Genesis 16:11 (ESV) … And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.”
When we read the phrase “angel of the Lord,” we often imagine winged, divine beings who look like people. Our picture of angels has developed as a composite from a number of biblical and extra-biblical traditions (Westermann, 1979). The biblical texts themselves speak simply of “messengers of God,” often not distinguishable from ordinary people. Characteristically, the angels carry a message from the Lord. Therefore, as in this text, the appearance of an angel can be understood as an encounter with God (v. 13). The appearance of an angel constitutes only one way in which God comes to humankind, but in the biblical texts it appears as a frequent means of divine communication to announce to a woman or man a coming birth. Often such announcement comes to a barren woman or couple (Luke 1:11–20). In this case the messenger-angel comes to Hagar, a woman whose fertility, not sterility, has become a problem.
The opening dialogue at the spring establishes Hagar as a refugee from Sarah (16:8–12). Then follow three speeches by the messenger: instruction to return (v. 9), promise of descendants (v. 10), and announcement of birth, name, and destiny (vv. 11–12). The statement of Ishmael’s destiny characterizes him as a restless man constantly in conflict with other family members. And indeed when this saga concludes (25:18), the two sons of Abraham live separated from one another (Neff, 1972:51–60).
In the familiar language of the promise to the ancestors, the speech of the angel to Hagar affirms God’s commitment to those other than Abraham and Sarah (Brueggemann, 1982: 153). Hagar and Ishmael may not be the carriers of the promise, but they also have a future in the horizon of God’s concern. At the point in the narrative where we might expect a narrow focus on the “chosen” community, we find instead God’s care for those whom the chosen have sometimes excluded and even oppressed.
Sometimes God chooses another way for us. His primary will and his secondary will never oppose each other. We must always keep our faith in God!
In Christ & Friends Always,