Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life for week ending 12/02/01.
The Conflict between the Pricess and the Slave
Genesis 16 is a great passage teaching the principle of sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind.
GEN 16:1-6 "Now Sarai, wife of Abram, did not become pregnant for him, and she had a female slave, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. Now Sarai said to Abram, Now behold, Jehovah has prevented me from bearing an heir. Please go to my female slave, perhaps I shall obtain children through her. Now Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her female slave, and she gave her to Abram her husband to be his mistress. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. [The reaping of the whirlwind now begins&ldots;] And Sarai said to Abram, May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms; but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me. But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight. So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence."
Abram's fornication with Hagar has not only put him out of fellowship, but has also destroyed his relationship in the soul with both Sarai and Hagar. Sarai, his wife, has become jealous, and Hagar his slave, who is now his mistress, has become arrogant. For any man to be caught between a jealous woman and an arrogant woman is hell on earth, the epitome of unhappiness! David warned his son Solomon of the consequences of such actions in PRO 5:20-22, "For why should you, my son, be exhilarated or wander up and down the body of an adulteress, and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin."
A man making love to the wrong woman, in this case a reversionistic believer, binds himself to an idol he has fashioned with his own phallus. Every act of fornication and every inconsequential partner taken to bed is another link in the chains of slavery to sex, and the whirlwind is simply not worth it. This principle dispels the concept that experience in sex before marriage is of any value; it is not experience but virtue that is needed. The idol can never satisfy - only the reality can.
In our passage, Abram is caught and chained, and he is totally miserable. The women around Abram are competing with each other, and women competing with each other are never at their best. In GEN 16:4 we see Hagar's complete lack of respect for her mistress when she became pregnant. The word for "despised" is the Hebrew verb "qalal," and it means to curse or despise; it connotes treating someone as insignificant or looking down at someone. In Gen 16:6 Sarai will be treating Hagar harshly in revenge. The Hebrew verb "anah" means to oppress; here it specifically means to torture, oppress, and humiliate. Caught between these two females there is a wimpy male who has sex with one, gets her pregnant, and then betrays her by handing her over to his wife, Gen 16:6, "Behold, your female slave is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight."
Abram foolishly listened to his wife and fornicated with her slave girl, and it is his own fault that these two women are in competition. They were not competing before this happened; one was mistress of the household, and one was a slave in the household. Now these two women have become rivals, destroying the natural femininity of response and replacing it with the aggressiveness of evil. Women were not made to compete, they were designed to be responders. When a woman responds to the man she loves, she is at her greatest; when she reacts to him and rejects his authority, she is at her very worst. Very shortly, Hagar and Sarai will be reacting to Abram for different reasons, and therefore for the rest of this chapter, Abram will consistently use bad judgment and act irrationally.
In chapter 14 of Genesis, Abram was rational and logical, and he had honor and integrity based on grace. In this chapter he has bad judgment and lacks spiritual common sense; he has no honor and no integrity, and he will betray the very woman he took to bed. He will turn his back on her and turn her over to Sarai, an extremely jealous woman, and Sarai will begin to destroy her. It is dishonorable to seduce a woman, but it is even more dishonorable to betray her afterwards.
GEN 16:4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived...
The Hebrew verb translated "saw" is "raah" means that she realized it, that she became aware of it. This awareness produces a great arrogance in Hagar. Not only is she the first woman to become pregnant by Abram, she has become pregnant after Sarai, her mistress, had been having sex with Abram for 50 years and has never become pregnant. In her estimation, this made her a greater woman than Sarai, and she now promotes herself over Sarai as the mistress of the household.
There has been a tendency throughout history, but especially in the ancient world, to over emphasize the womb and use it as a means of determining superiority. Our Lord dealt with this in LUK 11:27-28, "And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it."
No woman is ever superior to another woman because she becomes pregnant. Superiority has nothing to do with the womb. As our Lord so clearly stated, it is doctrine in the soul that counts. Greatness is always measured in the soul and the spiritual life, and never in the body.
