Abram had a child with his Egyptian servant Hagar because he listened to his wife, Sarai. Sarai was barren and thought she could make an heir for Abram by offering her handmaiden to bear his child. Instead of listening to God, Abram listened to his wife.
The impact of their decision was significant. God's promise to Abram for many descendants was not going to be honored through Ishmael, son of his maidservant, but through the birth of his son Isaac with Sarai.
God still blessed Ishmael to be the father of many nations. However, many nations would be adverse to him, and he opposed many nations. This outcome was not what God intended, but God still blessed Abram's consequences.
Also, the Angel of the Lord appears in this story to discuss if he was a messenger of God or God himself, appearing as an Angel to Abram and others throughout the Bible. Much like the modern-day Handmaiden's Tale, this family drama continues.
Thus, Genesis 16 tells the story of Sarai, renamed Sarah, who was barren even though God promised Abram a child and numerous descendants as the stars in the sky; Sarai was also old and did not believe she could bear a child as promised.
As frustration and doubt crept in, they both made a wrong decision. Out of desperation, Sarah devised a plan to fulfill God's promise by offering Hagar, her Egyptian maidservent, to carry Abram's first child, Ismael. This was the first surrogacy. Hagar was likely acquired during Abram's and Sarai's sojourn in Egypt--Genesis 12:10-20. She was an obedient household maidservant and agreed to become a surrogate mother. After she became pregnant, Sarai became jealous and humiliated by Hagar, who gave Abram his first son. Sarai began to mistreat Hagar, and tensions arose between them.
Hagar then fled into the wilderness to escape Sarah's harsh treatment. Now alone and vulnerable, she encountered God, the Angel of the Lord, by a spring in the desert--Genesis 16:7-14.
The Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself to come as an Angel to comfort and bless those He comes to. Here, He comforts Hagar and reassures her that she will bear a son named Ishmael, who will become the father of a great nation. The Angel told her that God saw her affliction and heard her cries. She called God "El-Roi," which means "the God who sees me."
God empathized with Hagar's afflictions and suffering as a marginalized and forgotten servant. He promises Hagar to bless Ismael to be a father of the Arab people as Abram's firstborn. Even this mistake of people taking matters into our own hands can be blessed by God. These biblical characters' human imperfections would have led to their destruction, but it did not alter God's promises to Abram.
Sarai acted in her understanding, not God's, to offer Hagar as a surrogate to cause strife within the family and new nations born under Ismael that would ultimately fight against Isacc's descendants--brother against brother. Just like Adam following Eve's sin to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of Good and Evil, Abram also listened to Sarai, creating unintended branches of their family tree--people and nations.
Hagar's story reveals God's character in knowing and understanding imperfections and their consequences to remain faithful despite our actions in doubt of His promises.
Naming God as "El-Roi" shows us that God sees and cares for the marginalized, oppressed, or distressed people in times of hardship. God sees us and hears our cries.
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