1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.
2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.
3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.
4 So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her [b]eyes.
5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”
6 So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
The Epistle to the Galatians declares that Sarah and Hagar represent the two principles of law and grace. Hagar represents salvation by works; Sarah, salvation by faith. These principles are opposed to one another. Ismael is born as the result of man’s planning and energy. Isaac is born as the result of God’s planning and energy. In the birth of Ishmael, God had nothing to do, and as regards the birth of Isaac man was dead. So is it today, salvation by works entirely depends on man’s capacity to produce them; salvation by faith upon God’s ability to perform them. Under a covenant of works, God stands still in order to see what man can do. Under the covenant of grace, man stands still to see what God has done. The two covenants are opposed; it must be either Hagar or Sarah. If Hagar, God has nothing to do with it; if Sarah, man has nothing to do with it. — Williams, pages 20-21.
By this time, Abram was eighty-five years old, and Sarai was seventy-five (note Genesis 16:16). Her maid, Hagar (an Egyptian girl, perhaps acquired during their stay in Egypt), was, in effect, her own personal property. thus any children that she might bear to Abram would legally belong to Sarai, in accordance with the customs of the day. Abram “hearkened to the voice of Sarai,” and this turned out to be a serious mistake, just as it had for Adam long ago (Genesis 3:17). He had still not fully learned that we must “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). Scripture enjoins us: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:35-36). Morris, page 329.
When Hagar saw that she had conceive while Sarai couldn’t, Hagar despised Sarai.
How can we reconcile this statement of Romans 4:20 that Abraham staggered not in unbelief, when we see him in the story of Genesis repeatedly in unbelief? This question is often asked. Many preachers can be very harsh on Abraham’s slips. They have not fully taken God’s attitude to him and they do not seem to know what grace means. Grace means that God fully forgives and forgets. In the Old Testament He uses the sins of the saints as warning beacons, but He does not even do this in the New Testament. he there has buried their sins, blotted them out and forgotten them, and He only exalts their faith. What is said here of Abraham is also true of David and of all the ancient worthies where the sins of even a Samson and Gideon are not mentioned but their faith is shining on the page of Holy Writ. The, the Lord does not forget what we so often forget that Satan uses all his trickery and chicanery against God’s men. It is true that Abraham went down to Egypt and the Philistines and that he lied twice about his wife and that he used Hagar his maid. All this proves not only that he was a man of like movement as we are, but also that he was the special object of Satan’s onslaughts and designs to prevent the birth of the promised holy seed of the woman. — Bultema, page 48.
Abraham exhibits faith in chapter 15, and yet he fails in patience in chapter 16. hence the force and beauty of the apostle’s word in Hebrews 6:12: “Followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” God makes a promise; faith believes it, hope anticipates it, patience waits quietly for it.
There is such a thing, in the commercial world, as “the present worth” of a bill or promissory note; for if men are called upon to wait for their money, they must be paid for waiting. Now, in faith’s world there is such a thing as the present worth of God’s promise; and the scale by which that worth is regulated, is the hearth’s experimental knowledge of God; for according to my estimate of God, will be my estimate of His promise; and, moreover, the subdued and patient spirit finds its rich and full reward in waiting upon Him for the accomplishment of all that He has promised. — Mackintosh, page 175.
The specific pattern surrounding the temptation, sin, consequences, and divine response to Abram’s sin is clearly parallel to that surrounding Adam’s sin in chapter 3, thus vividly reinforcing the two-sided point that (1) God’s ideal purpose for man is refocused on Abram, and (2) God will sovereignly ensure the success of this purpose despite the fact that Abram, like Adam before him, and all men in between, is fundamentally tainted by the problem of depravity. — Wechsler, page 190.
Abram, like Adam was the leader of his family: it was to him that God had directly and clearly communicated His word, and it was he who was therefore responsible for properly communicating this word to his family and leading them in obedience to it. And in this instance, as in chapter 3, the temptation to doubt and disobey God’s word is subtly set before the husband through the mediation of his wife—to whom Abram, like Adam, gives in and does what he knows to be wrong. Indeed, the sinfulness of Abram’s action is underscored for the reader by use in verse 2b of the same expression (“to listen to the voice of…”) as that used by God to preface His chastisement of Adam in Genesis 3:17 (“Because you listened to the voice of your wife” ). — Wechsler, page 191.