On Genesis, Part 26: The Vanity of Ishmael


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On Genesis, Part 26: The Vanity of Ishmael

As we had discussed while having seen The Victories of Abraham in Genesis chapter 15, Abram was given great promises by Yahweh God, who also made many of those promises while binding Himself alone in an unconditional covenant, which is a sure sign that they shall be fulfilled regardless of the deeds of men. Among these is a promise that his seed would ultimately displace the current inhabitants of the land which he had been promised. Those inhabitants were listed as ten tribes of people, five of which were descended from Canaan, at least in part, which are the Hittites, Amorites, Girgashites, Jebusites, and Canaanites, these last whom, for reasons we have already stated, we would venture to identify more specifically as the Sidonians. The other five tribes were not descended from Canaan, and ostensibly, they were not even descended from Adam through Noah. The origins of two of these tribes are known from Scripture, which are the Kenites and the Rephaim. They are the descendants of Cain, and a particular family of the Nephilim. While the other three are unknown, it cannot be assumed that they are of Noah, since the purpose for the genealogies and the writing of this history in this manner was so that the children of Israel in the time of Moses could know the nature of their enemies and be able to identify them as they come to possess the land which Abram was promised, as opposed to the identification of their surrounding kindred nations who are listed in Genesis chapter 10. For that reason, we must account the Kenizzites, Kadmonites and Perizzites as having been aboriginal, and also related to the ancient Nephilim, as the meanings of some of their names also suggest. That same assertion would also be true of the Zuzims, or “roving creatures” who were mentioned in Genesis chapter 14.

So ostensibly, it is for this reason that Yahweh had instructed the children of Israel to completely eradicate or drive out all of these ten tribes, because, as we have also documented in our presentation on The Vanquished where we discussed these tribes, the Canaanites had a proclivity to practise miscegenation, which is race-mixing, with their neighbors, and these tribes were all dwelling together in Canaan for at least six hundred years until this point where Abram is promised their displacement. So in essence, and regardless of what we may think of Canaan himself, considering the circumstances of his birth, the Canaanites were breaking that same law that Adam and Eve and the children of Adam had transgressed in Genesis chapters 3 and 6, which is not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their first fathers were given this law by Yahweh God, and they have no real excuse for not keeping it, except that they had forsaken Him at a much earlier time than this.

The fact that the Canaanites were despised seems to first become apparent in Genesis chapter 12, where Abram was told to depart from Haran, and traveling from north to south we read in part “6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain [or properly, the oaks] of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” But aside from these ten tribes there must have been other, less significant or less numerous peoples, such as the Zuzim who are mentioned in Genesis chapter 14. Later, as it becomes apparent in the early history of Israel, other groups appear in Canaan, such as the Hurrians or Horites, who are errantly labeled Hivites, and the Anakim, and those groups are also despised and counted among the vanquished, having also descended from Canaanites and Nephilim. But with this we also must notice that throughout the history of this period which we have presented thus far in this commentary, elements of all of these accursed groups also lived in apparently much larger numbers outside of this area of Canaan, and if they are despised in Canaan, it should be clear that they should also be despised outside of Canaan. Subsequent history reveals that at least most of them were eventually displaced, until judgment first came upon the Christian world in the east, and since the rise of Islam the enemies of Yahweh God have come to rule that land and the surrounding areas once again. Only now they have different names, such as Jew or Arab or Turk.

We have asserted that people move, and tribes or portions of tribes have frequently migrated in search of better, or even safer or more bountiful lands in which to dwell. Furthermore, various tribes have amalgamated with one another to the point where they become indistinguishable. So here in Genesis, for example, there are descriptions of various tribes of Shemites and Hamites inhabiting portions of what is now known as the Arabian Peninsula. But in the days of Moses, portions of it were part of the land of Cush, and other portions had their own distinct names, such as Aram, Havilah or Sheba. But the word Arabia does not appear in Scripture until the time of Solomon, where it is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 10. A people referred to as Arabians are first mentioned much later, in the days of Jehoshaphat king of Judah in 2 Chronicles chapter 17. The Hebrew root of the word for Arabia, ערב, ereb or arab (#’s 6150, 6153) means to grow dark or dusky, which is something that only White people can do when they mix with other races, and “also a mixture (or mongrel race)”, as Strong’s defined the term in his original Concordance. It is relatively evident in Scripture and history that many tribes in the region mingled together, until they had lost their peculiar identities, whereafter they were known generally only as Arabs. Here where we begin with Ishmael in Genesis chapter 16, we have one early historic figure in that process, and some of his descendants had produced a portion of the people now known as Arabs. But not all Arabs are Ishmael, and since they are all bastards, which is to say mongrels, no Arab is truly of Ishmael.

