Genesis 16:4
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
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(4) Her mistress was despised.—Hagar, we are told in Genesis 16:3, was to be, not Abram’s concubine, but his wife. She was to be Sarai’s representative, and though now she would hold the highest place in the household next to Sarai, because of this relation to Abram, yet she would continue to be Sarai’s maid. But no sooner had she conceived, than, proud of her superiority over her mistress, she wished to overthrow this arrangement, and, at all events, acted as if she was Abram’s wife absolutely, and thrust Sarai aside.

Genesis 16:4. Her mistress was despised in her eyes — Thus began the ill consequences of Abram’s marriage to Hagar: much mischief it made presently. Hagar no sooner perceives herself with child, but she looks scornfully upon her mistress; upbraids her, perhaps, with her barrenness, and insults over her. Sarai falls upon Abram, and very unjustly charges him with the injury, suspecting that he countenanced Hagar’s insolence: and as one not willing to hear what Abram had to say, she rashly appeals to God. Those are not always in the right that are most forward in appealing to God. Rash and bold imprecations are commonly evidences of guilt and a bad cause.

16:4-6 Abram's unhappy marriage to Hagar very soon made a great deal of mischief. We may thank ourselves for the guilt and grief that follow us, when we go out of the way of our duty. See it in this case, Passionate people often quarrel with others, for things of which they themselves must bear the blame. Sarai had given her maid to Abram, yet she cries out, My wrong be upon thee. That is never said wisely, which pride and anger put into our mouths. Those are not always in the right, who are most loud and forward in appealing to God: such rash and bold imprecations commonly speak guilt and a bad cause. Hagar forgot that she herself had first given the provocation, by despising her mistress. Those that suffer for their faults, ought to bear it patiently, 1Pe 2:20.A Mizrite handmaid. - Hagar was probably obtained, ten years before, during their sojourn in Egypt. "The Lord hath restrained me." It was natural to the ancient mind to recognize the power and will of God in all things. "I shall be builded by her," אבנה 'ı̂bāneh, built as the foundation of a house, by the addition of sons or daughters (בנים bānı̂ym or בנית bānôt). She thought she had or wished to have a share in the promise, if not by herself personally, yet through her maid. The faith of Sarah had not yet come fully to the birth. Abram yields to the suggestion of his wife, and complies with the custom of the country. Ten years had elapsed since they had entered the land they were to inherit. Impatience at the long delay leads to an invention of their own for obtaining an heir. The contempt of her maid was unjustifiable. But it was the natural consequence of Sarai's own improper and imprudent step, in giving her to her husband as a concubine. Unwilling, however, to see in herself the occasion of her maid's insolence, she transfers the blame to her husband, who empowers or reminds her of her power still to deal with her as it pleased her. Hagar, unable to bear the yoke of humiliation, flees from her mistress.3. Sarai … gave her to … Abram to be his wife—"Wife" is here used to describe an inferior, though not degrading, relation, in countries where polygamy prevails. In the case of these female slaves, who are the personal property of his lady, being purchased before her marriage or given as a special present to her, no one can become the husband's secondary wife without her mistress consent or permission. This usage seems to have prevailed in patriarchal times; and Hagar, Sarai's slave, of whom she had the entire right of disposing, was given by her mistress' spontaneous offer, to be the secondary wife of Abram, in the hope of obtaining the long-looked-for heir. It was a wrong step—indicating a want of simple reliance on God—and Sarai was the first to reap the bitter fruits of her device. For barrenness in itself was a reproach, and especially to Sarai, who seemed to be a person rejected by God, as one whom he would not honour with being the mother of that Seed; and Hagar being suddenly made Sarai’s partner in the privilege of Abram’s bed, and superior to her in respect of that great blessing of child-bearing, it is no wonder if she grew insolent upon it, especially being advanced so highly from so low a condition.

And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived,.... The formality of the marriage being over, he enjoyed her as his wife, and she immediately conceived by him:

and when she saw that she had conceived; when she perceived that she was with child:

her mistress was despised in her eyes; she thought herself above her, and treated her as her inferior, with contempt, and reproached her for her barrenness, as Peninnah did Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:6; and it was the more ungrateful, as it was at the motion of her mistress that she was given to Abram for wife.

And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was {c} despised in her eyes.

(c) This punishment declares what they gain if they attempt any thing against the word of God.

4. was despised in her eyes] Compare the story in 1 Samuel 1, where the two wives are both “free,” and one is childless. Here the “free” wife, the mistress (gebéreth), gives her own maidservant (âmâh) to her husband; and is then jealous for her own dignity.

Verse 4. - And he went in unto Hagar. בּוא אֶלאּ, a linguistic peculiarity of the Jehovist, occurring Genesis 29:21, 30; Genesis 30:3, 4; Genesis 38:2, 9, 16 (Vaihinger, Davidson); but by some partitionists Genesis 29. and 30. are assigned to the Elohist (Tuch, Bleek, De Wette). And she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. As Hannah by Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:6); barrenness among the Hebrews having been regarded as a dishonor and reproach (Genesis 19:31; Genesis 30:1, 23; Leviticus 20:20), and fecundity as a special mark of the Divine favor (Genesis 21:6; Genesis 24:60; Exodus 23:26; Deuteronomy 7:14). Whether Hagar imagined Sarai to be through her barrenness "tanquam a Divino promisso repudiatam" (Lyra), or anticipated Sarai's displacement from her position as Abram s wife (Inglis), she, immediately on perceiving her condition, became insolent (cf. Proverbs 30:23). Genesis 16:4As the promise of a lineal heir (Genesis 15:4) did not seem likely to be fulfilled, even after the covenant had been made, Sarai resolved, ten years after their entrance into Canaan, to give her Egyptian maid Hagar to her husband, that if possible she might "be built up by her," i.e., obtain children, who might found a house or family (Genesis 30:3). The resolution seemed a judicious one, and according to the customs of the East, there would be nothing wrong in carrying it out. Hence Abraham consented without opposition, because, as Malachi (Malachi 2:15) says, he sought the seed promised by God. But they were both of them soon to learn, that their thoughts were the thoughts of man and not of God, and that their wishes and actions were not in accordance with the divine promise. Sarai, the originator of the plan, was the first to experience its evil consequences. When the maid was with child by Abram, "her mistress became little in her eyes." When Sarai complained to Abram of the contempt she received from her maid (saying, "My wrong," the wrong done to me, "come upon thee," cf. Jeremiah 51:35; Genesis 27:13), and called upon Jehovah to judge between her and her husband,

(Note: בּיניך, with a point over the second Jod, to show that it is irregular and suspicious; since בּין with the singular suffix is always treated as a singular, and only with a plural suffix as plural.)

Abram gave her full power to act as mistress towards her maid, without raising the slave who was made a concubine above her position. But as soon as Sarai made her feel her power, Hagar fled. Thus, instead of securing the fulfilment of their wishes, Sarai and Abram had reaped nothing but grief and vexation, and apparently had lost the maid through their self-concerted scheme. But the faithful covenant God turned the whole into a blessing.

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