In this passage, operation "boomerang" has now occurred; Hagar becomes arrogant and promotes herself over Sarai, and Sarai, who promoted herself over Abram by giving him orders, is now reduced to the point of jealousy. Hagar is first of all self-conscious and seeking self-vindication. She considered herself at this point to be a great woman, and her realization that she is carrying Abram's "heir" makes her feel important to the point of pride and arrogance. She sees this as a means of self-vindication in her life. She was looking for an excuse to rise above her slave status, and she is now a competitor at odds with her own mistress. She is, as it were, competing for her freedom. She is now competing socially with Sarai, after competing sexually with her. As far as she is concerned, she has won in her sex life, because she is pregnant and Sarai is not. Because women were designed by God to be responders, they are always responding or reacting. There is never any middle ground; she is always doing one or the other.
Hagar has felt very inadequate as a slave and she has had this attitude of inferiority in her soul. The attitude of inferiority makes people very subjective concerning themselves and everyone else. Many subjective people have deep-seeded concepts of their own inferiority. These concepts may come from the fact that they were teased or ridiculed because of their body, or because of their face, or because of some "gruesome" characteristic over which they have very little control, if any at all.
Hagar knows she is carrying the master's child, therefore she sees herself as superior to everyone else. In reality, the pregnancy means nothing one way or another, except a lot of future trouble between the Jews and the Arabs. This is how many people become unstable, and this is what drives them to compete with each other. Competition is fine in business, it is great in athletics, and we all love competition in certain realms, but when it comes to social life, our relationships, and our spiritual life, competition means we are in trouble.
Sarai had been previously weakened by her power lust and her inordinate ambition. Inordinate ambition seeks trouble and finds it. Sarai was pushy in the matter of the coming heir, and now she is reaping the whirlwind, as we can see what happens to Hagar - "Her mistress was despised in her eyes." A noteworthy principle that is revealed here is that a man in the passion of his lust entering into an affair with a woman is not necessarily a thoughtful man. Apparently it never occurred to Abram before he went to bed with Hagar to free her; she is still a slave. The man who very easily seduces a woman is not going to be the gallant, thoughtful gentlemen that she really needs for the long haul. Some of the most thoughtless males in the world are the best seducers of women.
Hagar assumed that her pregnancy by Abram meant that she had superseded Sarai and she was now, in effect, queen of the mountain. Fortified by this pride, Hagar began to change her posture from that of a slave to what she imagined a queen should be. As Sarai observes this, you can imagine how she now feels. Here is her little Egyptian slave girl walking around as if she owned the world. Remember, though, that this was all a part of Sarai's human planning. A male like Abram, who is fooling around and fornicating, turns all the ladies in his periphery into monsters. If Abram had only taken charge, none of this would have happened.
Hagar views this pregnancy as a promotion. When people are promoted beyond their capacity or above their station in life, they suffer from arrogance. It is inevitable that when an individual is promoted beyond his capacity, he (or she) becomes very arrogant. Those living in this arrogance become totally miserable. Arrogance leads to misery, and it is a slow death. Human viewpoint is never compatible with divine viewpoint. Contrary to her desires and her thinking, Hagar's pregnancy did not promote her. Her son will be a "wild ass of a man" says the literal translation of Gen 16:12, "And he will be a wild ass of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers." Hagar's son Ishmael will be undisciplined and a law unto himself; he will reject the rights of others, and always live in inordinate competition. He will never accept anyone's authority. His children, who are the beginning of an Arab nation, will be, right down to this very day, just as wild, just as lawless, and just as arrogant as anyone under a burnoose in Arabia today. From Abram fornicating with "Little Egypt" come all the problems we have with the Arabs and the oil in the Middle East today! On the other hand, Sarai, who will be renamed "Sarah," and who is really a princess and a queen, will have a son who is the beginning of the greatest race of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth.
