Hagar and Ishmael

Genesis 16:1-16

Abram’s wife Sarai realizes that she is barren, and wants her husband to father children. She therefore gives him her handmaid, Hagar, as a surrogate womb. When Hagar quickly gets pregnant, however, she loses respect for her mistress, and Sarai punishes her. Hagar runs away.


At an oasis in the desert, Hagar is met by an angel, who sends her back to submit to her mistress, promising that her child is destined for greatness. In fact, the son she bears is Ishmael, father of the Arab nations.


Hagar names the oasis where she encounters the angel Be’er-lahai-roi, which means “the well of the Living One who sees me”. The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, who points out Hagar came to the realization that one can never run from God’s sight. This is especially evident in the Land of Israel, which the Torah describes as “the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it.” (Deuteronomy 11:12)


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God, through the angel, sent Hagar back to Sarai?


Comments ( 18 )

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  • Messaoud

    Avram is a Prophet and he did not make a wrong choice. It was part of G-D's plan that Ishmael comes to this word.

  • Gene

    Certain things seem to constantly repeat in scripture. Jacob had two wives as well, and loved one more than the other. All of the children in that case, however, were Israel. (I do believe, if I remember right, there was actually one more mother of some of the tribes, but the main story is Rachel and Leah. There is something deeper in these stories than anything I have ever heard. And I hope someday to crack the code, so to speak.

  • Leah Mthembu Dube

    Hagar and Leah are my most favorities.

    The two women were dragged into other powerful people's choices.
    The loving Creator, Father of all, full of Mercy and compassion loved them them with His unlimited and unconditional love.
    He who sees blessed the two women. For Hagar, unborn given a name and a promise of twelve Princes.
    For Leah, given six sons half of the twelve tribes of Israel and two more from her slave girl. She became the mother of eight tribes in addition Priests, Kings and the Messiah out of her womb.
    HaShem's ways are not ours The Holy One, blessed is He forever and ever!

  • Charli

    Had Hagar not returned, she and her son would have died. Also, Abraham loved Ishmael, despite what he became (hated by all living like a wild animal in the wilderness forever). All I know is that Sarah had no faith in God, even laughed at Him when He said she would bare a child for Abraham. It is when we fail to do as God says that we fail ourselves and mankind; yet it occurs from generation to generation.

  • Herman Arentsen

    Hagar fled in stead of ackowledging Sarah's position. She was the maidservant of Sarah. I think Hagar was jealous of her. and through the child she behaved as equal to Sarah or even more. The angel said to her: "your mistress". Go back to her. So she had to humble herself and take the place that she always had. The child would need a father and know the love of a father in order to know and be capable to love a Heavenly Father. Maybe she was also encouraged that this time there had come an angel for her and her future son. Most of the angels passing by the house of Avram came to see Avram and Sarah and not their personnel. 🙂

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    The only mistake Avram/Sarai made was a lack of faith. Before Hagar/Ishmael, YHVH had already promised descendants to Avram/Sarai. With the years seriously increasing without a son, they took matters in their own hands. That was the mistake that brought on the mistakes of Sarai in her treatment of Hagar, and the prideful actions of Hagar. Avram can't be left out of the equation either. He's the one that received the promise personally. He should have known better.
    There is an observation needing exposure within this account. YHVH didn't abandon the victims. He put his blessing upon both Hagar and Ishmael. Within the text of v. 3, the "Aleph/Tav" symbol appears before Hagar, showing His divine approval. Ishmael has the symbol before his name in v. 16. Elohim's watch care and blessing is upon Hagar/Ishmael.

    There is an application in this whole mess for us today. I've heard it said, "God helps those that help themselves". Sometimes, this actually is necessary. For example, He promises to bless us in our stores. However, if we don't actually go out and get a job, we're going to have a tough time receiving the blessing. On the other hand, the above one-liner IS NOT Scripture. In the case of Avram/Sarai, they were trying to help Elohim out. BIG mistake. Now, everyone involved will endure the consequences. Unfortunately, those mistakes will also affect every generation from then to ours today.

  • SueJean Heinz

    Ishmael was Abraham’s first born son and we learn through extra-Biblical sources that they continued to have a good relationship to the very end of Abraham’s life. There’s a great story about the respect that Ismael had for his father in the Book of Yasher.
    He received a great blessing and an inheritance from his father. He just wasn’t the son that Elohim had chosen to carry out his plan. We know in the Scriptures that Ismael came to bury his father alongside Yitszak so there wasn’t any anger between the two of them either.
    If Hagar had left and raised Ismael away from his father, he might never have had the chance to learn about Elohim and that would have been a great loss.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Doreen Poole

      Great point, as always thank you Suejean. I forgot that point that he did come and bury his father.

    • Angela B

      I agree, Yishmael would never have had a chance to learn about a loving Elohim. But I also think Herman's point makes great sense — facing the consequences of our disobedience is a great reason. Sarai had disobeyed by not trusting the promise of a biological son, and Hagar had to submit.

      • Pauline Graham

        Hi after reading your comment, I believe that Ishmael did learn about YHVH. Through his father Abraham. He was circumcised at 13 years old along with all the males in the household. As with all of us parents have favourites. He wasn't the son of promise that G-D had promised, even though he had blessings because of his father Avraham, Ishmael was given the oil Wells. He honoured his father at the buriel with his half brother and his family.

        • Messaoud

          The oil wells in a material thing…. G-D honoured Ishael that he made the last Prophet Mohamed from his offspring, and with him, the greatest modern religion with followers from all corners of the world. If this wasn't part of G-D's plan, then, who was it?

  • Kara Strain

    God was doing a necessary work in Hagar. Likely in Abraham and Sarah also. In the future generations, when there has come issues with the people of Ishmael toward Israel, God is still dealing with hearts.

  • Herman

    A few points: 1. By the running away of Hagar Avram/Sarai should have no consequences of the acts they both had committed. They could easily continue without a slave. In her coming back they both were confronted with their (wrong ) choices. 2. Also Hagar had to accept that HaShem will keep an eye on her (& the baby yet unborn) There’s no escape! Hopefully this will open up the eyes of the spiritual world of the descendants of Ismaël that He the One and only G’d sees everything and will not leave them….but the bearers of the Promise are the descendants of the miracle son: Jitschaq.

    • Doreen Poole

      Herman I agree with you, not only was Hagar a reminder of their wrong choice and not waiting on the Lord, how would she be treated in her own land with a Hebrew child and no husband.

    • Pauline Graham

      True indeed.

  • Sheila

    Hagar had disrespect and dishonour for her mistress Sarai and she needed to realize her place in spite of her situation and submit to her authority. In her desperation the Angel of the Lord encouraged her and revealed Ismael’s future to her. When Hagar returned to Abraham’s household Ishmael was born and accepted as Abraham’s son.

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