That is one aspect of the vanity of Ishmael, that eventually his descendants would all become mixed, which we shall discuss at greater length in relation to subsequent chapters of Genesis. However first there is a primary aspect to the vanity of Ishmael, which was not Ishmael’s own doing. While Yahweh God guides the feet of men and He has a purpose for everything, the vanity of Ishmael is primarily the fact that he could never fulfill the purposes for which he had been born. As the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns had said, if he had written in modern English: “But little Mouse, you are not alone, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy! ” [1] A mouse had built a nest, and a young man tripped over it, inadvertently destroying it while walking in a field.

Now here it is not Abram, but Sarai who best fits that illustration. At this point, it is apparent from the text of Genesis that neither Abram nor Sarai could have known how Yahweh would fulfill the promise to Abram, that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven, and Sarai was still barren, so she devised her own way to build the nest, with which Abram must have readily agreed. While Abram stands as a type in Scripture for many wonderful things, here he is also a type for the failure of the plans of men when they are contrary to the plans of God. Following the will of his wife, Abram may have expected joy, but it only resulted in grief and pain.

[1 To a Mouse, Robert Burns, Wikipedia, https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Mouse, accessed August 16th, 2023.]

So with this, we shall commence with Genesis chapter 16:

1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

The original Strong’s Concordance does not define הגר or hagar (# 1904), and neither does The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon [2]. But Gesenius defines the word as flight, and newer sources agree, although a reason or etymology substantiating that definition is not given [3, 4]. However it is evident that flight may be appropriate, since vain things are also often described as fleeting. Following Gesenius, some commentaries also suggest that Hagar means flight, because here in this chapter Hagar attempts to flee from Sarai. Of that interpretation we should be skeptical. Then they often conjecture further that perhaps Hagar was a gift to Sarai from the pharaoh of Egypt. That may of course have been possible, but it cannot be known with certainty and there is no record of that pharaoh having given any gifts to Abram or Sarai as the account is recorded in Genesis chapter 12. Having had his own wealth, Abram was fully capable of providing his wife with a handmaid. Abram must have had some servants who were bought with money, as references are made indicating that very fact, in Genesis chapter 17. Finally, where it describes Hagar as an Egyptian, the term cannot be a mere geographical reference here, and Hagar should be perceived as nothing other than a White woman, having been a daughter of Mizraim, the son of Ham.

[2 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 212; 3 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Baker Books, 1979, p. 216; 4 i.e. Strong's H1904 – hāḡār, Blue Letter Bible, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1904/kjv/wlc/0-1/, accessed August 16 2023.]

2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

At this time Abram was at least 85 years old, and there was nothing to constrain him from having had a second wife if he had wanted one, so he must have truly loved Sarai. If he had a second wife who was not barren, then as we shall see here, the wife who successfully bore him a son would expect to be preferred over the other. But here, it seems that rather than seeking the will of Yahweh before he acted upon the suggestion of his wife, Abram happily complied with her suggestion, oblivious to the trouble which it would cause her later. So Sarai’s plan, which would later cause her grief, would also result in nothing but vanity.

The taking of a slave to wife seems out of character for Abram, but perhaps it shows his own level of desperation here, in spite of the promises of God. Abram had a large household of slaves, and could have taken any one of the maidens to himself if he so desired. This reflects a consciousness of class in the ancient world, which is also evident in its systems of law, although there were also laws whereby a slave could purchase his or her liberty. So even later, wanting a wife for his son Isaac, Abram sent back to Haran rather than taking a maiden from among his own servants. Moreover, it must be noted that it has not yet been revealed to Abram precisely how those promises would be fulfilled, or that his seed must come from Sarai, as she has not been mentioned in any of the promises up to this point. So perhaps Abram may have thought that this was his opportunity to see the fulfillment of the promises, since it was a wife to which Sarai herself had agreed and even suggested.