The contributions of Israel to the human race are infinite and can never be measured in time, whereas the trouble caused by the Arabs is second to none. No two brothers could be as different as Ishmael and Isaac. No two races could be as different as the Arabs and the Jews. Hagar is going about carrying the embryo of a future "wild man," and Ishmael will turn out to be so typical of many people today who want to solve their problems by rejecting authority. No problems are ever solved by rejecting authority. Ishmael was born because Sarai rejected Abram's authority, Abram ignored his own authority, and Hagar rejected the authority of her mistress Sarai.
It is also necessary to look at the issue of Hagar's volition. Hagar was a slave, so when she was ordered to fornicate with her master, did she have a choice? The fact is that Hagar did not protest this "abuse"; in fact, she welcomed it, and even if she did not know that fornication was a sin, ignorance is never an excuse.
LEV 5:17 "Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty, and shall bear his punishment."
Hagar wanted to have sex with Abram. Remember, Abram was an extremely handsome, well-built, personable man and now a very popular man among the Amorites. He is a hero of the Amorite nation. Previously, in Gen 14, he has just come back from defeating an army that no one else in history had defeated. He has just accomplished four great victories on the battlefield. Hagar was happy to go to bed with him and saw this as her opportunity to over-throw the authority of her mistress Sarai as well as getting her husband. Not only did she enjoy having sex with Abram, but she also wanted to lord it over Sarai. Abram's only protection in this game would have been his honor and integrity; all he had to do was to say the word "No!" However, he set aside his honor and gave in, and the result was the birth of Ishmael and the race that would become the greatest enemy of God's people, the Jews.
However, the worst decisions and the worst failures were not involved in the bed of fornication. The worst volition in this whole mess is that of the masochist, Sarai, who proposed the whole thing and then became jealous and arrogant when she saw the result. Her human viewpoint ideas put all three of them in a hopeless situation, which only God can solve. The believer must leave both the means and the end to God.
GEN 16:5 And Sarai said to Abram...
The Hebrew verb here, "amar," means that she kept on saying this to Abram, as she expresses her jealousy and the irrationality that accompanies jealousy. Jealous people never think rationally or logically. Something that generally characterizes jealous people, those who cause controversy and dissension and who are constantly involved in inordinate competition, is failure to face reality. Disorientation to reality always results in blaming everything on someone else. It was Sarai who had gotten this whole thing rolling with her so-called "noble" suggestion, which was not noble at all. In verse 5, Sarai is telling Abram that he should have judged Hagar for her wrongdoing and that he should have stopped Hagar from lording it over her. Sarai is jealous because Hagar is pregnant as well as very arrogant, and has initiated inordinate competition. Sarai fulfills her name and becomes a nag, continually telling her husband that he is wrong and it his fault, and that she is the victim. Any man in a position of authority who succumbs to this kind of bullying is weak.
What Abram should have done was to sit Sarai down and say, "You've brought this whole thing on yourself; it was your idea and now you're going to have to learn how to handle it. I have failed, but I am in authority, and it is my responsibility to protect both of you." Abram does not have the courage do this because in obeying the voice of his wife, as we have previously noted, he lost the authority in the home. The irrationality of Sarai's jealousy is obvious as she forgets that she has robbed Abram of that power and that authority to judge. Sarai's own scheme backfired, and once started, wrong follows wrong. She is blaming Abram for the entire mess and fails to take responsibility for her own decisions. Those involved in inordinate competition, the arrogant woman and the jealous woman, become like children; they revert to childhood and become petty and small in their thinking and action. Neither Sarai nor Hagar will take responsibility for their own actions; in fact they will both blame Abram. Self-vindication produces self-righteousness, and self-righteousness intensifies the inordinate competition. Self-righteousness is evil and seeks to justify that evil in self-vindication. At this point, the people involved seek vengeance and desire retaliation, rather than adjusting to the justice of God and letting God handle the situation, leaving it in the hands of the only One who can ever solve our problems.