Genesis 16:1-4

The Birth of Ishmael

16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, but she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” Abram did what Sarai told him.

16:3 So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, 10  to her husband to be his wife. 11  16:4 He had sexual relations with 12  Hagar, and she became pregnant. 13  Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai. 14 

Genesis 22:21-24

22:21 Uz the firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 15  22:22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 22:23 (Now 16  Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.) These were the eight sons Milcah bore to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 22:24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore him children – Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

Genesis 28:8-9

28:8 Then Esau realized 17  that the Canaanite women 18  were displeasing to 19  his father Isaac. 28:9 So Esau went to Ishmael and married 20  Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, along with the wives he already had.

Genesis 29:23-30

29:23 In the evening he brought his daughter Leah 21  to Jacob, 22  and Jacob 23  had marital relations with her. 24  29:24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 

29:25 In the morning Jacob discovered it was Leah! 26  So Jacob 27  said to Laban, “What in the world have you done to me! 28  Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked 29  me?” 29:26 “It is not our custom here,” 30  Laban replied, “to give the younger daughter in marriage 31  before the firstborn. 29:27 Complete my older daughter’s bridal week. 32  Then we will give you the younger one 33  too, in exchange for seven more years of work.” 34 

29:28 Jacob did as Laban said. 35  When Jacob 36  completed Leah’s bridal week, 37  Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 38  29:29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 39  29:30 Jacob 40  had marital relations 41  with Rachel as well. He loved Rachel more than Leah, so he worked for Laban 42  for seven more years. 43 


tn The disjunctive clause signals the beginning of a new episode in the story.

sn On the cultural background of the story of Sarai’s childlessness see J. Van Seters, “The Problem of Childlessness in Near Eastern Law and the Patriarchs of Israel,” JBL 87 (1968): 401-8.

tn The Hebrew term שִׁפְחָה (shifkhah, translated “servant” here and in vv. 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8) refers to a menial female servant.

sn The passage records the birth of Ishmael to Abram through an Egyptian woman. The story illustrates the limits of Abram’s faith as he tries to obtain a son through social custom. The barrenness of Sarai poses a challenge to Abram’s faith, just as the famine did in chap. 12. As in chap. 12, an Egyptian figures prominently. (Perhaps Hagar was obtained as a slave during Abram’s stay in Egypt.)

tn Heb “look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) introduces the foundational clause for the imperative to follow.

tn Heb “enter to.” The expression is a euphemism for sexual relations (also in v. 4).

sn The Hebrew expression translated have sexual relations with does not convey the intimacy of other expressions, such as “so and so knew his wife.” Sarai simply sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate. For further discussion see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 (1969): 312-21.

tn Heb “perhaps I will be built from her.” Sarai hopes to have a family established through this surrogate mother.

tn Heb “listened to the voice of,” which is an idiom meaning “obeyed.”

sn Abram did what Sarai told him. This expression was first used in Gen 3:17 of Adam’s obeying his wife. In both cases the text highlights weak faith and how it jeopardized the plan of God.

tn Heb “at the end of ten years, to live, Abram.” The prepositional phrase introduces the temporal clause, the infinitive construct serves as the verb, and the name “Abram” is the subject.

10 tn Heb “the Egyptian, her female servant.”

11 sn To be his wife. Hagar became a slave wife, not on equal standing with Sarai. However, if Hagar produced the heir, she would be the primary wife in the eyes of society. When this eventually happened, Hagar become insolent, prompting Sarai’s anger.

12 tn Heb “entered to.” See the note on the same expression in v. 2.

13 tn Or “she conceived” (also in v. 5)

14 tn Heb “and she saw that she was pregnant and her mistress was despised in her eyes.” The Hebrew verb קָלַל (qalal) means “to despise, to treat lightly, to treat with contempt.” In Hagar’s opinion Sarai had been demoted.

15 sn This parenthetical note about Kemuel’s descendant is probably a later insertion by the author/compiler of Genesis and not part of the original announcement.

16 tn The disjunctive clause gives information that is important but parenthetical to the narrative. Rebekah would become the wife of Isaac (Gen 24:15).

17 tn Heb “saw.”

18 tn Heb “the daughters of Canaan.”

19 tn Heb “evil in the eyes of.”

20 tn Heb “took for a wife.”

21 tn Heb “and it happened in the evening that he took Leah his daughter and brought her.”

sn His daughter Leah. Laban’s deception of Jacob by giving him the older daughter instead of the younger was God’s way of disciplining the deceiver who tricked his older brother. D. Kidner says this account is “the very embodiment of anti-climax, and this moment a miniature of man’s disillusion, experienced from Eden onwards” (Genesis [TOTC], 160). G. von Rad notes, “That Laban secretly gave the unloved Leah to the man in love was, to be sure, a monstrous blow, a masterpiece of shameless treachery…It was certainly a move by which he won for himself far and wide the coarsest laughter” (Genesis [OTL], 291).

22 tn Heb “to him”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

23 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 tn Heb “went in to her.” The expression “went in to” in this context refers to sexual intercourse, i.e., the consummation of the marriage.

25 tn Heb “and Laban gave to her Zilpah his female servant, to Leah his daughter [for] a servant.” This clause gives information parenthetical to the narrative.

26 tn Heb “and it happened in the morning that look, it was Leah.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through Jacob’s eyes.

27 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

28 tn Heb What is this you have done to me?” The use of the pronoun “this” is enclitic, adding emphasis to the question: “What in the world have you done to me?”

29 sn The Hebrew verb translated tricked here (רָמָה, ramah) is cognate to the noun used in Gen 27:35 to describe Jacob’s deception of Esau. Jacob is discovering that what goes around, comes around. See J. A. Diamond, “The Deception of Jacob: A New Perspective on an Ancient Solution to the Problem,” VT 34 (1984): 211-13.

30 tn Heb “and Laban said, ‘It is not done so in our place.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

31 tn Heb “to give the younger.” The words “daughter” and “in marriage” are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

32 tn Heb “fulfill the period of seven of this one.” The referent of “this one” has been specified in the translation as “my older daughter” for clarity.

sn Bridal week. An ancient Hebrew marriage ceremony included an entire week of festivities (cf. Judg 14:12).

33 tn Heb “this other one.”

34 tn Heb “and we will give to you also this one in exchange for labor which you will work with me, still seven other years.”

sn In exchange for seven more years of work. See C. H. Gordon, “The Story of Jacob and Laban in the Light of the Nuzi Tablets,” BASOR 66 (1937): 25-27; and J. Van Seters, “Jacob’s Marriages and Ancient Near Eastern Customs: A Reassessment,” HTR 62 (1969): 377-95.

35 tn Heb “and Jacob did so.” The words “as Laban said” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

36 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

37 tn Heb “the seven of this one.” The referent of “this one” has been specified in the translation as Leah to avoid confusion with Rachel, mentioned later in the verse.

38 tn Heb “and he gave to him Rachel his daughter for him for a wife.” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

39 tn Heb “and Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his female servant, for her for a servant.”

40 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

41 tn Heb “went in also to Rachel.” The expression “went in to” in this context refers to sexual intercourse, i.e., the consummation of the marriage.

42 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

43 tn Heb “and he loved also Rachel, more than Leah, and he served with him still seven other years.”