Furthermore, the children of slaves typically did not share in the same rights of inheritance along with the children of wives who were free women. An example documenting this is found in the law code of Lipit-Ishtar, the fifth king of the Dynasty of Isin in Sumeria, which dates to the first half of the 19th century BC. This is one of the earliest known law codes, and by some chronologies this king is dated to have ruled from 1870 to 1860 BC, which is also the very time of Abram at this point in Genesis, since according to our chronology, Ishmael was born around 1869 BC. While Abram himself was not bound by the laws of Isin, they are representative of the Mesopotamian values with which Abram must have been familiar, and in which he was raised, having come from Ur in Chaldaea. At this very time, as the laws indicate in their prologue, this king also ruled over Ur, Nippur, and evidently all of Sumer and Akkad. So in relation to the relationship of Abram and Hagar, in his laws we read, in part: “25 If a man married a wife (and) she bore him children and those children are living, and a slave also bore children for her master (but) the father granted freedom to the slave and her children, the children of the slave shall not divide the estate with the children of their (former) master. 26: [I]f his first [wife di]ed (and) [af]ter her (death) he takes his [slave] as a wife, the [children] of [his first] wife [are his he]irs; the children which [the slave] bore for her master shall be like … , his house they shall…. ” [5]

Hagar was a slave, whom Abram had evidently given to Sarai. So any children which Hagar had could not have had an expectation of any inheritance, unless Sarai died childless and Abram made such a decision. This is also why later, when Hagar is sent off, Abram was not obliged to give her anything.

Now after Abram agreed to take Hagar to wife, which does not change her lawful status as a slave of Sarai:

3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Later in Genesis, in the competition between the wives of Jacob, both the barren Rachel and then her sister Leah had each given their own handmaids to Jacob for wives. But under the laws of Yahweh, all twelve of the resulting sons had received a portion in Israel. However it must be noted, that additional privileges such as the family scepter, the priesthood and the double portion had all remained among the sons of the wives, things for which the sons of the handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah were not considered. Therefore upon Reuben’s transgression, Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob by his favorite wife, Rachel, had received the double portion, while the other privileges were divided among his older brothers from among the sons of Leah. [Here I did not mention that Jacob left no portion for Levi and Simeon, since that was for reasons other than the customs governing inheritance.]

Now to return to the time of Abram:

4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

So as soon as Hagar became pregnant, Sarai had regretted her decision, because Hagar then considered Sarai to be accursed, as the Hebrew word קלל or qalal (# 7043) which is translated as despised here may have alternatively been translated. Up until this time, since Abram had no children, it was not truly known whether Sarai was actually barren, or perhaps Abram was sterile. So Hagar’s having become pregnant reveals without any doubt that Sarai was barren. That such a condition was seen as a reproach to women is evident in the circumstances and subsequent prayer of Hannah found in 1 Samuel chapter 1, which prayer had later resulted in the birth of Samuel.

5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.

Many translations of Scripture interpret the words which the King James Version translates here as “My wrong be upon thee” as if Sarai is either claiming that Abram had wronged her, or she is blaming Abram for her own misdeed, and beckoning that he suffer the consequences instead of her. So we read in the New American Standard Bible “May the wrong done to me be upon you!” Then in the Legacy Standard Bible “May the violence done to me be upon you.” The Amplified Bible writes a novel out of what are essentially four words, where it has “May [the responsibility for] the wrong done to me [by the arrogant behavior of Hagar] be upon you.” The Christian Standard Bible has “You are responsible for my suffering”, and even Brenton’s Septuagint has “I am injured by thee”, which is a fair rendering of the ancient Greek translation. Other modern translations are even worse. [7]

