Genesis 16: Impatient Sarai takes Matters into her Own Hands Instead of Waiting for God

We live in a world of instant gratification. If a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to load, it’s considered slow. It is said that patience is a virtue. It’s actually one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. We don’t get patience automatically. It seems that God wants us to learn to be patient — to wait on Him and to ask for His guidance, wisdom and to reveal His will for our lives. See, His timing is always right. I waited 2 years for a job. It was hard. But, looking back, I see that it was in His time, not mine. It was a lesson I had to learn.

In Genesis, God promises Abram that he will have many descendants — as many as there are stars in the sky. However, Abram was in his 80s and Sarai was about 75. Any woman knows when she can no longer bear children. Nevertheless, God promised them, that Sarai would bear a son. God keeps His promises! Unfortunately, Sarai, just couldn’t believe it. So, she took matters into her own hands. The result of that choice has rippled through time to today’s Middle East. Let’s dig in…

Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)

So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”

Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.

The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”

11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.

Genesis 16 NLT

Points to Ponder

  • Hagar was Egyptian. It was customary if the wife was barren for the husband to take another woman in her stead and the child would actually become the first wife’s.
  • When Hagar runs away, the angel of the Lord finds her. Notice how it says, “the angel” not “an angel”? Some biblical scholars say that this is the pre-incarnate Jesus and that makes sense. Especially when the angel says, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” No regular angel can do that. It has to be God in a form that wouldn’t scare Hagar.
  • God could simply have let Hagar die in the desert, but no, He found her. That demonstrates that God sees everything and everyone. God hears all of our cries. He knows our situations. He knows YOUR situation.
  • Ishmael means “God will hear”.
  • Ishmael’s descendants are the Arabs.
  • The angel told her that he…”will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” That explains the hostility between Israel and all the Arab nations that surround the country and even the Palestinian Arabs.

Paul wrote about Abraham’s 2 sons…

22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife (Hagar) was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife (Sarah) was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.

24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,

“Rejoice, O childless woman,
    you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
    you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
    than the woman who lives with her husband!” [Isaiah 54:1]

28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.

Galatians 4:22-28 NLT

The Galatians were Gentiles.

They actually were a Germanic tribe that settled in Asia Minor. They are not related to the Jews nor the Arabs. They are not Abraham’s direct blood relatives. However, when we Gentiles are born again through the blood of Jesus, we become children of the promise, children of God. We are adopted and become heirs with Christ.

When Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands instead of waiting on God, they then had to live with the consequences. Sadly, all their descendants are still living with the consequences as well. They are still slaves to sin and religion.

We are enslaved when we try to be a part of God’s family and bring about God’s promises through our own strength and effort. [Good works, sacraments]

We only become children of the promise when we trust the promise. If we simply have faith that Jesus has done for us what we could not do for ourselves, we freely receive all the benefits of the promise from our Father. 

Spoken Gospel Bible study, “Jesus in all of Genesis” from the free YouVersion Bible App

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Top image by Sweet Publishing from, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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2 thoughts on “Genesis 16: Impatient Sarai takes Matters into her Own Hands Instead of Waiting for God”

  1. Pingback: Genesis 28: Jacob’s Stairway to Heaven Dream, a Straight Line to God – Seek the Truth

  2. Pingback: Jesus in Judges Part 3: How to do More with Less – Seek the Truth

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