16:1 Now Sarai, 1 Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, 2 but she had an Egyptian servant 3 named Hagar. 4 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Since 5 the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with 6 my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” 7 Abram did what 8 Sarai told him.
16:3 So after Abram had lived 9 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 16:5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me! 15 I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, 16 but when she realized 17 that she was pregnant, she despised me. 18 May the Lord judge between you and me!” 19
16:6 Abram said to Sarai, “Since your 20 servant is under your authority, 21 do to her whatever you think best.” 22 Then Sarai treated Hagar 23 harshly, 24 so she ran away from Sarai. 25
1 tn The disjunctive clause signals the beginning of a new episode in the story.
2 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.
3 tn The Hebrew term שִׁפְחָה (shifkhah, translated “servant” here and in vv. 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8) refers to a menial female servant.
4 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.)
5 tn Heb “look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) introduces the foundational clause for the imperative to follow.
6 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.
7 tn Heb “perhaps I will be built from her.” Sarai hopes to have a family established through this surrogate mother.
8 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.
9 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 tn Heb “my wrong is because of you.”
16 tn Heb “I placed my female servant in your bosom.”
17 tn Heb “saw.”
18 tn Heb “I was despised in her eyes.” The passive verb has been translated as active for stylistic reasons. Sarai was made to feel supplanted and worthless by Hagar the servant girl.
19 tn Heb “me and you.”
sn May the
20 tn The clause is introduced with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh), introducing a foundational clause for the coming imperative: “since…do.”
21 tn Heb “in your hand.”
22 tn Heb “what is good in your eyes.”
23 tn Heb “her”; the referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
24 tn In the Piel stem the verb עָנָה (’anah) means “to afflict, to oppress, to treat harshly, to mistreat.”
25 tn Heb “and she fled from her presence.” The referent of “her” (Sarai) has been specified in the translation for clarity.