But none of these seem to be accurate. How could Abram be accused of wrongdoing merely for agreeing with his wife? Rather, she must be accountable for her own actions. Young’s Literal Translation has “My violence is for thee”, which is closer than most of the other translations here [8]. The Hebrew phrase consists of only four words, two full words, each with a suffix that represents a pronoun, and essentially translates “my wrong upon you”, where in English we must add a verb in order for the phrase to make sense. It is common when translating either Hebrew or Greek into English, that a form of the verb to be must be added in order for the text to make sense. So we may add be, or is, and we should prefer is in this context, “my wrong is upon you”. Sarai is admitting her wrong, and the consequences of her wrong would have to be dealt with by her husband. Nothing else should be added to that text. In subsequent verses, Abram is not accused of having done anything wrong here, and neither is Sarai. Therefore all of the innovations made in the popular translations of this verse must be rejected.

Speaking of the meaning of the name Shem in part 18 of this commentary, titled The Hebrews, we had explained that a man’s son was also considered to be his name, that a man wanting a son wanted a name, where we cited the ancient Mesopotamian legend of Etana which also dates to before the time of Abraham. This act here in Genesis chapter 16 should be seen as one of desperation on the part of Sarai, out of concern for her husband’s name and love for her husband, and also on the part of Abram, who had wanted to preserve his name, and who had been told by God that his name would survive him, that he would have a son. So out of mutual love for one another, Abram did not take a second wife to himself in spite of her having been barren, and Sarai sacrificed the position she enjoyed as his only wife so that he could have a son. It was her decision to do so, and Abram could not be faulted for having agreed with her, however he would have to deal with the consequences as her wrong was placed on his shoulders, since he was the husband. So where she then said “Yahweh judges between me and you”, she had apparently only appealed to her husband to watch out for her interests in the matter, since once Hagar had become pregnant, she was apparently afraid of being wronged by losing her status as Abram’s primary wife.

We may despise Hammurabi for having been an Amorite, who was the king of Babylon nearly a century after this time, from about 1792 BC until about 1750 BC. However, in the law code of Hammurabi there is an issue settled which was evidently not addressed in the earlier code of Lipit-Ishtar, if it is not simply missing in damaged fragments, where we read: “146: When a seignior married a hierodule and she gave a female slave to her husband and she has then borne children, if later that female slave has claimed equality with her mistress because she bore children, her mistress may not sell her; she may mark her with the slave-mark and count her among the slaves.” [6] So evidently, there were female slaves who had sought to gain favor over their master’s wives if they had children and their master’s wives were barren, and Hammurabi’s code forbid that from happening. That very same predicament must have been the concern of Sarai here.

[5 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, pp. 159-160; 6 ibid., p. 172; 7 Genesis 16:5, Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/parallel/genesis/16-5.htm, accessed August 17th, 2023; 8 ibid.]

Another aspect of ancient marital relations is evident here, where a woman who is a wife held her own property and had an expectation of control over that property with some degree of independence apart from the will of her husband. As we have read in the text here, Hagar belonged to Sarai, and Sarai had also said to Abram here “go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her” because any children had by Hagar would have also belonged to Sarai, and would also have been her slaves. Examples of this are found in the laws of Eshnunna, another city in Mesopotamia, which were discovered at a site near the modern city of Baghdad on a tablet which is also said to date to before the time of Hammurabi. On that tablet, there are two laws which read:

33: If a slave-girl by subterfuge gives her child to a(nother) man's daughter, (if) its lord sees it when it has become older, he may seize it and take it back.

34: If a slave-girl of the palace gives her son or her daughter to a mul\enum for bringing (him/her) up, the palace may take back the son or the daughter whom she gave. [9]

In the first law, it is evident that the owner of a slave had control of the children of that slave. In the second law, which refers only to the children of slaves owned by the king, the untranslated term mul\enum probably described some sort of tutor who would educate a child for a parent, so the palace withheld the right of educating the children of its slaves. There are many other ancient laws which also uphold these basic rights of slave-owners over their property.

