Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
In Genesis 16:7 we meet a familiar personage in the Old Testament for the first time – at least by the name given here. “The Angel of the Lord.”
“angel” = מֲלְאָךְ mălʼâk, mal-awk’; from an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher):—ambassador, angel, king, messenger.
We get a glimpse of the mystery that is “The Angel of the Lord” in this section of text itself. The Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar (verse 7) but the text says in verse 13 “she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her.” Lord, in verse 13, is the tetragrammaton (Yahweh/Jehovah.) This blending of angel and Yahweh is not an isolated occurrence. In Exodus 3:2, the Angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush. In Exodus 3:4, though, we read that the Lord called saw that Moses turned aside. To complicate matters more, we read that God / “the gods” (‘elohiym) then call to Moses out of the midst of the bush.
Wikipedia has an article which summarizes a lot of the various thoughts as to what is going on here. I’ll share an excerpt here below.
Most appearances of the “angel of the Lord” leave the reader with the question of whether it was an angel or YHWH who appeared. Apart from the view that “the angel of the Lord is just that—an angel“, a wide array of solutions have been offered, such as making the angel an earthly manifestation (avatar) of the God of Israel or of Christ.
In the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) Hugh Pope writes: “The earlier Fathers, going by the letter of the text in the Septuagint, maintained that it was God Himself who appeared as the Giver of the Law to Moses. It was not unnatural then for Tertullian […] to regard such manifestations in the light of preludes to the Incarnation, and most of the Eastern Fathers followed the same line of thought.” Pope quotes the view of Theodoret that this angel was probably Christ, “the Only-begotten Son, the Angel of great Counsel”, and contrasts Theodoret’s view with the opposite view of the Latin Fathers Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great that it was no more than an angel, a view that, he says, “was destined to live in the Church, and the Scholastics reduced it to a system”. As an exponent of this view he quotes Augustine, who declared that “the angel is correctly termed an angel if we consider him himself, but equally correctly is he termed ‘the Lord’ because God dwells in him.” He indicates, however, that within the Catholic Church the opposite view was also upheld.
The appearances of the “angel of the Lord” are in fact often presented as theophanies, appearances of YHWH himself rather than a separate entity acting on his behalf. In Genesis 31:11–13, “the angel of God” says, “I am the God of Beth-el”. In Exodus 3:2–6 “the angel of Yahweh” (מלאך יהוה) appeared to Moses in the flame of fire, and then “Yahweh” (יהוה) says to him: “I am the God of thy father”. Compare also Genesis 22:11; Judges 6:11–22. At times the angel of the Lord speaks in such a way as to assume authority over previous promises (see Gen. 16:11 and 21:17). According to the New American Bible, the visual form under which God appeared and spoke to men is referred to indifferently in some Old Testament texts either as God’s angel or as God himself.
Another interpretation builds on the usage by which ancient spokesmen, after an introductory phrase, used the grammatically first person in proclaiming the point of view of the one they represent.
Another proposal is Samuel A. Meier’s interpolation theory, which holds that, originally, stories in which there is ambiguity between Yahweh and the “angel of Yahweh” were written with Yahweh himself delivering the message. Later, copyists inserted the term mal’akh before the divine name to modify the narratives, in order to meet the standards of a changing theology which more strongly emphasized a transcendent God. If the term mal’akh is removed from these passages, the remaining story fits neatly with a “default” format in Near Eastern literature in which the deity appears directly to humans without an intermediary. The addition of mal’akh does not require any change in the form of the verbs connected to it, since both mal’akh and a deity such as Yahweh or Elohim are of masculine grammatical gender and since the noun before which mal’akh is introduced remains unaffected on the consonantal level. On the other hand, the removal of the word mal’akh from the narration usually makes it more coherent and in line with its Ancient Near East literary context.
Although Wojciech Kosior favours this interpolation theory, he mentions some unsolved difficulties connected with it: the large number of similar theophanies in which the word mal’akh has not been added to the names of Yahweh and Elohim and the fact that it is never associated with names such as El-Elyon, El-Shadday or El-Ro’eh worshipped by the biblical Hebrews.
Returning to the text, where was Hagar going? Ellicott’s Bible Commentary provides an answer.
(7) The angel of the Lord.—Heb., of Jehovah. (See Excursus at end of Book.)
In the way to Shur.—Hagar evidently fled by the usual route leading from Hebron past Beer-sheba to Egypt. The wilderness was that of Paran, in which Kadesh was situated. The fountain by which Hagar was sitting was on the road to Shur, which is a desert on the eastern side of Egypt, forming the boundary of the territory of the Ishmaelites (Genesis 25:18) and of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 27:8), and reached by the Israelites soon after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:22; Numbers 33:8). It is now called J’afar.
