Genesis xvi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. May have. Hebrew, “may be built up,” a metaphorical expression: so God is said to have built up houses for the Egyptian midwives, Exodus i. 21. (Menochius)

Ver. 3. Ten years after she was 65; which shews that she might reasonably conclude she would now have no children herself; and as she knew God had promised Abram a son, she thought he might follow the custom of those times, and have him by a second wife. Abram shewed no eagerness on this matter, but only yielded to his wife’s petition, deprecanti, being well aware of the inconveniences of polygamy, which Sarai had soon reason to observe. This is the first time we read of polygamy since the deluge; but it is not mentioned as any thing singular or unlawful. This was a matter in which God could dispense; but it was never left to the disposal of any man. Hence, when Luther and his associates ventured to dispense with the Landgrave of Hesse, to keep two wives at once, he required him to keep it a secret, being ashamed of his own conduct. He still maintained it was a thing indifferent, even in the law of grace, though Christ has so expressly condemned it. See pręp 62, 65. The practice, so common of late in this country, of marrying again after a bill of divorce has been passed, is no less contrary to the Catholic doctrine, which allows only a separation of the parties from bed and board, in cases of adultery; but never of a second marriage, while both the parties are living. (1 Corinthians vii.; St. Augustine de Adult. Conj. i., City of God xvi. 25, 38; and other fathers.) (Haydock) — It was never lawful for one woman to have two husbands. (Worthington) — To wife. Plurality of wives, though contrary to the primitive institution of marriage, Genesis ii. 24, was by Divine dispensation allowed to the patriarchs; which allowance seems to have continued during the time of the law of Moses. But Christ our Lord reduced marriage to its primitive institution, St. Matthew xix.

Ver. 5. Despiseth. Few bear prosperity in a proper manner! — And thee. Sarai thinks it is the duty of her husband to restrain the insolence of Agar. She commits her cause to God, and does not seek revenge. (Menochius)

Ver. 6. Afflicted her, as she now resented even a moderate correction. (Haydock)

Ver. 7. In the desert; omitted in Hebrew being a repetition of in the wilderness. (Calmet)

Ver. 9. Humble thyself. The angel, in God’s name, does not blame Sarai; but gives Agar to understand that the fault was wholly on her side. (Haydock)

Ver. 11. Ismael, means “God hath heard” the groans and distress of Agar. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. Wild. Hebrew: like a wild ass, not to be tamed or subdued. The Saracens or Arabs, have almost all along maintained their independence. — Over against, ready to fight, without any dread of any one. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. Thou the God. She had imagined before that she was talking to some man; but perceiving, at parting, that it was some superior being, she invoked him thus. —The hinder parts, as Moses did afterwards, Exodus xxxiii, to let us know, that we cannot fully comprehend the nature of an angel, much less of God. Hebrew may be: “what! have I seen (do I live) after He has seen me.” The Hebrews generally supposed, that death would presently overtake the person who had seen the Lord or his angel. (Judges vi. 22; Exodus xxxii.[xxxiii.?] 20.) (Calmet)

Ver. 15. Agar being returned home, and having obtained pardon. — Ismael, as the angel had foretold; an honour shewn to very few; such as Isaac, Solomon, Jesus, &c. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Abram marrieth Agar, who bringeth forth Ismael.

1 Now Sarai, the wife of Abram, had brought forth no children: having a handmaid, an Egyptian, named Agar,

2 She said to her husband: Behold, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: go in unto my handmaid, it may be I may have children of her at least. And when he agreed to her request,

3 She took Agar the Egyptian her handmaid, *ten years after they first dwelt in the land of Chanaan, and gave her to her husband to wife.

4 And he went in to her. But she perceiving that she was with child, despised her mistress.

5 And Sarai said to Abram: Thou dost unjustly with me: I gave my handmaid into thy bosom, and she perceiving herself to be with child, despiseth me. The Lord judge between me and thee.

6 And Abram made answer, and said to her: Behold thy handmaid is in thy own hand, use her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai afflicted her, she ran away.

7 And the angel of the Lord having found her, by a fountain of water in the wilderness, which is in the way to Sur in the desert,

8 He said to her: Agar, handmaid of Sarai, whence comest thou? and whither goest thou? And she answered: I flee from the face of Sarai, my mistress.

9 And the angel of the Lord said to her: Return to thy mistress, and humble thyself under her hand.

10 And again he said: I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude.

11 And again: Behold, said he, thou art with child, and thou shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Ismael, because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.

12 He shall be a wild man: his hand will be against all men, and all men’s hands against him: and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren.

13 And she called the name of the Lord that spoke unto her: Thou the God who hast seen me. For she said: Verily, here have I seen the hinder parts of him that seeth me.*

14 Therefore she called that well, the well of him that liveth and seeth me. The same is between Cades and Barad.

15 And Agar brought forth a son to Abram: who called his name Ismael.

16 Abram was four score and six years old when Agar brought him forth Ismael.



3: Year of the World 2093, Year before Christ 1911.

13: Exodus xxxiii. 20. and 23.; Genesis xxiv. 62.