hagar may have met the angel in a very humbling circumstance, but a storied and epic destiny awaited her posterity.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 16:1-3

1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

2 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.

3 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.

The Biblical record comes from a very different culture than the one we have today, especially the Old Testament portion of it. A wife giving a servant to be a second wife to her husband is entirely incompatible with today’s social norms for a number of reasons.

While morals are constant, challenges and priorities do change, and with them our measure of what is socially acceptable behavior. I don’t think any of us can fully empathize with what it was like to live in the time and place of Abram and Sarai, and thus we are not equipped to judge their behavior. If they genuinely felt that they were being moral, then that is enough. Nor do we need to apologize for following a different behavior today. If we genuinely believe that we are moral, then that is enough.

I do think that there is something admirable to how Abram and Sarai are trying to do their part to make God’s promise a reality. This effort of theirs is ultimately not the fulfillment that the Lord has in mind, He intends to perform a miracle on their behalf just a little down the road. But they don’t know that yet, and so they are faithfully trying to help out how they can.