When the Rich and Powerful Abuse

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 16[1]

God promised Abram Sarai would have a baby the day he arrived in Canaan. Ten years later they were still waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Sarai decided she would have to take matters in her own hand for them to have a baby. She resorted to an acceptable practice in their day – use a surrogate. When Abram agreed with Sarai’s plan, Hagar, an Egyptian servant, had no choice but to submit to the desires of the rich and powerful.

Sarai’s plan backfired. Pregnant with Abram’s child emboldened Hagar to treat Sarai with contempt. Sarai complained to her husband. But this wasn’t Abram’s plan, and he did not want to be bothered. “You deal with it,” he said. Sarai had the power to make Hagar’s life a misery and she did. Hagar had enough of being used and abused. She fled, but had nowhere to go.

God knew his people acted badly and took pity on Hagar. He dispatched an angel to right the wrongs committed by his people. The Angel delivered both good and bad news that gives us insight into God’s character.

The bad news first: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”[2] Running away from a problem seldom works. Hagar had been abused but confronting abuse with abuse by treating Sarai with contempt made Hagar no better than Sarai. She must return and reconcile with Sarai.

The good news: “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”[3] Then God compensated Hagar for the misery that had been inflicted upon her. He named her son Ishmael and said Ishmael would live in hostility toward all his brothers. Those who created misery in her life would also know misery. The numerous children of Ishmael have been a thorn in the side of the numerous children of Isaac to the present day.

God also gave Hagar everything he gave Abram. Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve sons who became a great multitude. Ishmael had twelve sons who became a great multitude.[4]   God could give to Hagar and her children the promises he made to Abram, because those promises never belonged exclusively to one family. Generations would elapse before the son God had in mind would enter the world. Hagar and her children could obtain God’s promises the same way Abram did. Through faith in the seed God had on his mind – Jesus.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 16:9

[3] Genesis 16:10

[4][4] 1 Chronicles 1:29

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