Genesis 16 Series, Part 1, Verses 1-3

  • | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 28:30
  • Passages covered: Genesis 16:1-3, Genesis 12:4, Genesis 15:4, Genesis 16:2,
    Hebrews 11:11, Romans 4:19, Galatians 4:21, Galatians 4:22, Galatians 4:23,
    Galatians 4:24-26.

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Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. Tonight, is study #1 of Genesis, chapter 16 and we are going to read Genesis 16:1-3:

Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, JEHOVAH 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. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

We have come to the point in the historical account of Abram and his wife when they had already dwelt in the land of Canaan for 10 years. If we go back to Genesis 12, we know it said in Genesis 12:4:

So Abram departed, as JEHOVAH had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Other scripture reveals to us that his wife Sarai was 10 years younger than him. When Abram entered the land of Canaan, he was 75 and Sarai was 65. Now we read that he had dwelt 10 years in the land of Canaan, which would mean Abram was 85 and Sarai was 75 years old and they had never had a child. Of course, they are both familiar with God’s promise that Abram would have a son, the seed, and God had specifically said the son would come of his own bowels. In the previous chapter, Abram pointed out to the Lord that he had no heir and the steward of his house, Eliezer, was the heir at that point. So, God said in Genesis 15:4:

And, behold, the word of JEHOVAH came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

Again, He brought him forth and told him to look toward heaven and to tell the stars if he be able to number them and God said, “So shall they seed be.”

So, time is passing and God often tests His people and one key element to a test is “time,” a time in which man’s own mind begins to operate and to worry, fret, fear and become anxious. In the time after God has spoken and given His Word and stated His promise, man then begins this process and God intentionally allows the passage of time because it is just a fact that anyone can wait a day. If God were to state His promise that the new heaven and new earth would come tomorrow, anyone could stop what they were doing for a day and wait and see for a very short period of time, but if it is a prolonged period of time it is a test. In this case, it had been 10 years and the number “10” in the Bible points to completeness. It points to a complete testing period in which Abram and his wife Sarai were being tried by God: “Do you trust in the Lord? Do you have faith in the things He has said?” Of course, Abram was counted in the scriptures as a great man of faith. We have spoken about that and we know that the faith that was counted to him for righteousness was the faith of Christ, but Abram had faith as a result of salvation because God had already saved him, so he was a man of faith.

In this case, his wife Sarai had born no children and she had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar and Sarai said to her husband Abram, in Genesis 16:2:

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, JEHOVAH hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

You see, she had been thinking about this. It must have been quite a burden upon her because God had promised and reiterated the promise to her husband that there would be a seed coming forth from his bowels. And, yet, the Lord had continually restrained Sarai from bearing children and it had been many, many years. It was more than 10 years because they were married in the land of Haran.

Sarai began to think and she thought, “God said he would give a seed from my husband’s bowels, but not necessarily from me.” So, she developed a plan. She would give her handmaid Hagar who was much younger and of childbearing age. It would only make sense that she would select one of her young handmaids because a young woman would be more capable of bearing a child and this would be done for the strict purpose of bearing a child. She did not want her husband to marry another woman – she did not want that at all. But in order for this promise of God to be fulfilled to Abram, she thought there must be another woman, like this handmaid, that could serve the purpose of bringing forth a child and the child brought forth would be counted as Sarai’s own. That is why she said, “I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her,” and we do see this in other places in the Bible, like with Rachel and Leah and their handmaids. For example, Leah would give her handmaid to her husband Jacob and a child would be the result, but Leah would consider the child to be hers and, likewise, it happened with Rachel and she counted the child as her own.

This is how the Bible has presented these things and Sarai would have counted the child as her own, but the child would not come forth from her own womb. Remember what the Bible says in Hebrews 11:11:

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

This is interesting that God says this of her, because in Genesis she is not being faithful at that point because, historically, this was a sinful act on Sarai’s part and on the part of her husband. Abram should have refused her and turned it down. He should have said, “No – God has made us one flesh, the male and the female. What God has joined together is to be one flesh and there is not to be another.” There was not to be additional marriage. We know it happened in this case with Abram and we know it happened later with Jacob and it happened with some of the kings, even some of the good and faithful kings like King David. And, yet, that does not excuse it. The Bible was very clear from the beginning – there was one male joined with one female. God made Adam and Eve, one man and one woman, and that is how marriage is. We understand that today when someone divorces through the law of whatever nation they live in, they may be divorced in the eyes of that government but they are not divorced in the eyes of God. “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” There must not be divorce, in God’s eyes, but when people under certain governments get divorced and remarried…you know, we look back at these historical accounts and we think how ancient and outdated the custom was and how it was almost barbaric that they had more than one wife and, yet, people all over this world are doing the same thing today – they are divorced two, three or four times and they have two, three or four husbands or wives in God’s sight. They have done exactly what some of these people of old have done.

