Genesis 16 Chapter Commentary: Hagar and the Birth of Ishmael

This chapter begins with Sarai, Abram’s wife, unable to have children, and feeling desperate for a son to fulfill God’s promise of making Abram the father of a great nation. Sarai proposes that Abram take her maidservant, Hagar, as a wife to bear a child on Sarai’s behalf. Abram agrees to the plan, and Hagar becomes pregnant.

However, when Hagar becomes pregnant, tensions arise between her and Sarai. Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar, who runs away into the wilderness. In the wilderness, an angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her to return to Sarai and submit to her authority. The angel also tells Hagar that her son will be named Ishmael and that he will become the father of a great nation. Hagar returns to Sarai and Abram and gives birth to Ishmael. 

What’s the Main Point?

In chapter 16, God demonstrates his incredible and surreal commitment to keeping his promise. God found Hagar, consoled her, and guaranteed that her offspring would also become a nation. In this tale, we witness God’s amazing concern for the abandoned and oppressed.

What Can We Learn from This Chapter?

The story in Genesis 16 raises several important themes and issues. One of the central themes is the question of how to fulfill God’s promises. Sarai and Abram doubt that God will provide a son for them and take matters into their own hands, which leads to tension and conflict. The story also raises questions about the treatment of women and the practice of using surrogates, both of which are still issues in many parts of the world today.

The story of Genesis 16 can teach us important lessons about trust, kindness, God’s provision, and the consequences of sin.

The danger of taking matters into our own hands: Sarai and Abram doubted that God would provide a son for them and took matters into their own hands, which led to conflict and suffering. This can be a reminder to us that it is important to trust in God’s timing and to seek God’s guidance, rather than relying solely on our own understanding and desires.

The importance of treating others with kindness and respect: Hagar is mistreated by Sarai, and her mistreatment leads her to run away. This can be a reminder to us that it is important to treat others with kindness and respect, even when we are in difficult or stressful situations.

The power of God’s provision: Despite Sarai and Abram’s doubts and mistakes, God provides a son for them through Hagar. This can be a reminder to us that God’s provision and blessings can come in unexpected ways and that we should trust in God’s plan for our lives.

The consequences of sin: The story of Genesis 16 also shows us the consequences of sin, which can include conflict, suffering, and broken relationships. This can be a reminder to us that our actions have consequences and that we should strive to live in a way that is pleasing to God.


We thank you, Dear Father, for all the blessings we receive. You indeed are our Great Provider. Make us follow Jesus’ example of humility and meekness and help us share what we have to others who do not.

In Christ, we pray. Amen.

Image attribution for featured image:

Hagar and Ishmael by William Say (1768–1834), circa 1812. This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.

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