The Angel of the Lord
“The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for a multitude’” (Gen. 16:10).
- Genesis 16:7–10
Fleeing from Sarai, Hagar comes to a spring on “the way to Shur” (Gen. 16:7), which was the name of the desert bordering Egypt in the northwestern corner of the Sinai peninsula. Hagar was plainly seeking to return to her homeland (16:1), stopping at the spring for refreshment.
The sons of Jacob, newly freed from Egyptian slavery, knew that Sinai was a special place, as it is the locale where the Lord revealed the Law to Moses. Thus, a special revelation of God in that place during the time of Abraham would not have surprised them.
Verse 7 tells us “the angel of the Lord” found Hagar at the spring. This angel is no mere messenger of God, even though royal messengers in those days were treated with the same respect as the sender. When the angel of the Lord appears elsewhere in Scripture, people fall down in worship (see Judg. 6:22–24).
After seeing the angel, Hagar addresses him as God (Gen. 16:13). This angel appeared mainly during the period recounted in Genesis and Judges, and, while the New Testament does not explicitly identify the angel with the Son of God, many in church history have identified this messenger as the pre-incarnate Christ.
The angel of the Lord asks Hagar from whence she came and where she is going, not because this data is unknown to God, for He does know who she is (v. 8). Instead, this questioning recalls God’s earlier interrogation of Adam and Cain (3:9; 4:9), further demonstrating His displeasure with all involved in Hagar’s flight.
Yahweh’s word to Hagar alludes to hardship and blessing. He tells her to submit again to Sarai, the Hebrew phrasing indicating mistreatment is still possible (16:9). Though Scripture gives us the right of self-defense (Ex. 22:2–3), it never suggests the church will be free from trouble. In fact, Peter tells us to bear with just and unjust masters alike (1 Peter 2:18–20). Even if Sarai’s harshness were to continue (and we do not know that it did), Hagar was called to submit.
Finally, the Lord pledges to bless Hagar with a multitude of sons (Gen. 16:10). In a time of dire need, God looks upon her with favor.
John Calvin comments, “We are here taught with what clemency the Lord acts towards his own people, although they have deserved severe punishment.” Hagar was proud, and she suffered the consequences, yet God did not forget her. Likewise, we too may suffer the results of our sin, but that does not mean the Lord has abandoned us. Whether or not we are being disciplined by God today, we are to turn to Him in faith, for He longs to comfort His people.
Passages for Further Study
- Isa. 49:8–26
- Zech. 1:14–17
- 2 Cor. 1:3–7
- 2 Thess. 2:16–17