David Guzik’s Commentary makes an insightful note regarding The Angel of the Lord’s command to Hagar:
b. Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand: God told Hagar to do something very difficult; to go back to her terrible situation and to submit herself to Sarai. We can suppose that Hagar might get very different counseling from many counselors today.
What was not promised?
- You will be elevated above Sarai
- Your treatment from Sarai will improve.
- You will eventually cease to be a servant.
The Angel of the Lord did not tell Hagar that her present circumstances will EVER improve in any way. However, promises were made:
- I will multiply your offspring beyond counting.
- The baby you are carrying will be a boy.
- You will name the boy Ishmael.
- Your boy will be “a wild donkey of a man”
From Ellicott’s Commentary:
(12) He will be a wild man.—Heb., he will be a wild-ass man. The wild ass of the Arabian deserts is a very noble creature, and is one of the animals selected in the Book of Job as especially exemplifying the greatness of God (Job 39:5-8). Its characteristics are great speed, love of solitude, and an untamable fondness of liberty. It is thus the very type of the Bedaween Arabs, whose delight is to rove at will over the desert, and who despise the ease and luxury of a settled life.
His hand will be against every man . .·.—The Bedaween can be bound by no treaties, submit to no law, and count plunder as legitimate gain. Nevertheless—
He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.—That is, he shall maintain his independence, and his descendants shall continue to exist as a free race in the presence of the other Abrahamic nations. Many commentators, however, consider that the more exact rendering is, he shall dwell to the east of all his brethren. This is certainly the meaning of the word in Genesis 25:6, but does not suit equally well there in Genesis 25:18.
I’m not mature enough to avoid laughing at that note.
The Pulpit Commentary agrees with Ellicott in identifying the Bedouin as the descendants of Ishmael.
Verse 12. – And he will be a wild man. Literally, a wild ass (of a) man; the פֶּרֶא, snarler, being so called from its swiftness of foot (cf. Job 39:5-8), and aptly depicting “the Bedouin s boundless love of freedom as he rides about in the desert, spear in hand, upon his camel or his horse, hardy, frugal, reveling in the varied beauty of nature, and despising town life in every form” (Keil). As Ishmael and his offspring are here called “wild ass men,” so Israel is designated by the prophet “sheep men” (Ezekiel 36:37, 38). His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. Exemplified in the turbulent and lawless character of the Bedouin Arabs and Saracens for upwards of thirty centuries. “The Bedouins are the outlaws among the nations. Plunder is legitimate gain, and daring robbery is praised as valor (Kalisch). And he shall dwell in the presence of – literally, before the face of, L e. to the east of (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Tuch, Knobel, Delitzsch); or, “everywhere before the eyes of” (Kalisch, Wordsworth); or, independently of (Calvin, Keil, Lunge, Murphy) – all his brethren. The Arabs of today are “just as they were described by the spirit of prophecy nearly 4000 years ago” (Porter’s ‘Giant Cities of Bashan,’ pp. 28, 31, 324).
Chabad.org has an interesting write-up on Hagar, Ishmael, and the claim that Arabs and Bedouins descend from Ishmael.
According to the Midrash, Hagar was the daughter of King Pharaoh of Egypt. When she saw the miracle which G‑d performed for the sake of Sarah, to save her from the hands of the Egyptian king during Abraham’s visit there, she said: “It is better to be a slave in Sarah’s house than a princess in my own.”
Our Sages give Hagar much credit for not being frightened at having seen the divine angel, while even Manoah, as the T’nach tells us, feared that he would die because he had seen an angel of G‑d. This, say our Sages, shows how pious Hagar was, and how she had become adjusted to the saintly life of Abraham’s house, where angels came and went as constant guests.
Many of our ancient Sages speak favorably of Hagar who never remarried. She lived together with her son who had built his home on the edge of the wilderness and became a famous hunter. The Sages say that he possessed Adam’s coat which he had taken from King Nimrod. (This coat gave the wearer power over animals).
The Midrash tells us that not only was Hagar reunited with Abraham, but her son, too, became a penitent and returned to the G‑d whom he had served in his father’s house, and whom he had forsaken during his wild life as a hunter and ruler of nations. Abraham thus lived to see Ishmael become his true son.
I will touch one some of this some more when we see the older Ishmael in upcoming verses. Following up on the article above, here (from Jewish Women’s Archives) is another source with additional potential details.
