Beef Between Brides: Genesis 16

Posted: February 4, 2011 in Devotionals

Sin sucks. As we’ve seen over and over already….it wrecks relationships. First and foremost it wrecks our relationship with God…and then… part of the fallout of that is our relationships with other people get wrecked as well. Relationships, whether it be mother-daughter, brother-sister, co-worker-boss, or whatever, are often filled with drama and grudges and broken promises and heartache, etc. Don‘t get me wrong…there’s obviously lots of good/ pleasant things about relationships, but because of sin, strife and drama is often part of the reality for us in relationships.

In Genesis 16, we get to see more of Abram’s family drama. This time, it’s as “close to home” as you can get. Abraham finds himself smack in the middle of some drama that begins with his wife Sarai. In the beginning of the chapter we find out that Sarai wasn’t able to have children. In her mind this would have been very problematic. Not being able to have kids was very shameful in this culture. Contrast that to our culture where people just kill children they don’t want for one reason or another. Not being able to have children was also problematic for Sarai in light of the promise the LORD made to Abram. Abram was told that he would have his very own son. How is that supposed to happen, if presently it looks like Abe and Sarai can’t have kids? And so the problems begin…

Sarai has a bright idea….she suggests that Abe marry their maid, Hagar. Maybe they could have kids that way. This seems really strange to us….but this practice wasn’t unheard of in Abraham’s day (which doesn’t mean it’s okay by the way). Here’s what went down…Sarai recognized that her childlessness was due to the LORD as we see in verse 2.

“…the LORD has prevented me from bearing children….”


Instead of believing what the LORD said, she decides that she could maybe give him a little help. And Abram…the one whom the LORD spoke to directly, assuring him that he would have his own son….what does he do? Does he say, “you know what Sarai…this is what the LORD said…we should really take him at his word. We should believe him. Have faith in Him.” Nope. Verse 2,

“…And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai”.


Instead of listening to the LORD….Abe listened to his wife. Now..please don’t hear me encouraging guys to not listen to their wives. That’s not my point. My point is, Sarai’s suggestion was a clear departure from faith in God. She suggested what she did because she didn’t believe that the LORD would do what he said he would do. And Abe shows a lack of faith as well. He just goes right along with the suggestion. Sounds a lot like the first man and woman huh?

There’s lessons for us to learn from this. The temptation will always exist to listen to voices other than the LORD’s. It’s hard to live by faith in God. It seems easier for us to call all the shots and just do things our own way, but that never works. When voices (friends, loved ones, etc) tell us things that contradict what God has said or make suggestions that would involve us not trusting God if we take them, then we shouldn’t listen. We should respectfully, lovingly, and if need be forcefully say…I can’t do that.

Back to the story….

So, Abe listens to Sarai and he marries Hagar. Some time after that Hagar ends up pregnant with Abe’s baby. Celebration time right? Wrong! Hagar started treating Sarai like trash. She would rub the fact that she was pregnant in Sarai’s face. She thought she was better than Sarai because she was pregnant with a son and Sarai didn’t have any children. Just plain mean. So Hagar and Sarai had beef with each other.

“she [Hagar] looked with contempt on her mistress [Sarai].”    Verse 4.


On top of that, because of the drama that now existed between herself and Hagar, Sarai got upset with Abram. It was if she said, “This is all your fault!” Crazy huh? It was her idea in the first place and now she’s mad. Wow! I would hate to have been caught in the middle of that. Anyway…Abe basically takes a “hands off” approach and tells Sarai she can do whatever she wants with Hagar. That’s kind of a jerky thing to do. So Sarai decides she’s gonna get all catty and be evil to Hagar. She get’s mad and she tries to get even. (verse 6). Things got so bad that Hagar ran away. (verse 6)

While Hagar was on the run, she gets a visitor. This mysterious figure called The Angel of the LORD shows up. The Hebrew word from which we get the word “angel” can also mean “messenger”. This was a messenger of the LORD. I personally tend to believe that the Angel of the LORD is Jesus and not some winged-man with a halo like we think. I think this is Jesus pre-incarnation (before he becomes a man). Others would disagree. Either way, this figure at the very least speaks on behalf of God. He tells Hagar to go back to where she came from even though Sarai was being harsh with her (verse 9). Imagine how hard it would be for Hagar to do that! And then she’s given this promise from The Angel of the LORD,

“I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” Genesis 16:10


It almost sounds like the promise the LORD made to Abram doesn’t it?  But this is different. We’ll explore those differences later. For now…just know that the son whom Hagar would have is going to be part of the drama that continues to unfold. After he is born…Abe takes him in as his own and names him Ishmael (God hears). Is this the son Abe was promised? We’ll find out as we continue to follow the plot. Stay tuned. The beef between the brides isn’t over yet….



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