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Genesis 16-18 Listen
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.
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.
5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
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.
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
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.
13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
They've been in Canaan now for 10 years and still no child. Sarai gets an idea; take Hagar my Egyptian handmaid as your second wife; she'll give us a son. Abraham's good with that idea, and Hagar conceives. That's where the trouble really begins. Hagar gets a little snooty with Sarai (verse 4). Abraham grants Sarai permission to deal with his second wife causing Hagar to fly the coop. After being intercepted by "the angel of the LORD" on her way back to Egypt, she willingly returns to Abram and Sarai for the birth of her child...with an attitude adjustment I assume. It's interesting what the angel told her about her not-yet-born son, Ishmael, in Genesis 16:12, "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every mans hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." As it turns out, Ishmael had twelve sons (Genesis 17:20, see below) who dispersed all over the Arabian Peninsula. And just as the angel said in verse 10, his descendants, the Arabs, are too plenteous to number. Come to think of it, they're a scrappy bunch too...just as the angel said (verse 12). Not just scrappy, but history reveals that, indeed, verse 12 is validated among Ishmael's Arab descendants even today.
We see in verse 13 that this "angel of the LORD" is identified as "Jehovah/Yahweh" himself. As a matter of fact, Hagar expresses concern in that she has seen God. Later on, we see in Exodus 33:20 (see notes), "And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live."
Whoa...here's an interesting comparison: Notice how similar this incident is to Eve's encouragement to Adam in the garden with regard to the fruit. Both ideas were conjured up by the women, offered to the men, and both had bad outcomes. Incidentally, according to verse 16, Abraham is 86 years old when Ishmael is born, and Sarai is 76 or so.
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
Let's do an age recap for Abraham. He was 75 years old when he left Haran, 86 when Ishmael was born, and now he's 99 years old without a child between Sarah and himself. Sarah's 90 years old. God speaks to Abraham and reiterates his covenant with him while changing his name from Abram to Abraham and Sarai's name from Sarai to Sarah. In verse 8 God once again states that all of Canaan will be his possession and that he will be the father of many nations (verses 4-6). Now here's the token of that covenant - circumcision of male children on the eighth day. What about the adults in Abraham's household? It's retroactive; they get circumcised also. As a matter of fact, notice how much importance is stressed by God himself regarding this practice for the descendants of Abraham in verse 14, "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." The "token" of God's covenant with Abraham would continue to be circumcision - still recognized as such in Jesus' day among the Jews and even among Jews today. In verses 23-27 we see that every male under Abraham's domain was circumcised that very same day. What a day!
Lest we underestimate the significance and importance of ritual circumcision note this entry to be found in a Jewish work, the Jewish Study Bible.
Just as the rainbow is the sign of the Noahide covenant (9:12-17), so is circumcision the sign of the Abrahamic. It thus becomes a matter of the highest importance in Judaism. A Second Temple source reports that when the Seleucid King Antiochus IV prohibited circumcision (a favorite target of anti–Semites), Jewish mothers chose martyrdom over neglect of the commandment (1 Macc. 1:60–61). Rabbinic law requires that a (healthy) Jewish boy be circumcised on the eighth day of his life (v. 12) even if it is the Sabbath. Although arguments for the hygienic value of circumcision have been made since the mid–19th century, the Torah knows nothing of these and sees circumcision ("berit milah") as a religious duty incumbent only on Jews. The procedure of hygienic circumcision is not identical to that performed by a "mohel" (ritual circumciser) in a "berit milah."
The day also includes a laugh line: Ol' Sarah is going to be a mommy. Abraham must have felt pretty comfortable talking with God to laugh out loud as he did in verse 17 when told by God that a couple of near-centenarians were going to have a baby. You must admit, God's promises had unfolded pretty slowly for Abraham over the last 24 years - at least by today's fast-food standards. Abraham was content to have Ishmael only as his heir, but God had something better. He was to have a pre-named son, Isaac, through whom all the promises of the covenant would flow. This is an important point. Look at what verse 19 tells us about God's covenant through Isaac, "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." Poor Ishmael; all this time he thought he was going to be the sole heir to Abraham. What a difference a day makes! But before you feel too sorry for Ishmael, he does get a handsome guarantee in verse 20, "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." That's right...there are your Arabs of today - fulfilling the prophecy of 16:12 and still plotting the destruction of Abraham's descendants through Isaac, the Jewish nation of Israel. We see those "twelve princes" of Ishmael in Genesis 25:12-16 (see notes).
1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
Keep in mind, Sarah is 90 years old. Abraham had already been told she would bear a son, but he apparently had not passed that information on to her. I guess in a day filled with several hundred circumcisions, he just didn't get around to it.
When the LORD (aka Jehovah aka Yahweh) appears along with two other men here, Sarah is listening in on the conversation with her husband when the Lord tells Abraham that she will bear a son next year, even though all the child-bearing-age symptoms had long departed from her. Verse 11 clearly says, "Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women." The notion of a 90-year-old woman bearing a child is just...well...too funny to take seriously. Sarah laughs, but only to herself. I guess, technically, she felt she was correct when accused by the angel of laughing and denying it.
There's a very high commendation for Abraham here in verse 19 when the angel says, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." Well, that's it for the good news; now the conversation turns solemn. By the way...angels can't read minds, but God can. When it says in verse 12, "Sarah laughed within herself," the LORD knew it. Sarah denies it in verse 15, but you can't fool God.
OK...let's get it straight! Is it "Jehovah" or "Yahweh?" Now is a good time to establish an important key for reading the Old Testament. Today's translations of the Old Testament capitalize all four letters in the name "LORD" to indicate that the Hebrew word from which it is translated is "Jehovah" (aka "Yahweh"). When only the first letter ("L") is capitalized, it is a translation of the Hebrew word "adonay." The distinction in Hebrew is clear; "adonay" is the general term for reference to a master while "Jehovah" is reserved in the Old Testament as the formal name of the God of the Hebrews, the one true God.
There is no question in this passage that Abraham is meeting with Jehovah himself (as the word reflects) just as he did in Genesis 12 (see notes) when he originally received his first promise from God (Genesis 12:7). Incidentally, the consonants that form the word "Jehovah/Yahweh" can be pronounced both ways. Since observant Jews through the ages did not pronounce the word as a practice, the exact pronunciation was not preserved. That is why some people today pronounce it "Jehovah," while others pronounce it "Yahweh." Technically speaking, however, there is no "j" sound in Hebrew; those words actually begin with a hard "y" consonant. Observant Jews today still do not pronounce the name of God. Additionally, you may have noticed that observant Jews today likewise write the word "God" as "G-D" for the same reason. It is felt by them that the name of God should not be spoken or written casually - only in prayer.
What are we going to do about Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:20-33)
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.
30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
The LORD is on his way to Sodom and Gomorrah, a place that has turned very wicked; God is ready to destroy it. Then an amusing negotiation takes place between the LORD and Abraham. Really, it's only a negotiation in Abraham's own mind; God, of course, knows that there are not even 10 righteous people in this wicked city. Now for the hard part...finding 10 righteous people there. The LORD departs. By the way, we don't have an exact location for Sodom and Gomorrah. Most agree that it was in the vicinity of the Dead Sea; some say southern edge and some northern. One thing's for sure - complete destruction in Genesis 19 (see notes). Incidentally, the LORD does not accompany the two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 22).
We should note that God's treatment of Abraham in this passage is as a prophet. God supernaturally reveals his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham intercedes on behalf of the people. As a matter of fact, God identifies Abraham as a prophet in Genesis 20:7 (see notes).