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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-16

Genesis 16:1. God had promised Abraham a son, but had not said that he should be born of Sarah. Hence his wife having no hope in herself, almost compelled him to receive Hagar to his bed, not considering the painful consequences likely to ensue.

Genesis 16:2. I may obtain children by her. It being a customary law that a patriarch must have children, a dotal maid was often given with the bride, that in case of failure of issue, the maid might bear children for her mistress. Pharaoh, it is presumed, had given this maid to Sarah as an apology for his error in having designs against the wife of the princely stranger.

Genesis 16:7. The angel of the Lord found her by a fountain. The Messiah, who here reveals the secrets of providence with regard to the Ishmaelites in future ages, receives from Hagar the appellation of God, and divine worship. He spake to her, as he had done to Abraham; “I will multiply thy seed.” The angel even dictated the name of Ishmael; that is, heard of God, to certify to Hagar that her prayer was heard.

Genesis 16:9. Return to thy mistress. God, who is here for the first time called an Angel, addresses Hagar as a servant, and not as the second wife of Abraham. God indeed has often blessed the children of concubines, but good coming out of evil does not diminish the fault.

Genesis 16:12. His hand will be against every man. In Ishmael’s race, or rather, in the Arabians or Saracens, this prophecy has been strikingly accomplished. No candid man who reads the history of that nation, can refuse assent to its truth. Follow them in the bloody career of conquest, cruelty, and tyranny to the Mogul empire, through all India, through Ethiopia and the isles, and in all the richer districts of western Africa. See them scourge the Arian church to the gates of Vienna. Alas, and is this natural religion!

Genesis 16:13. Have I here also looked after him that seeth me? This place is difficult to translate. The LXX read, I have seen him plainly who appeared to me: Jehovah the Angel. Others turn it, that she saw the backward parts of the Angel, as Moses, Exodus 33:0. Our Dr. Lightfoot’s reading is preferable. Thou art a God of vision; for she said, did I here also look for a vision? The name of the well called Beer-lahai-roi, or “well where I plainly saw him,” apparently confirms the reading of the Seventy. This well, and indeed all other places where God had appeared to cheer and encourage his servants, by enlarging the promises of the covenant, became favourite retreats, and places where the patriarchs often worshipped. Isaac dwelt near this well, and Jacob built an altar at Bethel.

Genesis 16:15. Abram called his name Ishmael; that is, God heard thy affliction, and helped and saved thee: Hagar therefore gave thanks to God.


Was Sarah barren; and did she attribute her situation to the restraining hand of God? Let all christian families, so circumstanced, learn to ascribe the lack of children to the same cause. By submission to his wise and holy will, he can give them a name and a blessing better than the enjoyment of children, who sometimes prove the greatest crosses to their parents.

Was Sarah a woman so distinguished for her beauty, that two kings endeavoured to obtain her for a wife; and did the Lord see it meet to check all propensity to glory in her beauty, by the recollection of her barrenness? We see then the wise and gracious hand of God in directing our crosses to a sanctified end. The Lord in all his chastisements seeks our good.

Did Hagar, after conception, suffer herself to be elated with the idea that she should now be the favourite wife of the patriarch, and that her child should be the heir of all his wealth? Let the sinner learn not to be exalted in the day of prosperity, for in one moment our empty boasting may receive a blast. Self-knowledge is the most useful study for a man flattered by the world. He should ever remember that he is but sinful dust, and should never exalt himself in his own sufficiency, lest the wicked deride him in his fall.

Did Hagar also behave with insolence to her mistress, who had been the cause of her elevation? Let us learn to be grateful to our benefactors, though their motives may not have been altogether pure in doing us good: for ingratitude is a sin which God has often punished with the strongest marks of abhorrence.

Did the Lord, notwithstanding, approach this woman when she fled from her mistress; and give her counsel and comfort in the day of trouble? Then let all strangers, exiles, and wanderers, yea all families in like circumstances, be careful to take no rash and hasty steps. Let them seek God by weeping and supplication, and he will surely guide them in the way they ought to go. It is better for a servant who may find himself harshly treated, patiently to suffer a little, and especially when he is faulty, than rashly to rush into greater calamities. But let the backslider also, who has wandered from God and his people, hear this voice which commanded Hagar immediately to return.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-16.html. 1835.
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