[9 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 161-162]

So where Sarai had told Abram that he had to deal with her wrong, and also had to keep her interests in mind, as we would interpret verse 5, Abram seems to agree where he responds:

6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

The word translated as hardly would be better in modern English as harshly. While it is apparent that Sarai had rights to do as she pleased with her own property, in this case a slave woman, here she had nevertheless sought Abram’s approval in the matter, although Abram may have been ignorant as to precisely what she would do.

Later, the apostle Peter would commend Sarai for subjecting herself to her husband, where he wrote in in chapter 3 of his first epistle admonishing women to subject themselves to their husbands in that same manner, and using Sarai as an example he said in part: “5 For thusly at one time also the holy women who have hope in Yahweh had dressed themselves being subject to their own husbands, 6 as Sarai had obeyed Abram calling him master, whose children you have been born to do good and not fearing any terror.”

It is a tribute to Sarai that here she is about 75 years old, and she still had the strength to resist a much younger woman. However while Yahweh certainly had other plans for Abram and Sarai, while here He has mercy on Hagar:

7 And the angel of the Lord 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 maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

Of course Yahweh knew the plight of Hagar, but just as He had done with Adam and Eve and later with Cain in the Garden of Eden, He evidently wanted to hear it from her. While we cannot know precisely what fountain this is, the phrase “in the way to Shur” only describes a road or path which leads one to Shur. In 1 Samuel chapter 15 Shur is said to be “over against Egypt”, which is indicated again in chapter 27 of that same book. So it is evident that Shur is in the portion of the southern part of Palestine which is adjacent to the border of Egypt. It is also evident from Genesis chapter 14, and again in the opening verse of chapter 18, that at this time Abram and his household are still in Hebron, dwelling by the oaks of Mamre.

The border of Egypt, which at that time was north of the Gulf of Suez, was about 180 miles away. But Hagar need not have travelled that far, and was only on the road that would eventually take her there, by some now unidentified fountain. It is unlikely that there was such a fountain in Shur itself, or at least, about four hundred years later the children of Israel were in Shur and could not find water there, as we read in Exodus chapter 15 that “they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.” But one logical stopping point where water would be found after having left Hebron to travel in that direction is at Beersheba, the site of which is not quite 30 miles southwest of Hebron, on the way to Shur. It was at Beersheba that Hagar found water later, in Genesis chapter 21, when she was ultimately compelled to depart from Abraham and Sarah.

It certainly must have been Hagar’s intention to return to Egypt, from whence she was taken. However now she receives contrary instructions:

9 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Now Hagar receives a promise which seems to be predicated on her return and submission, but not necessarily:

10 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

Some commentators have claimed that women do not have seed, and here as well as in Genesis chapter 3, Revelation chapter 12 and elsewhere, the Scriptures refute the childish assertion. Now it is revealed to Hagar just how that would happen:

11 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy 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 dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

The name ישמעאל or Ishmael is apparently a phrase which means “God will hear”, as it is defined in Strong’s Concordance (# 3458). The verb שמע or shama (# 8085) is to hear, and אל is god, or here, God (# 410), and the letter י or yodh as a prefix is a masculine pronoun which means “he”, but perhaps the prefix is redundant here. While we lean towards that interpretation, Gesenius disagrees, and he interpreted the prefix to mean “whom”, thus defining the meaning of Ishmael as “whom God hears”. [10] Like Strong’s, the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon does not interpret the pronoun prefix at all, and has only “El heareth”, which is “God hears”, as a definition. [11] The lexicons rely on the rabbinical vowel points for their interpretations, which we must reject as not being part of the original language. In any event, the phrase seems to mean only “God hears” in English, as it is defined in the clause giving the reason for such a name, where it says “because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.”

[10 Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, p. 373; 11 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 1035.]

We hope to discuss at length the plausible connection of Ishmael to the historical Nabataean and Qedarite Arabs when we discuss the descendants of Ishmael who are listed in Genesis chapter 25. However although Hagar and Ishmael were sent off by Abraham in Genesis chapter 21, somehow Ishmael knew to help his brother Isaac bury Abraham when he died, which we read in Genesis chapter 25. Then in that same chapter the sons of Ishmael are listed, and several names stand out as the later names of cities in the land which the descendants of Ishmael had later come to occupy, namely Kedar, Dumah and Tema.

