Journey Through The Scriptures

The Life of Abraham

Lesson 4: The Birth of Ishmael

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 16:1–16)

Genesis 16 provides ample evidence that despite his great faith, Abram was still an imperfect human being! About eleven years had passed since Abram had obeyed God’s call and left his home for Canaan. God also told Abram that he would have many descendants, despite his age and Sarai’s inability to have children. The Bible says, “Abram believed God” (Genesis 15:6).

But over a decade had gone by, and Sarai was still barren. Her plan for Abram to produce the promised son through her servant Hagar seemed like a workable alternative, and was in line with the legal and social customs of the day. It was not in line with God’s plan, however. The birth of Ishmael, whom God Himself named (v. 11), only complicated the story because he became the father of a people who are Israel’s enemies to this day.

Study Questions

  1. Why do you think God was delaying the fulfillment of His promise to give Abram a son and heir to the Promised Land?
  2. How did God’s response to the plight of Hagar and her son demonstrate that He is a merciful and compassionate God?
  3. The name Ishmael means “God hears,” because God heard and responded to Hagar’s need. What lesson does this teach us today?
  4. There is another very important name in Genesis 16:14. Hagar called the spring where God met her "the well of the Living One who sees me." Do you find another lesson of faith in Hagar’s experience?

Something to Think About

Sometimes we pray, “Lord, give me patience, and do it now!” But God does not operate according to our timetable. Thank Him for the people and circumstances He has put in your life to help you develop patience.

It is always tempting for human beings to “help” God out with His plans. While this is legitimate as God and man are partners in life, we need to resist the urge to manipulate people and circumstances to achieve our goals and plans.