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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 16

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name [was] Hagar.

Ver. 1. Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bare him no children.] God had foretold him of his children’s affliction, and yet gave him no child, but holds him still in suspense. He knows how to commend his favours to us by withholding them, Cito data cito vilescunt ; we account it scarce worth taking, that is not twice worth asking.

A handmaid, an Egyptian.] One of those maids, belike, that were given her in Egypt. [Genesis 12:16]


Verse 2

Genesis 16:2 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.

Ver. 2. The Lord hath restrained me.] She faults herself, not her husband, as many a cranky dame would have done.

It may be that I may obtain children by her.] Heb., Be builded by her; as God "made the midwives’ houses," that is, gave them children, for their mercy to the poor children,and [Exodus 1:21] as he promised to make David a house, [2 Samuel 7:11-12] that is, to give him seed to sit upon his throne. Sarai’s aim was good here, but the means she used naught. She was too hasty; Abram too facile; both to blame, for want of faith, and violation of wedlock. Albeit this might be a sin of ignorance in them, as was also polygamy. God had promised a seed to Abram, but not expressly as yet unto Sarai. Now, by the law, (a) bondservants’ children were their master’s. [Exodus 21:4] And among the heathens, Stratonice, the wife of King Diotarus, being barren, gave secretly her maid Electra unto her husband, by whom she had an heir to the crown. (b)


Verse 3

Genesis 16:3 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.

Ver. 3. After Abram had dwelt ten years.] The Rabbis tell us of a tradition that the Hebrews grounded from hence, that if a woman had no child in the first ten years, she might be held barren, and another wife taken. But this is like one of their ill glosses that marred so many good texts, and refuted by our Saviour the Lawgiver, who best understood his own meaning. [Matthew 5:31-32]


Verse 4

Genesis 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

Ver. 4. Her mistress was despised in her eyes.] Heb., Allevata est, sive elevata est :and so she was beaten with her own rod, and yet complains. Neither is it any wonder; for, "for three things the earth is disquieted," saith Agur, and two of them are, "for an odious woman when she is married, and a handmaid that is heir to her mistress". [Proverbs 30:21; Proverbs 30:23] Asperius nihil est humili dum surgit in altum . Set a beggar on horseback, and there’s no hoe with him.


Verse 5

Genesis 16:5 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.

Ver. 5. My wrong be upon thee.] The greatest wrong doers are the greatest complainers commonly; {as Exodus 2:13-14} guiltiness is ever exceptious and clamorous. Here be verba stomachantis atque imprecantis . Or, as some think rather, verba implorantis vindictam divinam seque consolantis spe defensionis divinae . Take it which way you will, as a passionate person, she "pours out foolishness," [Proverbs 15:2] and (besides the false charge she lays upon her husband) takes God’s name in vain. "Fret not thyself to do evil". [Psalms 37:8]

The Lord judge.] He must not be sent for all in haste, to decide the controversy; who, if he had come, you may soon see which of them would have had the worst of it. The best, we see, have their domestic contentions; some household words will now and then pass between them: we match not with angels, but men and women. Two flints may as soon smite together, and not fire come forth, as two persons meet in marriage and not offences fall out. Publius Rubius Celer was held a happy man among the Romans, that commanded it to be engraven upon his gravestone, that he had lived three and forty years and eight months with C. Eunia, his wife, sine querela , without the least quarrel. Another I have read of, that complained that his coniugium marriage was a continual coniurgium quarrel; and when he died, gave order it should be written upon his tomb, Heus, Viator, miraculum! hic vir et uxor non litigant ,& c. (a) This to prevent, Alphonsus, king of Arragon, was wont to say, that to procure a quiet life, the husband must be deaf and the wife blind. But they say better that advise to a mutual forbearance, that no offence be given on either side, or, if given, yet not taken. The second blow makes the fray, we say. Be not both incensed together. If Abram were to blame in conniving at Hagar’s contempt of her mistress (as it may be he was somewhat), yet it was his wisdom to bear with Sarai when she was in her passion. Let two fires meet, and it will be hard quenching them. A choleric couple being asked how they agreed so well, the husband made this answer, "When my wife’s fit is on her, I bear with her, as Abram did with Sarai, and when my fit is on me, she bears with me, and so we never chide together, but asunder." (b) Those unkind husbands had much to answer for that caused their wives to "cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and with crying out, so that he regarded not the offering any more". [Malachi 2:13] And those wives can never answer it to God that live customarily in the sin of frowardness or rebellion against their husbands. Among all the infirmities noted in any godly woman in the Scriptures, there is no example of any that did so. This of Sarai is but of one only fact: and for that of Zipporah, [Exodus 4:26] the error seems to be as much in her judgment as in her affections. Those couples that are ever warbling can neither be at peace within themselves, [1 Corinthians 7:15] nor pray as they should do to God, [1 Peter 3:7] which, if they did often, as Isaac and Rebecca did, they could not disagree. For either praying together would make them leave jarring, or jarring will make them leave praying, which the apostle accounts no small hindrance.


Verse 6

Genesis 16:6 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.

