Eternity Daily Bible Study

The Life Of Abraham

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Verses: Genesis 16:4-6

Topic: Domestic Stress

Date: 16th December 2005


Genesis 16:4-6 MKJV And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.  (5)  And Sarai said to Abram, My wrong be upon you. I have given my slave woman into your bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. Jehovah judge between me and you.  (6)  But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your slave woman is in your hand. Do to her as it pleases you. And Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face.


The “sophisticated” solution turns into a poignant problem: Abram has sex with Hagar who conceives, Hagar gets proud and despises Sarai, so Sarai then attacks Abram, and Abram backs down, then Sarai takes her revenge and mistreats Hagar so badly that she heads for the desert. It is a script straight out of “Days of Our Lives”!


We often under-estimate our humanity. We think we can be “cool” and act above things. Sarai probably thought that she could cope with Hagar becoming pregnant to her husband, otherwise she would not have suggested the idea. She probably didn't factor in Hagar getting cocky and proud and despising her. The situation quickly became volcanic. And who gets the blame? Abram! And she is furious:


“And Sarai said to Abram, My wrong be upon you. I have given my slave woman into your bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. Jehovah judge between me and you.”


(As a rule of thumb when something goes wrong women blame their husbands, and their husbands blame God or the government, whichever is easier. An exasperated husband once said that when things went badly his wife always blamed him, but when things went well his wife just said “praise the Lord” so that he got all the blame and none of the credit!)


Well Abram was smart enough to know that: “Well actually darling it was your dumb idea in the first place” was not the right answer!  Sarai was looking for justice and empowerment – and she got it. Abram affirms her power over Hagar: But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your slave woman is in your hand. Do to her as it pleases you.


If Abram had just called in Hagar and told her to be more respectful to Sarai, he would not have empowered his wife, Sarai still would have been weakened. Every subsequent infraction would have to be brought back to Abram. Sarai would have had no power to correct things herself on the spot. Instead Abram reinforces his wife’s power and enables her to use her own judgment to fix things. Now the fact that Sarai abuses this power does not diminish the wisdom of Abram's empowering Sarai to solve her own problem.

Sometimes when we bring a problem to God He just says: “I give you the power and authority to solve this one yourself, just use your wisdom.” It might be raising your children, or running your firm, or even casting out a demon from someone. God wants us to mature into people who can reign with Him and rule over the nations. That means we have to develop ethical, wise, godly judgment and the ability to implement constructive solutions to common problems.


“Please God solve my financial mess” might get the reply “You have the power to draw up a budget, to earn a bit more, to spend a bit less, to give wisely and to see a Christian accountant. Do that first.” As we exercise responsibility and self-respect and good judgment, then we will grow and mature and become Christ-like, which is what God intends. As you do this God will help you to master your impulse buying, your cravings, your “unconscious” spending, your lack of discipline and all the other factors that lead to a financial crisis.


Now Sarai had gotten herself into this mess and she was going to get herself out of it by being so mean to Hagar that Hagar would just go away. And for a while Hagar did go away until God sent her back, and humbled her and changed her attitude toward Sarai. As Hagar changed the problem resolved and they all lived “happily” for another thirteen years or so (until Ishmael's attitude got them thrown out).


The other part of the domestic dispute is a disrupting of the natural order of relationships:


Proverbs 30:21-23 Under three things the earth quakes, and under four it is not able to bear up: (22) for a servant when he reigns; and a fool when he is filled with food; (23) for a hateful (rejected) woman when she is married; and a servant girl that is heir to (or supplants) her mistress.


Hagar's sudden promotion from servant, to Abrams; wife and mother of the only heir caused her to be “unbearable” in her behavior. Every time we see Hagar she has the mentality of a young servant girl. She is alternatively cocky, then sulky, then runs away, is then defeated and desperate and is finally submissive. Hagar was quite unable to psychologically bear the social implications of the role Sarai thrust upon her. The new role filled her with pride, then plunged her into despair. Paul sees a similar trap for new converts who are asked to assume spiritual leadership;


1 Timothy 3:6 HCSB He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil.


There is a proper natural order for human relationships and when this is disrupted things quickly go out of kilter. The triad of Abram, Sarai and Hagar was never going to be entirely stable. It had to go back to being a dyad. Sarai had to be demoted back to being a maid and no longer fully a wife - which is what lay behind Abram's dictum: “Your maid is in your power” - it put things back into a more stable configuration that everyone was used to and could cope with.


There are long-term consequences for the arrangements we make in our relationships and if we think we can mess around with God's natural order of things we will find out we were wrong – the hard and painful way!




John Edmiston (



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