We know that if a true believer has divorced and remarried today, they are to continue to live in a married condition with their present spouse; they are not to divorce or seek to go back to the former spouse, but to live in this kind of condition. But it is sin today and it was sin back then for Sarai to instigate the whole thing and for Abram to go along with it. He does not get a “pass” because it was his wife’s idea, just like Adam did not get a “pass” because it was Eve’s idea to eat of the forbidden tree. No – the man is the head of the house and he is the one who is ultimately responsible for what goes on in his house. And, here, Abram allowed this sin to take place and he also must have been very troubled by the entire situation. Perhaps, they even had thoughts, “If only God had not told us, again, and again, that he was going to give us a seed. Then we could forget about it and accept our lot in life and our current circumstances.” There are some people that cannot have children. The woman may be barren or there is some problem with the man and they accept it. They say, “This is of God,” just as Sarai said, “JEHOVAH has restrained me from bearing.” She probably had long thought that, so if God had not come to them with the promise of the seed, they would have just accepted their circumstances and Sarai probably would not have done this. It is a pretty desperate thing to take one’s handmaid and give her to your husband for a wife so they can have sexual relations and produce offspring. It is a very desperate thing and it was because her womb was “as good as dead.” That is what it says in Romans 4:19:

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:

It was because her womb was dead and because God had promised that she came up with her idea. Let me be clear. We have to be very careful; it is never correct to blame God and to try to justify our sinful actions due to circumstances. Yes – God had placed her in these circumstances, but it does not excuse whatever sin we are involved with and it is also true that God arranged these circumstances. One of the reasons God gave the promise to Abram (who would have shared it with his wife Sarai) and then delayed in fulfilling it was so that Sarai would do exactly as she did. She would get to the point of being so concerned and anxious about the whole matter and she just wanted to get it settled so she turned her handmaid over to her husband in order to have this child. Her hope was that Abram would have the seed from his loins and the Word of God would be fulfilled. Abram had the seed that would multiply as the stars of the heavens and then they could get on with their lives and stop focusing on this. You can see how that would ease her mind because she would no longer have to continually dwell on her barren state and feel terrible about it – almost like it was her fault that no child was coming forth.

But God arranged the circumstances and allowed her to think these things and allowed her to choose her handmaid for Abram. God caused her to choose this particular handmaid Hagar, who was an Egyptian. It was very important that she be an Egyptian that would be presented to Abram to wife. We know this was all according to the perfect will of God because of what we read in the New Testament in the book of Galatians. Let us turn to Galatians 4:21:

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

I like to read this verse because what we are reading in Genesis may not be viewed as part of the law, but this is proof that the whole Bible is the law and everything written in the first five books was called the Law, but it is true of the whole Bible. It is not just a law when we read, “Thou shalt not kill,” but it is the law when we are reading in Genesis 16 about the mistress turning her handmaiden over to her husband. After alerting us to the question, “Do ye not hear the law?”, it says in Galatians 4:22:

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

You see, it was significant and important that she be a bondmaid. Then it says in Galatians 4:23:

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

The one of the freewoman would be Isaac and the freewoman was Sara, after fourteen or fifteen years when she conceived and she would be 90 when she would bear Isaac. So, here, God is laying out this important Biblical principal: “But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.” Then He said in Galatians 4:24-26:

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Do you see how God has taken these historical events that we are reading about in the book of Genesis and He has “spiritualized” them. You know, this is another charge or accusation people make because they do not understand the Bible and they do not understand how God wrote the Bible. Therefore, the churches have laid down their laws and they teach this in their seminaries to those that will become pastors and teach their congregations: “You are not to spiritualize.” They are saying that we are not to do what Mr. Camping did so well. They may even use Mr. Camping as an example of the dangers one can get in when spiritualizing. “You are not to look for deep spiritual meaning. You look only for the plain, literal meaning of the text. Yes, if it happens to be something God explains as a parable, then you can comment on it.” But the underlying theme of it all is to get off that practice as quickly as possible and stay with the surface meaning of the Bible. It is really an instruction “from babes to babes,” in order to maintain the childhood and lack of understanding that the churches have of the Bible. They cannot go any further than to simply scratch the surface because they have established laws that prevent seeking deeper understanding and digging into the Bible as for gold and silver. No – they have laid down their laws and hermeneutics that must be followed or you cannot be a pastor in their denomination. If you go to another denomination, they will tell you the same thing about following their particular laws. It is pretty common practice among all the churches not to “spiritualize.”

But what is God doing here? He is calling this historical event an “allegory” and He says, “for these are the two covenants,” one born by the flesh and one by promise. It is spiritualizing, is it not? But it is God who is doing it. It is God who is drawing from the historical account and spiritualizing it and, yet, you will not find any clue in Genesis 16 or in the surrounding chapters that would give the idea that you are supposed to look for allegories or spiritual meanings. There is no clue. It is presented as straight history and, yet, God has drawn from it and He has spiritualized it in detail: one woman represents mount Sanai in Arabia and this one represents Jerusalem above. And regarding the children, one is of the flesh and one is of the promise.

You know, if I or another child of God were teaching these things and people in the churches was listening, they would “roll their eyes.” They would say, “Listen to this! They are spiritualizing. They have gone overboard. They have gone wild with their fantastic ideas about what the Bible says.” Then you tell them, “Actually, it is God who is doing this.” But they would have an answer. They would say, “It is okay to spiritualize in a very limited way, as long as God has presented the spiritual meaning Himself, like He is doing here. So, yes, you can do that for this one section of scriptures because we have the New Testament explaining the Old Testament.”

We could find other verses, like in 1Corinthians, which draws from the verse in Deuteronomy that says that you shall not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn and a spiritual meaning is given in 1Corinthians. They would say, again, “Yes – you can do that there, too, because the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. But you cannot do it where the New Testament does not interpret the Old Testament.” In other words, they are going to be lazy. They are going to be idle. They are going to twiddle their thumbs and wait for God to do all the work for them in studying the Bible and in discerning these things. They want everything explained to them and they want God to lay it out, specifically, before they will get the clue that Christ (the Word made flesh) spoke in parables and without a parable He did not speak. That means the entire Bible is a parable and God is teaching us how to understand it.