Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Now, Sarai . . . had a handmaid--a female
slave--one of those obtained in Egypt.
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
5. And Sarai said . . . My wrong be upon thee--Bursts
of temper, or blows, as the original may bear, took place till at
length Hagar, perceiving the hopelessness of maintaining the unequal
strife, resolved to escape from what had become to her in reality, as
well as in name, a house of bondage.
7. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain--This well,
pointed out by tradition, lay on the side of the caravan road, in the
midst of Shur, a sandy desert on the west of Arabia-Petræa, to
the extent of a hundred fifty miles, between Palestine and Egypt. By
taking that direction, she seems to have intended to return to her
relatives in that country. Nothing but pride, passion, and sullen
obstinacy, could have driven any solitary person to brave the dangers
of such an inhospitable wild; and she would have died, had not the
timely appearance and words of the angel recalled her to reflection and
11. Ishmael--Like other Hebrew names, this had a signification,
and it is made up of two words--"God hears." The reason is
12. he will be a wild man--literally, "a wild ass man,"
expressing how the wildness of Ishmael and his descendants resembles
that of the wild ass.
his hand will be against every man--descriptive of the rude,
turbulent, and plundering character of the Arabs.
dwell in the presence of all his brethren--dwell, that is, pitch
tents; and the meaning is that they maintain their independence in
spite of all attempts to extirpate or subdue them.
13. called the name--common in ancient times to name places from
circumstances; and the name given to this well was a grateful
recognition of God's gracious appearance in the hour of Hagar's