Perhaps related to the Arabic hegira, "flight." Genesis 16; Genesis 21; Genesis 25:12. Abram's bond-woman; an Egyptian received into his household during his sojourn in Egypt,. Taken as legal concubine at Sarai's suggestion to raise a seed, in hope of his being the promised heir, when Sarai's age seemingly forbade hope of issue by her. The marriage law was then less definitely recognized than at the beginning, and than subsequently. Lack of faith moved Sarai to suggest, and moved Abram to adopt, a fleshly device instead of waiting the Lord's time and way. It was punished by consequent family disquiet, and the bad example copied by the Ishmaelites has proved morally and physically a curse to the race. Abraham gave up Hagar, in violation of eastern custom, to Sarai's ill usage; so Hagar fled toward her native land Egypt, by the way through the wilderness toward Shur, probably Suez.
The wilderness is identified with the N.E. part of that of Paran, now Al-jifar. The angel of Jehovah reminded her that as "Sarai's maid" she owed her submission, and promised that her son Ishmael should be father of a numerous nation. So she called Jehovah that spoke unto her "Thou God seest me" (Hebrew: "Thou art a God of seeing," a God who allows Himself to be seen), for she said, "Have I also seen (i.e. am I yet living and seeing) here, after seeing (God)?" (Genesis 32:30; Judges 13:22; Exodus 20:19; Exodus 33:20). The adjoining well was named Beer-lahai-roi, "the well of the seeing alive," i.e. at which one saw God and lived.
This explanation involves a change of accents; but the KJV explanation involves a grammatical difficulty; Chald. supports KJV, "Thou art a God of seeing," i.e. the all seeing, from whose eye the helpless is not hidden in the lonely desert, and Beer-lahairoi, "the well of the living One who sees me," i.e. of the ever living omnipresent Providence. In either view the words show Hagar was now no pagan, but had become in some degree a believer in the God of Abraham. Ishmael's mocking at the feast which celebrated Isaac's weaning was the occasion of Sarah's saying, "Cast out this bond-woman and her son, for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son ... Isaac."
As Abram had laughed for joy at the promise of Isaac (Genesis 17:17), and Sarai for incredulity (Genesis 18:12-15), but afterward, at Isaac's birth, for joyful gratitude, so Ishmael in derision and in the spirit of a persecutor, mocking (which contains the germ of persecuting) Isaac's faith in God's promises. Being the elder he prided himself above "him that was born after the Spirit," i.e. by the Spirit-energized promise of God, which made Sarah fruitful out of the course of nature. The history typifies the truth that the spiritual seed of Abraham by promise, Gentile as well as Jewish believers, take the place of the Jews the natural seed, who imagined that to them exclusively belonged the kingdom of God.
Paul expounds Hagar to answer to Sinai and the law, which generates a spirit of "bondage," as Hagar was a bond-woman, and that this must give place to the gospel dispensation and the church of grace, the "Jerusalem which is above." The carnal and legalists shall not be heirs with the free New Testament believers (Galatians 4:22-31). Abraham, at God's command, did what Sarah said, though grievous to him. H. wandered with her child (15 years was childhood when human life was so long, he was old enough to "mock") in the wilderness of Beersheba; the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast him, soon worn out as a growing lad, under a shrub, having previously led him by the hand (for Genesis 21:14 means that Abraham put the bread and bottle, but not also the child, "on her shoulder"; so Genesis 21:18, "hold him in thine hand".)
The lad's own cry, still more than the mother's, brought "the angel of God" (here only in Gen., usually "angel of JEHOVAH"), i.e. GOD, the second Person (Genesis 21:17; Genesis 21:19-20), to his and her help. The child's cry is the more potent with the Omnipotent, just because of its helplessness (Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 41:17-18). God opened her eyes to see water where she had supposed there was only a dry wilderness. In our greatest extremity God has only to open our eyes and we see abundant help near. Real prayer will bring Him to our side (2 Kings 6:17-20; Luke 24:16; Luke 24:31). Hagar "took him a wife out of Egypt," the land of idols and worldliness; untaught by the piety of Abraham and by God's mercy to herself.
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