Abram told Sarai the good news and the not so good news God revealed in the vision. Sarai had no hope of bearing a child, and God had not mentioned her in the vision. He did, however, assure Abram that he would be the father of a son to inherit his wealth and guaranteed Abram would receive the blessings by giving the land to a future seed of Abraham.
Sarai’s husband had been pursuing the beloved city for decades. By now, Sarai was riddled with guilt that God’s plan would fail, and it would be her fault. If Abram waited for her to get pregnant, he would never have a son to occupy the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. She approached Abram with a solution.
Genesis 16:1-4 NAS95 (1) Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. (2) So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (3) After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. (4) He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.
Sarai blamed “the Lord” for her barrenness. Feeling God had excluded her from his plan, she chose a servant to become Abram’s wife that will produce the Seed. While we might raise our eyebrows at Sarai’s remedy, it was an acceptable one according to the customs and laws of her day. But this solution was not acceptable to God. Sarai did not think she was important to God’s plan, but God did. When Sarai presented her solution to Abram, neither she nor Abram fully understood God’s plan. God, not Abram, would be the Father of the Seed destined to receive the fulfillment of the promises.
God formed this plan before he laid the foundations of creation, and he did not need Sarai and Abram’s “help” to make it work. He spoke about the Seed in the Garden of Eden centuries before Abram and Sarai were born. To the serpent who slandered him God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).
God’s quarrel is with serpents who spread lies about him. He fights his own battles and repays those who hate him to their face. He promised the serpent that a woman would produce the Seed destine to destroy his lie and the death it created. He never needed Abram to produce a son. He needed Abram to produce a daughter who would give birth to the second Adam, a man created by God not from the earth but in the womb of a virgin woman.
Abram agreed with Sarai’s plan and consummated his marriage to Hagar. But Hagar was nothing more than a means to an end. They called her a “wife” to justify their deeds but never treated her like one. When Hagar became pregnant, she grew proud and despised Sarai who still treated her like a servant.
Genesis 16:5-6 NAS95 (5) And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.” (6) But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.
Sarai had not expected Hagar, her now pregnant servant, to act like a wife. Once she began experiencing the flaws in her plan, she put the weight of guilt for the mess they created on Abram. Apparently, they could not decide who bore the greater blame, so Sarai called on God to judge between her and Abram.
Abram washed his hands of the whole affair. This was your idea. She is your maid. Your problem. Sarai then dealt harshly with Hagar for doing exactly what Sarai wanted her to do—become pregnant with Abram’s child.
After Abram and Sarai accomplished their purpose, they were mad at each other and angry with Hagar. Yet the only one who had been wronged was Hagar. God’s people did whatever they wanted without regard for the suffering they created in Hagar’s life. Sarai felt she had been wronged by her husband, even though he did what she wanted him to do, so she called on God to judge. But the only one wronged was Hagar.
James 3:14-16 NAS95 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. (15) This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. (16) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
The selfish ambition at the root of Sarai’s plan created a problem for the nation their family became that plagues them to this day.