What does Genesis 16:2 mean?
ESV: And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
NIV: so she said to Abram, 'The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.' Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
NASB: So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please have relations with my slave woman; perhaps I will obtain children through her.' And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
CSB: Sarai said to Abram, "Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family." And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
NLT: 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.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Abram possessed a direct promise from the Lord that he would have a flesh-and-blood heir, his own son (Genesis 15:4). As of this time, however, this has still not happened, and Abram is in his mid-80s (Genesis 16:16). Interestingly, Sarai holds the Lord responsible for her inability to bear children. In her mind, He is the one preventing this from happening. As a matter of fact, God may have been doing exactly that: executing His plan for their lives in His own timing. Sarai, though, didn't want to wait any longer to see what would happen.

Her plan may well have been a normal custom in the culture of their day. If a wife could not bear a child herself, she could assign the role to a servant who would become another wife to the husband. If the servant became pregnant, the child would still belong to the first wife, as the servant was her property. As repulsive as that may sound to our modern ears, it was the way of the time. And, the "slavery" of that era was very different from the brutality modern readers assume when they encounter that word.

Still, this must not have been something Abram had ever chosen to do before. He had countless servants. He surely could have had any number of wives. And yet, to this point, Abram had remained committed to seeing God's promise fulfilled through Sarai and no other woman. Now, however, he allows Sarai to convince him to try it. It will become clear that this is not the way God intends to build His covenant people.
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 4/13/2024 9:19:17 AM
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