Eternity Daily Bible Study

The Life Of Abraham

Number: 559

Verses: Genesis 16:7-16

Topic: God Hears Us, God Sees Us

Date: January 4th, 2006

Genesis 16:7-16 MKJV And the Angel of Jehovah found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. (8) And He said, Hagar, Sarai's slave, where did you come from? and where will you go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. (9) And the Angel of Jehovah said to her, Return to your mistress and submit yourself under her hands. (10) And the Angel of Jehovah said to her, I will multiply your seed exceedingly, so that it shall not be numbered for multitude. (11) And the Angel of Jehovah said to her, Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son. And you shall call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah has heard your affliction. (12) And he will be a wild man. His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him. And he shall live in the presence of all his brothers. (13) And she called the name of Jehovah who had spoken to her, You are a God of vision! For she said, Even here have I looked after Him that sees me? (14) Therefore the well was called The Well of the Living One Seeing Me. Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. (15) And Hagar bore Abram a son. And Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bore, Ishmael. (16) And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

First a bit of technical detail about “the messenger formula” as it relates to angels. Messengers in the ancient world spoke the exact first-person words of their master. So Joe's messenger Isaac would run down the road and say to Sam “I, Joe, invite you Sam to a barbeque at lunch-time”. Isaac would speak “in Joe's name” as if he were Joe himself. This is known as the “messenger formula”. It is often used by the prophets when speaking in God's name “Thus saith the Lord...” or by messengers of ancient Kings “Thus says King Cyrus”.

[You can find a brief article on the messenger formula here:]

Now the “angel of the Lord” presents a particular problem as he is a divine being who speaks for God, and uses the “first-person” and sometimes does not add “Thus says the Lord”. However the title “angel of the Lord” means “messenger of the Lord” (angel means messenger” and so it should be understood that the messenger formula is being used. However the great glory of the angel of the Lord and this first person speech as if God was speaking sometimes causes bible characters to say “I have seen God and lived” while in fact they have “seen a divine being and lived”. No one has seen God at any time:

1 John 4:12 MKJV No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Even the glorious being in Revelation 1 is not Jesus Christ but His glorious angel, with symbols of Christ, – and towards the end of the book this same angel even prevents John from worshiping him. Thus the 'angel of the Lord” passages are not appearances of God, but of his most glorious messenger angel who speaks in His name.

Hagar learns a number of huge lessons about God:
a) That though she is just a runaway slave, God cared for her and for her unborn child.

b) That God hears people's cries – hence the name Ishmael – God hears.

c) That God sees people's situations and knows their futures.

Notice how the formula for naming Ishmael is strikingly similar to the well-known formula used to name Jesus:

Genesis 16:11 MKJV And the Angel of Jehovah said to her, Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son. And you shall call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah has heard your affliction.

Matthew 1:21 MKJV And she shall bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. (see also Luke 1:31)

In both cases an angel announces the birth and the name and why the name was chosen. The only other person I can find in Scripture that this happens to is Samson.

The Abrahamic line is so important to God that even a pregnant runaway slave merits an angelic visitation! God is watching over the process of redemption with infinite care and when you get “in on the story” by participating in God's plans you will find that God “hears” your prayers and “sees you situation” and that amazing things start happening in your life. Hagar, though humble, would become the mother of a great nation and an innumerable people – the Arabs.

The angel's prediction of the proud, independent, contentious Arab nature of Ishmael is true even to this day: Genesis 16:12 LITV And he shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against all, and the hand of everyone against him; and he shall live before all his brothers.

Such natures are given spiritually and are not just a product of genetics and the environment - or the Arab nature might have changed by now, four thousand years later! There is a spiritual realm that determines the natures of people and places and their destinies and whether they are blessed or cursed and how things will turn out. Ishmael was predestined, by God, to be a great nation of a certain nature and to share some of the Abrahamic blessing. Once God speaks, it happens!

However natures are not totally permanent, natures can be changed spiritually by a decree from God, or by the new birth or by the intervention of the Holy Spirit:

1 Samuel 10:9 MKJV And it happened when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God changed him with another heart. And all those signs came on that day.

Daniel 4:16 MKJV Let his heart be changed from man's, and let the heart of an animal be given to him. And let seven times pass over him.

Why then has not God just given everyone a meek, humble and loving nature? Partly because God has His plans for us and loves a great diversity of humanity, partly so we could love Him freely and without manipulation, and partly because He freely offers us a good nature - through repentance and faith and His inner working that produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I am “by nature” intelligent, cynical, sarcastic, paranoid and depressive. However I cannot let it just rest at that and say “well that is just the way I am!” Instead I have to ask God to transform me in both my strengths and weaknesses so I become wise, full of faith, gentle, perceptive, discerning and generally optimistic.

God even addresses Hagar's nature and tells her to return and submit to Sarai her mistress. The path to glory lay in being part of the Abrahamic line and to do that Hagar would have to stop being proud and flighty and start being humble and strong.


John Edmiston (

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