Gen. 25:1 tells that Abraham took an additional wife named Keturah. The Tannaim disagree regarding the identity of this woman (see Gen. Rabbah 61:4). In most of the midrashim Keturah is identified with Hagar. The Rabbis maintain that this marriage took place only after Sarah’s death (Genesis Rabbah 60:16, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer loc. cit.). One midrash relates that God was revealed to Abraham after the death of Sarah and commanded him to return his divorced wife Hagar (Gen. Rabbah 61:4), while another tradition has Isaac initiating his father’s marriage (Tanhuma, Hayyei Sarah 8).
One explanation of this identification derives Hagar’s appellation as Keturah as having the meaning of binding or sealing, since she remained chaste and had not known another man until Abraham brought her back (Gen. Rabbah 61:4). Other interpretations of Keturah as another name of Hagar reveal the Rabbis’ positive attitude to her: she was named Keturah because she was perfumed (mekuteret) with commandments and good deeds (Gen. Rabbah loc. cit.) and because her deeds were as fine as incense (ketoret; Tanhuma loc. cit.).
Adam’s Coat? Nimrod wore it? Huh? (This is a rabbit hole and it stems from The Book of Jashar.)
Yasher 7:24 And the garments of skin which God made for Adam and his woman, when they went out of the garden, were given to Cush.
25 For after the death of Adam and his woman, the garments were given to Enoch, the son of Jared, and when Enoch was taken up to God, he gave them to Methuselah, his son.
26 And at the death of Methuselah, Noah took them and brought them to the ark, and they were with him until he went out of the ark.
27 And in their going out, Ham stole those garments from Noah his father, and he took them and hid them from his brothers.
28 And when Ham begat his first-born Cush, he gave him the garments in secret, and they were with Cush many days.
29 And Cush also concealed them from his sons and brothers, and when Cush had begotten Nimrod, he gave him those garments through his love for him, and Nimrod grew up, and when he was twenty years old he put on those garments.
30 And Nimrod became strong when he put on the garments, …
The Book of Jashar states though that Esau, not Ishmael, ended up with the coat after killing Nimrod. I will do some more research in the next couple of days and see what I can find regarding Ishmael ending up with that coat.
The Baháʼí Faith also has traditions regarding Hagar.
According to the Baháʼí Faith, the Báb was a descendant of Abraham and Hagar, and God made a promise to spread Abraham’s seed. The Baháʼí Publishing House released a text on the wives and concubines of Abraham and traces their lineage to five different religion
Getting back on track, the verses above conclude as follows:
13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. 15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
God = אֵל ʼêl, ale; shortened from H352; strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity):—God (god), × goodly, × great, idol, might(-y one), power, strong. Compare names in ‘-el.’
sees me = רֳאִי rŏʼîy, ro-ee’; from H7200; sight, whether abstractly (vision) or concretely (a spectacle):—gazingstock, look to, (that) see(-th).
Well of the Living One Seeing Me =
בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי Bᵉʼêr la-Chay Rôʼîy, be-ayr’ lakh-ah’ee ro-ee’; from H875 and H2416 (with prefix) and H7203; well of a living (One) my Seer; Beer-Lachai-Roi, a place in the Desert:—Beer-lahai-roi.
From Guzik’s Commentary:
a. You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees: Hagar knew this was no mere angel who appeared to her. The Angel of the Lord was also the-God-Who-Sees, the same One watching over Hagar and Ishmael.
i. Ishmael was the first man in the Bible to receive his name before he was born — setting him in the same company as John the Baptist and Jesus.
b. So Hagar bore Abram a son: Apparently, Hagar did return with a submitted heart. She told the whole story to Abram and Sarai, and Abram named the child Ishmael, just as instructed in the meeting with the Angel of the Lord Hagar described.
i. Hagar might have returned and said, “I fled from you all because I was so miserable and thought I could not continue here. But the Lord met me and told me He would see me through. He told me to come back and submit to you, so that is why I’m here.” After meeting with El Roi, (You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees), Hagar knew that if God could be with her in the wilderness, He would be with her in having to submit to Sarai also.
ii. “If we seek to change our circumstances, we will jump from the frying pan into the fire. We must be triumphant exactly where we are. It is not a change of climate we need, but a change of heart. The flesh wants to run away, but God wants to demonstrate His power exactly where we have known our greatest chagrin.” (Barnhouse)
It is not insignificant that Ishmael’s name was given before his birth. As the note above states… that’s a rare occurrence in the Bible.