We do not know enough of the history of Ishmael’s life as an adult to judge how the prophecy concerning him here was fulfilled. As an adult, Ishmael seems to have been noble enough to help Isaac bury Abraham without causing him any trouble. But he later gave a daughter to Esau for a wife, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 28. This, along with the subsequent history of Ishmael, reveals that there were no prohibitions from mingling with the other races among the Ishmaelites. We may make generalizations in relation to this prophecy and the later descendants of Ishmael, since the Arabs were often seen as outlaws and difficult to subjugate. Later in history, those descendants acted as a scourge to the children of Israel in Europe, a role which they fulfill to this very day. However not all arabs are Ishmael, and it is very unlikely that Ishmael ever had any purely Adamic descendants beyond more than a few generations. But as we have said, this is also an aspect of the vanity of Ishmael, that while the promise to Hagar became true and he did multiply into a great nation, in the sense of being numerous, all his later descendants are nothing but vanity because they are all bastards.

Now Hagar responds to what she had been told by the angel:

13 And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

Here also, many of the popular translations add other words, which are all mere conjecture. The New American Standard Bible rendered this verse: “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘Thou art a God who sees’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” We would rather not make innovations, and translate the verse to read: “And she called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her ‘You are a God of seeing’, because she said whether ‘Here I see after I was seen.’” But the last phrase is literally “after seen me”. So now, because of this vision which she had, Hagar names this well accordingly:

14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

The name Beerlahairoi is actually three Hebrew words, באר, bar or beer, as it is usually transliterated, which is a well, לחי, which is lahai here, which I would transliterate as lachi, and ראי or roi here, which is the word ra with a yodh or i as a suffix designating I or me, ‘I am seen’ or ‘sees me’, etc. Strong’s Concordance (# 883), Gesenius’ Hebrew lexicon and that of Brown-Driver-Briggs all treat these three words as a single compound word, which Strong’s defines as “well of a living (One) my Seer”. Gesenius defines the phrase as “well of the life of vision”, [12] and Brown-Driver-Briggs defines the phrase as “well of the living one that seeth me” [13]. The Septuagint renders the phrase quite differently, where Hagar is said to have called the well “the well of him whom I have openly seen”, as Brenton has it, or “the well of him I have seen face to face”, as I may literally translate the Greek text. But I could not find a Hebrew word in the original phrase which would correspond to the Greek word ἐνώπιον, or face to face.

The meaning of the first of these three words, which is well, is plain. Where the same three words appear later in Genesis, in chapters 24 and 25, the King James version translates them as “well of Lahairoi” rather than the transliteration “Beerlahairoi”. The third word of the three words is the same as the last word of verse 13, which is the verb to see and a suffix indicating I or me. In his definition, Strong’s states that the second word of the three, which he transliterates as la-Chay, is from the Hebrew word חי or chay (# 2416), with an ל, which is a lamed or l, as a prefix. The verb chay means alive or living, as Strong’s defines it, and the lamed letter as a prefix serves as a preposition meaning to or for, indicating the direction in which something is extended [14]. But that preposition does not mean of or from, as all three of these lexicons interpret the word here.

So we would rather interpret the word לחי or lachi in another manner, from the Hebrew verb לח or lach (# 3892), which Strong’s defines as “to be new”, or as a noun (# 3893) as “freshness”, where once again the final letter yodh or i is a suffix serving as a pronoun meaning I or me. Then, having that understanding, we would assert that the name Beer-lahai-roi describes the well where Hagar was revived because she had been seen by the God of seeing whom she had already just mentioned. As a runaway slave, she must have accounted her life as nothing, but now she is revived, having a reason to live once again. Later in the life of Hagar, she must have related this account to Abraham, and also to his family, since in Genesis chapters 24 and 25 this same name appears again, and Isaac is described as having lived near the place.

