Genesis 16:1 – 18:15

Yesterday we saw how Lot was an obstacle to God blessing Abram with land.  God removed the obstacle.  Today we see another potential obstacle to the blessing.  By reading the text as it stands, we might think that Abram believed he had achieved the blessing by sleeping with Hagar.  We might also believe that Abram continued in that way of thinking for thirteen years.  However, God’s messenger turns up at Abram’s door to tell him and Sarai directly that they will both be involved in God fulfilling the promise of the birth of a great nation.

Genesis 16:1 – 18:15

 1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
      Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
      When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

 6 “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

 7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
      “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

 9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

 11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
       “You are now with child
       and you will have a son.
       You shall name him Ishmael, <SUP class=footnote value='[a]’>[a]
       for the LORD has heard of your misery.

 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
       his hand will be against everyone
       and everyone’s hand against him,
       and he will live in hostility
       toward <SUP class=footnote value='[b]’>[b] all his brothers.”

 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen <SUP class=footnote value='[c]’>[c] the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi <SUP class=footnote value='[d]’>[d] ; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

 15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty <SUP class=footnote value='[e]’>[e] ; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram <SUP class=footnote value='[f]’>[f] ; your name will be Abraham, <SUP class=footnote value='[g]’>[g] for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

 9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. <SUP class=footnote value='[h]’>[h] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

 23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. 

 1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

 3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, <SUP class=footnote value='[i]’>[i] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
      “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs <SUP class=footnote value='[j]’>[j] of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
      “There, in the tent,” he said.

 10 Then the LORD <SUP class=footnote value='[k]’>[k] said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
      Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master <SUP class=footnote value='[l]’>[l] is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
      But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”


  1. What is the presenting problem?
  2. What is Hagar’s solution?
  3. What is the resulting conflict?
  4. How does God resolve the conflict?
  5. What does this tell us about the nature of God?

Going Deeper


  • To whom does Sarai attribute the cause of her having no children?
  • What happened to Hagar’s attitude when she became pregnant?
  • Who found Hagar and sent her back to her mistress?
  • What was the name of Hagar’s son?
  • What was to be the sign of the covenant between Abraham and God?


  • What was the local custom for married women who bore no children?
  • How would Hagar view her relationship with the gods after she becomes pregnant?
  • Who is ‘The Angel of the LORD’?
  • How extensively was circumcision practiced before Abraham?
  • was Sarah not present when the angel visited Abraham because it was her time of the month?  Did it come upon her suddenly when the angel arrived (This is the view of the NIV Application Commentary)?


  • Are children still a blessing from God?
  • Are barren couples cursed?
  • Would an increase in faith on the part of a barren couple lead to pregnancy?
  • How has God handled an honest mistake in the past to bring blessing on everyone concerned?
  • How would you deal with one of life’s blessings that you greatly desire (marriage, children, financial security) being withheld from you?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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5 Responses to Genesis 16:1 – 18:15

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Peter – I’m giving this commenting thing a shot…I hope this ends up in the right place!My first of probably many questions is at the beginning of today’s entry, you mentioned that yesterday we saw how Lot was an obstacle for Abram. I went back and reread yesterday’s passage, but I am still missing that point. How was Lot an obstacle? I am reading/seeing only that Abram followed God’s command and Lot went with him. How was Lot an obstacle?

  2. Jonna would like to disregard her last comment. She was looking back at Saturday’s post. It seems somebody forgot to email out Sunday’s reading? Not saying names, but I’m just saying.

  3. Per your application questions – I don’t think a barren couple is “cursed,” nor do I think a deeper faith would guarantee children. I believe that God has a path for all of us, and in some cases, having our own biological children might not be it. I don’t know how I would deal with one of life’s blessings being withheld from me. But I hope I would be able to see the blessings that were given to me, and look to the Lord to develop a better understanding of where he is trying to lead me by withholding such blessings. But again, easier said than done. Imagine some people dealing with marital problems, financial issues, and sick children at the same time. Right now I am so incredibly blessed I take it for granted way too much. This study helps to point that out!

  4. You are indeed talented and blessed.  Good thoughts.

  5. Sunday’s e-mail got stuck in some kind of delay.  I e-mailed it late on Sunday and Mum didn’t get it until Monday.

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