Genesis 16:1-2 NLT
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.
Sarai is in her seventies and we must bear in mind that the people of that time lived much longer and aged much slower than today. I believe she has now reached the beginning of menopause and the reality has sunk in that her season for reproduction has passed. She perceived that it was the Lord Who had closed her womb. Grieving over her loss, she considered her circumstances. Was the stigma of not bearing a child too overwhelming? Was her relationship with Abram more and more platonic because he was also losing his ability to perform as a husband? There is no record of Abram having other wives or concubines, which is unusual for that period in history. Abram must have been very much in love with Sarai and she never shared him with another. To ask him to sleep with another woman she must have felt desperate. Was she afraid of losing favor with Abram? Sarai was obviously familiar with the custom of slaves producing children as surrogates for the owner's wives. Was she afraid that Abram’s love for her would diminish if she didn’t give him her blessing and allow another to bear his child? Did she decide to give God a little push? For whatever reason, she decided to resolve this issue in the cultural way.
Sarai uses her expertise
Sarai studied her personal slaves and handpicked a maiden for this task. Hagar was probably one of the women slaves Abram acquired from the pharaoh in Egypt from Genesis 12. So, Sarai has known her for at least 10 years (Genesis 16:3). We can assume that Hagar was familiar with Sarai and Abram’s history and was privy to the fact Sarai was infertile.
As an expert in animal husbandry, Sarai would observe the women who had the desirable genetic traits to produce good stock. Hagar must have been physically healthy, of childbearing age, intellectually bright, and pleasant in personality. I would think she was subordinate in demeanor, trustworthy, hardworking, and that a good relationship already existed between herself and Sarai. There would be a mutual understanding that Hagar was to only be an incubator to produce children, would be subordinate to Sarai, and not compete with her position as first lady and wife. I imagine Sarai felt secure that Hagar would retain her submissive posture and would not challenge Sarai’s leadership as they shared in the joint responsibility of rearing of the children.
Why, Sarai? Why?
What must we consider here? Sarai and Abram were given a deep desire to have a son. Sarai’s yearning for a son was as strong as Abram’s because it was instilled into them by God. The first mistake made by Sarai and Abram was taking advantage of someone who was inferior in position and unable to disagree. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Hagar also had an intense desire to have Abram’s child. She was a slave woman, elevated to a subordinate second wife, only to function as a surrogate mother. She was forced into a very sensitive situation with very prominent people.
The second mistake is pulling someone into the mix that had nothing to do with God’s plan. God’s covenant was with Abram and Sarai as demonstrated in Genesis 12. When God told Abram to move away with his family, he naturally took Sarai, his wife, with him. Also in Genesis 12, God demonstrated His favor and His power by protecting Sarai from the wrath of Pharaoh. In God’s eyes, she was Abram’s covenant wife. When God protected Sarai, Abram was also protected because they were equal in His eyes.
Why not ask God?
The third mistake is that Sarai didn’t ask God why her womb remained closed after all this time. She didn’t ask Abram to intercede on her behalf. She felt she had waited long enough and took matters into her own hands. She used her skills, knowledge, intellect, rationality, and some emotionally charged insufficient facts as a baseline for her decision making process. It appears that Sarai resorted back to old behavior patterns and pridefully decided to resolve this issue on her own. This did not work in Genesis 12 and it will not work here either.
What are the lessons we can learn from this situation?
God is the One Who instills those desires for His promises concerning us. The people we may reluctantly drag into the situation will not have the same desire or resolve and this will inevitably pose problems.
Stay connected and remain close with the people you are in covenant with. Don’t have the attitude you can do it all yourself. Be open and ask them for counsel and to pray with you concerning the fulfillment of your promise.
If a promise is unfulfilled, do not be prideful. Ask God why and if anything needs to be done about it. He will give you the information you will need at the appropriate time.
Genesis 25 tells us about Isaac, Abram and Sarai’s son. He married Rebekah but she was unable to bear children. So Isaac interceded for his wife and she became pregnant with twins. There was such a struggle between the two children in her womb that she asked God what was happening. God answered Rebekah and everything that He told her came to pass.
Let’s learn our lessons. God imparts His desires for you on your heart. Remain close to those who care about you and are in covenant with you for prayer and wisdom. Ask God questions and expect answers. Those desires will be fulfilled in His time, and in His way.
Father, You plant Your desires for me in my heart. Help me to stay connected with those who are in covenant with me. Enlighten the eyes of my understanding and clarify the things I need to know. I ask these things in Jesus Name, Amen.
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