the hearing, seeing God

Genesis 16

7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

   “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

 9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

 11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
   “You are now pregnant
   and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
   for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
   his hand will be against everyone
   and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
   toward all his brothers.”

 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.


 15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
***

IN THE FACE of Sarai’s rough treatment, pregnant Hagar runs away.  She is found by the ‘angel of Yahweh’, by a spring of water in the wilderness – was she heading for Egypt, her homeland?

Yahweh knows who Hagar is, and engages her in conversation.  Where have you come from, and where are you going?

The questions evoke a simple response: I’m running away from Sarai.

And the reaction?  Go back.  And even harder for proud Hagar: Go back and submit.


But he does not leave her merely with this command, but gives her a promise of her own – she too will have numerous descendants; God will multiply her offspring.  He gives her unborn the name ‘Ishmael’ – God hears.  The child will not have an easy life; he will be a misfit among his family.  An odd kind of reassurance, this, but it shows one thing: God knows.  God knows who this son will be, and what he will be like.  Her son will live and grow and become a man.

After being told the name of her son, Hagar gives Yahweh a name from her own lips: El-roi – the God who sees.  God has seen her, and she him.  She was alone in the wilderness but Yahweh, who she names El-roi.  (Remember this is before Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, where El-roi declares himself Yahweh, the great I AM.)

Abram is 86 years old when Ishmael is born.

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