Abram’s first son: Ishmael
Surrogate mom for infertile couple1 Abram’s wife Sarai hadn’t been able to have any children. What she did have was an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar. 2 Sarai told Abram, “The LORD has made me infertile. Go and make a baby with my slave woman. Maybe then I can at least have children through a surrogate mother.” Abram did as he was told. 3 This happened 10 years after Abram moved to Canaan. That’s when Sarai took her Egyptian slave, Hagar, and gave her to Abram as his second wife. 4 Abram had sex with Hagar and she got pregnant. When she realized she was pregnant, she switched on her nasty attitude whenever she was around Sarai. 5 Sarai noticed. She complained to Abram, “Look what you’ve done to me! I put my slave in your arms and now that she’s pregnant she treats me like I gave her to some jerk—and she hates me for it. It’s all your fault.” 6 “What?” Abram said. “You’re blaming me? She’s your slave. Deal with her any way you want.” Sarai got some payback, treating her slave so nasty that Hagar ran away.
Angel appears to runaway surrogate Hagar7 The LORD’s angel found Hagar by a spring in the badlands, beside the road to Shur. 8 He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s slave, what are you doing here? Where did you come from and where are you headed?” Hagar said, “I’m running away from my owner, Sarai.” 9 “Go back,” the LORD’s angel told her. “Respect her authority and do whatever she says. 10 I’ll promise you this,” the angel added. “The child you’re carrying will produce more descendants than anyone could ever count.” 11 The angel said, “You’re going to have a son. Call him Ishmael because the LORD has heard you and he sees your tough situation. 12 Ishmael will be a wild child. He’ll grow up to be like a stubborn jackass that won’t budge for anyone unless he wants to. He’ll get on the bad side of everyone, and everyone will get on the bad side of him. That includes his relatives.” 13 From that time on, when Hagar spoke of the LORD she called him by a different name: El-roi. She said, “I can’t believe I’m still alive after seeing God.” 14 The well at the spring got a new name, too: Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. This well is still there. It lies between the cities of Kadesh and Bered. 15 Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son. Abram named the boy Ishmael. 16 Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.
In what is now Israel and Palestinian territories.
Possibly the desert in the Sinai Peninsula, in the direction of Egypt.
Hebrew for “God hears.”
Pronounced EL row EE, meaning “God who sees.”
If a woman in Bible times could not have a baby, it was common practice for the family to use a surrogate birth mother. The law even shows up in Hammurabi’s Code, a set of laws written several hundred years before Moses. Given that the Genesis writer says God promised to give Abraham a big family, do you think that it showed a lack of faith for Abraham to use a surrogate?
React to these two laws from Hammurabi’s Code, attributed to Babylonian (Iraq) King Hammurabi, who lived from about 1810-1750 BC. That’s a century or two after Abraham. What do you read into these laws?
- Law 145. If a man’s wife can’t give him children and he marries another woman, the second wife he brings into his house should be treated as less than equal to the first wife.
- Law 146. If a man’s wife gives him a slave woman to serve as a wife, and the slave woman gives birth to the man’s child, then the slave should be treated as equal to the first wife. Since this slave has given birth to his children, he can’t sell her. But he can keep her as a slave, like any other slave woman.
Abraham’s son with Hagar—Ishmael—is generally considered the father of Arab people. The Bible says an angel told Hagar what her son was going to be like: “He’ll get on the bad side of everyone, and everyone will get on the bad side of him. That includes his relatives” (16:12). Do you think it’s fair to apply that prediction to Arab people today?
After the angel appeared to Hagar, “when Hagar spoke of the LORD she called him by a different name: El-roi” (16:13). It means “God who sees.” God had seen her situation and he stepped in to help her. If you had to give God a name that describes his relationship with you or a unique way in which you think of him, what would it be?
LIFE APPLICATION. Sarah was not able to have children, so she resorted to using her slave as a surrogate mother. Childless women in Bible times were often considered cursed of God. What kind of pressures do infertile women experience today?
LIFE APPLICATION. If a woman today is diagnosed as infertile, what are some of the options available to her if she wants to have a baby? Which one of those options do you think would draw the most criticism from her family and friends?