Ver. 6. But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, &c.] Here that of Solomon is verified, "A soft answer pacifieth wrath". [Proverbs 15:1] Hard to soft cloth no hurt, as a bullet against a woolsack. Uxoris vitium aut tollendum, aut tollerandum , said Varro, πασα γυνη χολος εστι (a) The woman is the weaker, and hath many provocations among children and servants that the man meets not with. This must be considered, and all bitterness abandoned. The heathens, when they sacrificed at their marriage feasts, used to cast the gall of the beast sacrificed out of doors. (b) Vipera virus, ob venerationem nuptiarum, evomit , saith St Basil, et tu duritiem animi, tu feritatem, tu crudelitatem ob unionis reverentiam non deponis ? What kin art thou to him, whose name is Wormwood? [Revelation 8:11]

And when Sarai dealt hardly with her.] Beat her, belike; for "a servant will not be corrected by words," [Proverbs 29:19] and then he must have blows, and be "buffeted". [1 Peter 2:20] Not so a wife. M. Aurelius, the emperor, though a heathen, could say to the shame of many bedlams among us: Uxor admonenda persaepe, reprehendenda raro, violentis manibus tractanda nunquam.

She fled.] This was her fault. [Ecclesiastes 10:4] But our natures are refractory, and will sooner break than bend, till God subdue them.


Verse 7

Genesis 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

Ver. 7. In the way to Shur.] Which lay between Canaan and Egypt. So she was fleeing homewards to her own country. Oh that our afflictions might drive us heavenward!


Verse 8

Genesis 16:8 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.

Ver. 8. Hagar, Sarai’s maid.] This was a good item to her, that she was out of her way, because out of her place.

Whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou?] Such is the sweet and secret voice of God’s Spirit, that angelus tutelaris , as I may say, in our hearts, when extravagant, so that we cannot do the evil we would. [Galatians 5:17]

I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarai.] Who haply had overdone, as we are all apt to do, when we are judges in our own causes and concernments. She should have thought of that of Job, [Job 31:15] "Did not he that made me in the womb make" her? and that of Paul, Have not I also "a Master in heaven"? [Colossians 4:1] But passion is headlong, and, like heavy bodies down steep hills, once in motion, rest not till they come to the bottom. Look to it, therefore, in corrections especially.


Verse 9

Genesis 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Ver. 9. Return to thy mistress.] When now she had smarted, she is in case to be counselled. There is great skill in the choice of a fit time for admonition. It is not to give a man a purge in a fever-fit.

Submit thyself.] Heb., Afflict thyself, or suffer thyself to be afflicted or humbled under her hands. The like counsel is given us all by St James, "Be afflicted, and weep, and mourn," &c, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he will lift you up" [James 4:9-10]


Verse 10

Genesis 16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

Ver. 10. I will multiply thy seed.] Thus God contemneth not poor servants; nay, if they be faithful, he will give them "the reward of inheritance," [Colossians 3:24] even a child’s part, as Hagar and her child had. We read not that she cried to God; but her affliction spake for her; and he is oft - out of his mere "philanthropy" - "found [Titus 3:4] of them that sought him not". [Romans 10:20] He heareth "the young ravens, that cry to him" only by way of implication. [Psalms 147:9] "The Lord hath heard thy affliction," saith the angel in the next verse.


Verse 11

Genesis 16:11 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.

Ver. 11. Thou art with child.] Lyra rendereth it (but not well), Thou shalt conceive. Burgensis saith, Lyra hic delirat ; and Matthias Doring (his Hyperaspistes, but an illiterate dunce) (a) saith as good as nothing in his defence; indignus sane qui nominetur , saith Steuchus of him, ob universam U. T. Scripturam foedissima barbarie conspurcatam :he is not fit to be once named for the sorry notes he hath set upon the whole Old Testament.


Verse 12

Genesis 16:12 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.

Ver. 12. And he will be a wild man.] Heb., A wild ass, which is fierce, untractable, and untameable. And such by nature is every mother’s child of us, [Job 11:12] "a wild ass’s colt." An ass is none of the wisest of creatures, much less an ass’s colt; least of all, a wild ass’s colt. Lo, such is man.

His hand will be against every man.] This was first accomplished in his person, and then in his posterity. For himself, he was ferus et pugnax , ever quarrelling and contending. (a) Now a quarrelsome man is like a cock of the game, that is still bloody with the blood of others, and of himself. As for his posterity the Saracens, Mohammed, the mischief of mankind, had his generation from this wild ass. And Sarai was utterly disappointed; for these Agarens were ever enemies, and so continue to be to her seed.


Verse 13

Genesis 16:13 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?

Ver. 13. Thou God seest me.] This shows she had been well trained and tutored in her master Abram’s house. Before, she told the angel the plain truth, and lied not. [Genesis 16:8] And here she thankfully acknowledgeth God’s goodness in looking upon her forlorn solitariness, setting up a memorial of that mercy to all posterity. The greater was her sin again, that being so well principled, she should have any thoughts of returning to Egypt, there to forsake her faith learned in Abram’s family.

Have I also here looked, &c.,] q.d., Have I found God here also in the wilderness, as I had done oft before in my master’s house? Or, am I yet alive, though I have seen God? [Genesis 32:30 Exodus 24:11 13:23]


Verse 14

Genesis 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between Kadesh and Bered.

Ver. 14. Beer-lahai-roi,] i.e., "The well of him that liveth and seeth me," that is, of the living God, who hath seen to my safety. So rich men are "charged" to "trust not in uncertain riches, but in God," who both "liveth" and "giveth". [1 Timothy 6:17]


Verse 15

Genesis 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

Ver. 15. Ishmael.] A good name, had he made good use of it, and a great name still among the Persians.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 16:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-16.html. 1865-1868.

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