(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 23)

is occupied by its lawful possessors, to whom I delivered it. Until,
therefore, they shall have deserved, by their sins, to be rightfully
expelled, the dominion of it sill not come to thy posterity.' Thus God
teaches him that the land must be evacuated, in order that it may lie
open to new inhabitants. And this passage is remarkable, as showing, that
the abodes of men are so distributed in the world, that the Lord will
preserve quiet people, each in their several stations, till they cast
themselves out by their own wickedness. For by polluting the place of
their habitation, they in a certain sense tear away the boundaries fixed
by the hand of God, which would otherwise have remained immovable.
Moreover, the Lord here commends his own longsuffering. Even then the
Amorites had become unworthy to occupy the land, yet the Lord not only
bore with them for a short time, but granted them four centuries for
repentance. And hence it appears, that he does not, without reason, so
frequently declare how slow he is to anger. But the more graciously he
waits for men, if, at length, instead of repenting they remain obstinate,
the more severely does he avenge such great ingratitude. Therefore Paul
says, that they who indulge themselves in sin, while the goodness and
clemency of God invite them to repentance, heap up for themselves a
treasure of wrath, (Rom. 2: 4;) and thus they reap no advantage from
delay, seeing that the severity of the punishment is doubled; just as it
happened to the Amorites, whom, at length, the Lord commanded to be so
entirely cut off, that not even infants were spared. Therefore when we
hear that God out of heaven is silently waiting until iniquities shall
fill up their measure; let us know, that this is no time for torpor, but
rather let every one of us stir himself up, that we may be beforehand
with the celestial judgment. It was formerly said by a heathen, that the
anger of God proceeds with a slow step to avenge itself, but that it
compensates for its tardiness by the severity of its punishment. Hence
there is no reason why reprobates should flatter themselves, when he
seems to let them pass unobserved, since he does not so repose in heaven,
as to cease to be the Judge of the world; nor will he be unmindful of the
execution of his office, in due time. We infer, however, from the words
of Moses, that though space for repentance is given to the reprobate,
they are still devoted
to destruction. Some take the word "awon" for punishment, as if it had
been said that punishment was not yet matured for them. But the former
exposition is more suitable; namely, that they will set no bound to their
wickedness, until they bring upon themselves final destruction.

17. "Behold, a smoking furnace." Again a new vision was added, to confirm
his faith in the oracle. At first, Abram was horror-struck with the thick
darkness; now, in the midst of a smoking furnace, he sees a burning lamp.
Many suppose that a sacrifice was consumed with this fire; but I rather
interpret it as a symbol of future deliverance, which would well agree
with the fact itself. For there are two things contrary to each other in
appearance; the obscurity of smoke, and the shining of a lamp. Hence
Abram knew that light would, at length, emerge out of darkness. An
analogy is always to be sought for between signs, and the things
signified, that there may be a mutual correspondence between them. Then,
since the symbol, in itself, is but a lifeless carcass, reference ought
always to be made to the word which is annexed to it. But here, by the
word, liberty was promised to Abram's seed, in the midst of servitude.
Now the condition of the Church could not be painted more to the life,
than when God causes a burning torch to proceed out of the smoke, in
order that the darkness of afflictions may not overwhelm us, but that we
may cherish a good hope of life even in death; because the Lord will, at
length, shine upon us, if only we offer up ourselves in sacrifice to Him.

18. "In the same day the Lord made a covenant." I willingly admit what I
have alluded to above, that the covenant was ratified by a solemn rite,
when the animals were divided into parts. For there seems to be a
repetition, in which he teaches what was the intent of the sacrifice
which he has mentioned. Here, also, we may observe, what I have said,
that the word is always to be joined with the symbols, lest our eyes be
fed with empty and fruitless ceremonies. God has commanded animals to be
offered to him; but he has shown their end and use, by a covenant
appended to them. If, then, the Lord feeds us by sacraments, we infer,
that they are the evidences of his grace, and the tokens of those
spiritual blessings which flow from it.
  He then enumerates the nations, whose land God was about to give to the
sons of Abram, in order that he may confirm what he before said
concerning a numerous offspring. For that was not to be a small band of
men, but an immense multitude, for which the Lord assigns a habitation of
such vast extent. God had before spoken only of the Amorites, among whom
Abram then dwelt; but now, for the sake of amplifying his grace, he
recounts all the others by name.



Chapter XVI.

1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid,
an Egyptian, whose name [was] Hagar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and
submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed
exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
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.
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?
14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between
Kadesh and Bered.
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.

