16:1 Now Sarai, 1 Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, 2 but she had an Egyptian servant 3 named Hagar. 4 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Since 5 the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with 6 my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” 7 Abram did what 8 Sarai told him.
16:3 So after Abram had lived 9 in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, 10 to her husband to be his wife. 11 16:4 He had sexual relations with 12 Hagar, and she became pregnant. 13 Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai. 14 16:5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me! 15 I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, 16 but when she realized 17 that she was pregnant, she despised me. 18 May the Lord judge between you and me!” 19
[16:1] 4 sn The passage records the birth of Ishmael to Abram through an Egyptian woman. The story illustrates the limits of Abram’s faith as he tries to obtain a son through social custom. The barrenness of Sarai poses a challenge to Abram’s faith, just as the famine did in chap. 12. As in chap. 12, an Egyptian figures prominently. (Perhaps Hagar was obtained as a slave during Abram’s stay in Egypt.)
[16:2] sn The Hebrew expression translated have sexual relations with does not convey the intimacy of other expressions, such as “so and so knew his wife.” Sarai simply sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate. For further discussion see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 (1969): 312-21.
[16:3] 11 sn To be his wife. Hagar became a slave wife, not on equal standing with Sarai. However, if Hagar produced the heir, she would be the primary wife in the eyes of society. When this eventually happened, Hagar become insolent, prompting Sarai’s anger.
[16:4] 14 tn Heb “and she saw that she was pregnant and her mistress was despised in her eyes.” The Hebrew verb קָלַל (qalal) means “to despise, to treat lightly, to treat with contempt.” In Hagar’s opinion Sarai had been demoted.
[16:5] sn May the