you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

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1 Sarah & Hagar Genesis 16, 18:1-21, 21:1-21 I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3 Theological Background In Genesis 12 and reiterated again in Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abram and his offspring. At the beginning of Genesis, we see God s creative power and desire to have a relationship with men and women. After the fall in Genesis 3, we see that this relationship has been broken. God s redemptive work begins in his covenant with Abram where God promises to provide a seed through which all the nations of the earth will be blessed. God continues to work through Abram and his family to bring about a people for himself. While we get to hear of the birth of Isaac, the promised son, we will see that ultimately, the chosen seed is Christ, through whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sin in the new covenant. Historical Background While reading these narratives, we must remember that God is the major character, or the hero, in these stories. Abram and Sarai are the other major characters in the story, as they are God s chosen ~ 1 ~

2 people who will carry out his covenant. Hagar is a more minor character, but plays a significant role in our story. She represents those outside of the people of Israel and we are able to see God s grace to the nations through his encounters with Hagar. Abram and Sarai, whose names are changed by God in Genesis 17:5 and 17:15 to Abraham ( father of nations ) and Sarah ( mother to many ), were from the land of Ur, a pagan nation that didn t worship the LORD (Yahweh). However, God calls Abraham to follow him and promises him that a great nation will come from him. Ironically, Abraham and his wife had been barren all the years of their marriage and Sarah is now 75 years old. Hagar was a maidservant whom Sarah had acquired, possibly while they were sojourning in Egypt. It was a common ancient Near Eastern practice for an infertile couple to select a maidservant as a surrogate mother so that the couple might raise children. However, God s original design for man and woman was to cleave to one spouse, and we see that ultimately, Sarah s plan to have children apart from God s plan fails. Please pray and read Genesis 16. In this passage, we see that Sarah had been waiting for ten years for the birth of a child. After this time, she began to grow impatient and took matters into her own hands. One commentator wrote, To attempt to independently help God accomplish his purpose is what theologians call synergism, (Waltke, p. 256). We see that Sarah is trying to help God fulfill his promise to make a great nation from Abraham. She plans to give her maidservant Hagar to Abraham. Abraham is rather passive and listens to the voice of wife. Through similar language the author of Genesis makes this action similar to that of Eve to Adam, which is condemned as ungodly advice that circumvented God s plan and purposes for their family. 1. What does Sarah s plan for Abraham and Hagar reveal to us about her trust in God? 2. Do you ever struggle to take control of situations because you fear the outcome may not be what you hoped? ~ 2 ~

3 3. Discuss the similarities between Eve s and Sarah s interactions with their husbands in Genesis 16:2b- 3 and Genesis 3:2, 6, and 17. In Genesis 16:4, we see that Hagar conceives as Sarah had hoped she would, but rather than being satisfied, Sarah becomes even more bitter as Hagar begins to treat her with contempt and cursing. Both biblical (Proverbs 30:21-23) and ancient Near Eastern laws at the time protected the rights of the first wife in such a situation. We see that Sarah s attempts to control her family ultimately lead to greater brokenness and division in her marriage. We know that sin and synergism only lead us further from God and those around us, although they promised to satisfy and fulfill us. When Sarah informs Abraham of Hagar s contempt for her, Abraham allows Sarah to do as she pleases with Hagar, and as a result Hagar runs away. 4. In what ways did this situation create more problems for Sarah s family? 5. Discuss Abraham s leadership in his family; is he a strong leader in this passage, or a weak one? Why? 6. Synergism happens when we try to help God accomplish his will for us. What might this look like in your life personally? Do you try to control other people or circumstances in your life rather than trusting God s plan for you? In this next section, the narrator focuses on Hagar after she leaves Sarah. We see that God appears to Hagar and both commands and covenants with her. While Sarah was a harsh and overbearing ~ 3 ~

4 master, Hagar was arrogant and unsubmissive. Despite Hagar s attitude and contempt for Sarah, God still shows compassion towards her and engages in her suffering. Hagar has a very personal encounter with the living God, and is the only person in scripture to give a name to God. God also promises to multiply Hagar s offspring and watch over her son. Because Ishmael is a child of Abraham, God honors the boy and his mother and displays his great mercy towards them. 7. What does Hagar s encounter with God tell us about God? 8. What was God s command to Hagar and what was his promise to her? 9. Discuss the significance of Hagar naming God You are the God who sees me. 10. What does Hagar do after her encounter with God? 11. How have you seen God demonstrate his grace and loving-kindness towards you this week? Read Genesis 18:1-21. In Genesis 18, the Lord himself visits Abraham and Sarah. Abraham sees the Lord and welcomes him into his home and prepares a lavish banquet for him. While visiting with Abraham, the Lord promises him that Sarah will have a son in one year s time. At this time Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 years old. Sarah is both past the age of child-bearing and barren, so the promise of a child is ~ 4 ~

5 laughable. This news that Sarah was to bear a son was possibly too wonderful to imagine, (Sailhamer, p. 165). Sarah s laughter is a major theme of this passage and we see that while the Lord never personally interacted with Sarah during his visit, he knew the unbelief of her heart. He is demonstrating that the one who knows her thoughts is also the one with the power to open her barren womb. Indeed, this couple had been waiting many years for the Lord to fulfill his promise of a son, and God finally appeared to announce the arrival of their son in one year. 12. What is the purpose of the Lord s visit? 13. Discuss the conversation between the Lord and Sarah in Genesis 18: What does Sarah s laughter reveal about the condition of her heart? 14. In what areas of your life do you struggle to believe God s promises? Read Genesis 21:1-21. It has been one year since the Lord s appearing and Sarah has given birth to a son and named him Isaac, which means laughter. God has begun to fulfill his promise to Abraham and Sarah to make them into a great nation through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Isaac s miraculous birth can serve as a reminder of Christ s miraculous birth hundreds of years later. God s work in Abraham s family is the beginning of his work to bring about a Savior from the people of Israel for all the nations Jesus Christ. This section of Genesis again focuses on God s interaction with Hagar, and the conflict between Hagar and Sarah. At the celebration of Isaac s weaning, Sarah sees Ishmael laughing at and mocking ~ 5 ~

6 Isaac. At this time Isaac is about three years old and Ishmael is a teenager. Sarah then asks Abraham to cast out Hagar and her son, which Abraham agrees to do. This passage affirms that Isaac is the son of promise and that through Isaac all the nations of the earth will be blessed; however, God is still faithful to keep his promise to Hagar to multiply her offspring. He blesses Ishmael with his promise, provision, and presence, (Waltke, p. 292). 15. Discuss the theme of laughter in Genesis 18:9-15 and 21: What is the purpose of God making a great nation out of a barren couple? 17. How does the Lord display his grace to both Hagar and Sarah in this passage? References: Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids), Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids), ~ 6 ~

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