Kadesh here seems to be a reference to Kadeshbarnea, which is a site that is now on the border of Egypt, however the ancient border of Egypt was not so close. This is about thirty miles south of Beersheba, however that does not necessarily disqualify our earlier interpretation, because the location of Bered mentioned here is otherwise unknown. Apparently Kadeshbarnea, which is called by that name in Numbers chapters 32, 34, and later Scriptures, and which was on the southern border of Judah as it is described in Joshua chapter 15, was not as close to the ancient border of Egypt as Shur, which is evident in later travels of Abraham described in Genesis chapter 20.

[12 Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, p. 100; 13 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 91; 14 Common Hebrew Prefixes and Suffixes, https://objectivetranslation.home.blog/common-hebrew-prefixes-and-suffixes/, accessed August 18th, 2023.]

Now we must imagine that Hagar had already returned to Abram and Sarai, and that at least several months have transpired, where we now read:

15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

Hagar must have informed Abram of what the child’s name should be as she was instructed in her vision that he would be called Ishmael. According to our chronology, the year is 1869 BC, eleven years after the call of Abraham at the age of 75 years in 1880 BC. Sarai, who is already 76 years of age, would remain barren for another 14 years. According to popular Egyptian chronologies, the twelfth dynasty pharaoh Senusret III, whose name was called Sesostris by the Greeks, was in the tenth year of his forty year rule. In our discussion of Genesis chapter 12 and Abraham’s initial Sojourn, we esteemed that he was the pharaoh who had lusted after Sarai eleven years before the birth of Ishmael.

Paul of Tarsus would make an analogy of Hagar in chapter 4 of his epistle to the Galatians. Here we shall read that, from the Christogenea New Testament:

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one of the servant woman and one of the free. 23 Yet indeed he of the servant woman was born in accordance with the flesh, but he of the free by a promise. 24 Such things are, being allegorized: For these are two covenants, one from Mount Sinai having resulted in bondage, which is Hagar. 25 So Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem: for she is enslaved with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, which is our mother. 27 For it is written, ‘Be gladdened, barren who is not bearing; break fourth and shout, she who is not travailing; because many more are the children of the desolate than of she who has the husband.’ 28 And we, brethren, down through Isaak, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to flesh had persecuted him according to Spirit, so also now. 30 But what does the writing say? ‘Cast out the servant woman and her son, for by no means shall the son of the servant woman inherit along with the son of the free.’ 31 Well, brethren, we are not children of a servant woman, but of the free.

Paul is not saying that Hagar had anything to do with the Old Covenant which was made at Sinai. Rather, because Hagar was a slave, Ishmael and all of his children were also slaves, so Paul made an analogy showing that those who clung to the Sinai covenant remained in bondage and were children of Ishmael, but those who had chosen Christ were in liberty, as the free woman, Sarai, was indeed their natural mother. As Christ Himself had said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”, in John chapter 10 (10:27).

But Paul was also a prophet, and because Esau had taken a daughter of Ishmael as a wife, whose children would ostensibly intermarry with those of Esau’s Hittite wives, then all of the Edomites are as much of Ishmael as they are of Esau. These are the Jews of today, who still cling to the Sinai covenant, and the Arabs who descended from Ishmael who are not Jews are instead at least mostly Muslims, and they also cling to claims of being of Abraham, and to elements of the Sinai covenant, so they all remain in bondage. But since they also have no life in Christ, all of them being bastards, they shall also forever remain in vanity. Now, as it was in ancient times, it is apparent once again today, that the children of the desolate – Esau and Ishmael – are much more numerous than those who have a Husband in Christ, who are the White Christians of Europe descended from Jacob Israel. The fate of Ishmael, as well as the words of Paul of Tarsus concerning him, demonstrate the truth of the words of Christ, who came “… but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, and for nobody else. If Ishmael is still rejected, as Paul describes, then nobody else shall be accepted but Israel.

When we progress with this commentary into Genesis chapter 17, we shall encounter the point where Yahweh had finally revealed to Abram that the promised seed would come from Sarai, and at that point the vanity of Ishmael is made fully manifest. So there we shall cite several other passages from Paul, which reveal that he was certainly aware that nothing could change the vanity of Ishmael, because Ishmael was not a child of the promise even if he was a child of the flesh, which is a natural child of Abraham, but who was born apart from the promise.

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