1. "Now Sarai, Abram's wife." Moses here recites a new history, namely,
that Sarai, through the impatience of long delay, resorted to a method of
obtaining seed by her husband, at variance with the word of God. She saw
that she was barren, and had passed the age of bearing. And she inferred
the necessity of a new remedy, in order that Abram might obtain the
promised blessing. Moses expressly relates, that the design of marrying a
second wife did not originate with Abram himself, but with Sarai, to
teach us that the holy man was not impelled by lust to these nuptials;
but that when he was thinking of no such thing, he was induced to engage
in them, by the exhortation of his wife. It is, however, asked, whether
Sarai substituted her handmaid in her place, through the mere desire of
having offspring? So it seems to some; yet to me it is incredible, that
the pious matron should not have been cognizant of those promises, which
had been so often repeated to her husband. Yea, it ought to be fully
taken for granted, among all pious persons, that the mother of the people
of God, was a participator of the same grace with her husband. Sarai,
therefore, does not desire offspring (as is usual) from a merely natural
impulse; but she yields her conjugal rights to another, through a wish to
obtain that benediction, which she knew was divinely promised: not that
she makes a divorce from her husband, but assigns him another wife, from
whom he might receive children. And certainly if she had desired
offspring in the ordinary manner, it would rather have come into her mind
to do it by the adoption of a son, than by giving place to a second wife.
For we know the vehemence of female jealousy. Therefore, while
contemplating the promise, she becomes forgetful of her own right, and
thinks of nothing but the bringing forth of children to Abram. A
memorable example, from which no small profit accrues to us. For however
laudable was Sarai's wish, as regards the end, or the scope to which it
tended; nevertheless, in the pursuit of it, she was guilty of no light
sin, by impatiently departing from the word of God, for the purpose of
enjoying the effect of that word. While she rejects upon her own
barrenness and old age, she begins to despair of offspring, unless Abram
should have children from some other quarter; in this there is already
some fault. Yet, however desperate the affair might be, still she ought
not to have attempted anything at variance with the will of God and the
legitimate order of nature. God designed that the human race should be
propagated by sacred marriage. Sarai perverts the law of marriage, by
defiling the conjugal bed, which was appointed only for two persons. Nor
is it an available excuse, that she wished Abram to have a concubine and
not a wife; since it ought to have been regarded as a settled point, that
the woman is joined to the man, 'that they two should be one flesh.' And
though polygamy had already prevailed among many; yet it was never left
to the will of man, to abrogate that divine law by which two persons were
mutually bound together. Nor was even Abram free from fault, in following
the foolish and preposterous counsel of his wife. Therefore, as the
precipitancy of Sarai was culpable, so the facility with which Abram
yielded to her wish was worthy of reprehension. The faith of both of them
was defective; not indeed with regard to the substance of the promise,
but with regard to the method in which they proceeded; since they
hastened to acquire the offspring which was to be expected from God,
without observing the legitimate ordinance of God. Whence also we are
taught that God does not in vain command his people to be quiet, and to
wait with patience, whenever he defers or suspends the accomplishment of
their wishes. For they who hasten before the time, not only anticipate
the providence of God, but being discontented with his word, precipitate
themselves beyond their proper bounds. But it seems that Sarai had
something further in view; for she not only wished that Abram should
become a father, but would fain acquire to herself maternal rights and
honours. I answer, since she knew that all nations were to be blessed in
the seed of Abram, it is no wonder that she should be unwilling to be
deprived of participation in his honour; lest she should be cut off, as a
putrid member, from the body which had received the blessing, and should
also become an alien from the promised salvation.
  "Bare him no children." This seems added as an excuse. And truly Moses
intimates that she did not seek help from the womb of her maid, before
necessity compelled her to do so. Her own words also show, that she had
patiently and modestly waited to see what God would do, until hope was
entirely cut off, when she says, that she was restrained from bearing by
the Lord. (ver. 2.) What fault then shall we find in her? Surely, that
she did not, as she ought, cast this care into the bosom of God, without
binding his power to the order of nature, or restraining it to her own
sense. And then, by neglecting to infer from the past what would take
place in future, she did not regard herself as in the hand of God, who
could again open the womb which he had closed.

