What does Genesis 16:1 mean?
ESV: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar.
NIV: Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;
NASB: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not borne him a child, but she had an Egyptian slave woman whose name was Hagar.
CSB: Abram's wife, Sarai, had not borne any children for him, but she owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar.
NLT: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar.
KJV: Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
NKJV: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous chapter, the Lord had directly promised Abram that his heir would be his own flesh and blood (Genesis 15:4). Abram would have a son, and not merely a servant, as his heir. That specific promise does not seem to have been given to Sarai, Abram's wife. At the very least, she does not seem to trust God's work in the situation. It's also possible she doubted that Abram's heir was meant to be born through her. In any case, it had not happened yet, and the ticking of the clock must have sounded quite loud as Abram was now well into his 80s and she in her 70s.

Sarai has an idea to help the plot along, however. Hagar was Sarai's servant, or "slave girl." Slavery in this era was vastly different from what modern people picture. A closer term for today's world might be an "indentured servant." This was a one-sided arrangement, to be sure, but the relationship, as seen in the following verses, was not as simplistic as slave-to-master. It's possible that Sarai took possession of Hagar, an Egyptian, when Sarai had been taken by the Pharaoh for his wife (Genesis 12:10–20).

Sarai proposes her alternative plan to provide Abram an heir in the following verse.
Verse Context:
Genesis 16:1–16 demonstrates that God hears and sees and cares, but that He won't be rushed or manipulated into keeping His promises. Sarai and Abram attempt to receive God's promised child through their own scheme. In this case, by marrying Abram to an Egyptian servant girl. The resulting pregnancy, though, leads to harsh conflict and a surprising revelation from the Lord to Hagar. Her son Ishmael will not be the child of the promise, though he will become a great nation, and his people will live in conflict with everyone. Abram and Sarai will continue to wait for the arrival of their own son.
Chapter Summary:
Sarai, tired of waiting for a child, convinces Abram to go to plan B. She gives her Egyptian slave girl to Abram as a wife, with the understanding that any children will belong to Sarai. Once Hagar is pregnant, however, conflict sets in. Sarai deals harshly with Hagar, and she flees alone into the wilderness. The Lord finds her there and commands her to return and submit to Sarai. However, the Lord also reveals that Hagar's son will have an uncountable number of offspring and that they will live in conflict with everyone. Hagar praises God as the one who sees, returns to Abram and Sarai, and Ishmael is soon born.
Chapter Context:
After formally establishing His covenant promises with Abram in the previous chapter, the Lord still has not given Abram and Sarai a child. Sarai convinces Abram to take her slave girl as a wife in hopes of getting a child that way. Abram agrees. Pregnancy and conflict soon follow. Sarai treats Hagar so harshly that the girl runs off alone into the wilderness. The Lord finds her and commands her to return and submit. He also reveals, however, that Hagar's child Ishmael will become the father of a great people who will live in conflict with everyone.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
Accessed 5/26/2024 10:23:57 AM
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