Post Series on Genesis 16:1-16:
- The Fall of Abram and Sarai (Genesis 16:1-3)
- The Wilderness Wanderings of Hagar (Genesis 16:4-7)
- The Egyptian Woman at the Well (Genesis 16:7-16)
Just as Jesus found a foreign woman at a well in Samaria, so the angel of the LORD found a foreign Egyptian woman at a well in the wilderness in Genesis 16:
7The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
11And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. 12He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsman.”
13So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
15And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. (Gen. 16:7-16)
Where Are You?
It is a sorrowful question that the angel of the LORD (that is, a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ) asks Hagar, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” In a story with multiple literary parallels to Genesis 3, we have yet another.
After Adam and Eve had sinned, God came looking for them in the Garden while they hid themselves. God, knowing all things, did not need to determine their location when he asked, “Where are you?” He asked the question out of sorrow over the brokenness and death that would result from their sin.
Here, Abram and Sarai had fallen, but God directed his question to Hagar. “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Something serious, weighty, and disastrous has happened now that Abram and Sarai have conspired together to use Hagar as a means of achieving God’s promises to them.
Return to Your Mistress
We can’t help but pity Hagar in this story. Yet, God is not cruel to tell her to return to her mistress and submit to her (v. 9). Instead, he is instructing her on how to receive the greatest possible blessing, God’s blessing to the nations through Abram.
Hagar had, in fact, crossed a dangerous line. The statement in verses 4 and 5 that Hagar had “looked with contempt” on her mistress is no small matter. The Hebrew word there is the exact same word used in Genesis 12:3: “…him who dishonors you I will curse…” God had promised to curse the one who looked with contempt/dishonored Abram, and now Hagar had committed that very sin against Abram’s very wife.
It is sheer grace that God offers her the option to return rather than cursing her. But, to be blessed, returning is the exact thing she needs to do. Unless she is associated with Abram (which she cannot be until reconciled with Abram’s wife Sarai), then she cannot receive the blessing that God promised to Abram.
The Father is Seeking the Woman at the Well
God isn’t only calling Hagar to return to Abram (through Sarai). God is calling Hagar to return to himself. To demonstrate his love to Hagar further, he makes an additional promise to Hagar’s son. Ishmael is not, and would not be, the promised seed through whom God would bless the world, but Ishmael would be powerful and strong, and a mighty nation would come from him. To a foreign woman, God extends a share of the promises.
In the same way, Jesus later approached a foreign woman at a different well, a Samaritan who had been cut off from the promises of God. Jesus, able to see into this woman’s life (just as Hagar calls God “a God of seeing”), told her “all that I ever did” (John 4:39).
This was more than a conversation to kill time until his disciples returned with food. This was more than an extroverted desire to make an acquaintance. Jesus was calling the Samaritan woman back to the salvation that God had promised to the offspring of Abraham, since “salvation is from the Jews.” In fact, Jesus was calling this woman to become a true worshiper:
21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)
This is the magnificent love and grace of our God. His heart beats to call the outsider into his circle, to make worshipers of those who are far off. Despite the great sin of God’s people, God actually draws a poor, foreign, slave girl to himself out of nothing more than free grace and abundant love.
Today, God still calls foreigners to himself. Jesus Christ, the offspring of Abraham, gave up his life in order to call those who are far off to himself. In spite of your situation, in spite of your background, and in spite of your sin, Jesus calls you to come. He calls you to be reconciled with his Father through him, because he has taken care of everything on your behalf through his death and resurrection.
You needn’t do a thing except to return your Master and submit to him. Jesus simply bids you to come.