2. "That I may obtain children by her." This is a Hebrew phrase, which
signifies to become a mother. Some however, expound the word as simply
meaning, to have a son. And certainly "ben", which, among the Hebrews,
signifies son, corresponds with the verb here used. But since sons are so
called metaphorically as being the maintainers of the race, and thus
building up the family, therefore the primary signification of the word
is to be retained. But Sarai claims for herself by right of dominion, the
child which Hagar shall bring forth: because handmaids do not bring forth
for themselves, since they have not power over their own body. By first
speaking to her husband, she does not barely allow of a concubine, who
should be as a harlot; but introduces and obtrudes one. And hence it
appears, that when persons are wiser in their own eyes than they ought to
be, they easily fall into the snare of trying illicit means. The desire
of Sarai proceeds from the zeal of faith; but because it is not so
subjected to God as to wait his time, she immediately has recourse to
polygamy, which is nothing else than the corruption of lawful marriage.
Moreover, since Sarai, that holy woman, yet fanned in her husband the
same flame of impatience with which she burned, we may hence learn, how
diligently we ought to be on our guard, lest Satan should surprise us by
any secret fraud. For not only does he induce wicked and ungodly men
openly to oppose our faith; but sometimes, privately and by stealth, he
assails us through the medium of good and simple men, that he may
overcome us unawares. On every side, therefore, we must be on our guard
against his wiles; lest by any means he should undermine us.
  "And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." Truly the faith of Abram
wavers, when he deviates from the word of God, and suffers himself to be
borne away by the persuasion of his wife, to seek a remedy which was
divinely prohibited. He, however, retains the foundation, because he does
not doubt that he shall, at length, perceive that God is true. By which
example we are taught, that there is no reason why we should despond, if,
at any time, Satan should shake our faith; provided that the truth of God
be not overthrown in our hearts. Meanwhile, when we see Abram, who,
through so many years, had bravely contended like an invincible
combatant, and had surmounted so many obstacles, now yielding, in a
single moment, to temptation; who among us will not fear for himself in
similar danger? Therefore, although we may have stood long and firmly in
the faith, we must daily pray, that God would not lead us into
temptation.

3. "And gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife." Moses states what
was the design of Sarai; for neither did she intend to make her house a
brothel, nor to be the betrayer of her maid's chastity, nor a pander for
her husband. Yet Hagar is improperly called a wife; because she was
brought into another person's bed, against the law of God. Wherefore, let
us know that this connection was so far illicit, as to be something
between fornication and marriage. The same thing takes place with all
those inventions which are appended to the word of God. For with whatever
fair pretext they may be covered, there is an inherent corruption, which
degenerates from the purity of the word, and vitiates the whole.

4. "Her mistress was despised in her eyes." Here Moses relates that the
punishment of excessive precipitancy quickly followed. The chief blame,
indeed, rested with Sarai; yet because Abram had proved himself too
credulous, God chastises both as they deserve. Sarai is grievously and
bitterly tried, by the proud contempt of her handmaid; Abram is harassed
by unjust complaints; thus we see that both pay the penalty of their
levity, and that the contrivance devised by Sarai, and too eagerly
embraced by Abram, fails of success. Meanwhile, in Hagar, an instance of
ingratitude is set before us; because she, having been treated with
singular kindness and honour, begins to hold her mistress in contempt.
Since, however, this is an exceedingly common disease of the mind, let
the faithful accustom themselves to the endurance of it; if, at any time,
a return so unjust be made to them, for their acts of kindness. But
especially, let the infirmity of Sarai move us thus to act, since she was
unable to bear the contempt of her maid.

5. "My wrong be upon thee." This also was a part of her punishment, that
Sarai was brought so low as to forget herself for a while; and being
vehemently excited, conducted herself with so much weakness. Certainly,
to the utmost of her power, she had impelled her husband to act rashly;
and now she petulantly insults him, although innocent. For she adduces
nothing for which Abram was to be blamed. She reproaches him with the
fact, that she had given her maid into his bosom; and complains that she
is condemned by this maid, without having first ascertained, whether he
intended to assist the bad cause, by his countenance, or not. Thus blind
is the assault of anger; it rushes impetuously hither and thither; and
condemns, without inquiry, those who are entirely free from blame. If
ever any woman was of a meek and gentle spirit, Sarai excelled in that
virtue. Whereas, therefore, we see that her patience was violently shaken
by a single offense, let every one of us he so much the more resolved to
govern his own passions.
  "The Lord judge between me and thee." She makes improper use of the
name of God, and almost forgets that due reverence, which is so strongly
enforced on those who are godly. She makes her appeal to the judgment of
God. What else is this, than to call down destruction on her own head?
For if God had interposed as judge, he must of necessity have executed
punishment upon one or other of them. But Abram had done no injury. It
remains, therefore, that she must have felt the vengeance of God, whose
anger she had so rashly imprecated upon herself, or her husband. Had
Moses spoken this of any heathen woman, it might have been passed over as
a common thing. But now, the Lord shows us, in the person of the mother
of the faithful; first, how vehement is the flame of anger, and to what
lengths it will hurry men; then, how greatly they are blinded who, in
their own affairs, are too indulgent to themselves; whence we should
learn to suspect ourselves, whenever our own concerns are treated of.
Another thing also is here chiefly worthy of remark; namely, that the
best ordered families are sometimes not free from contentions; nay, that
this evil reaches even to the Church of God; for we know that the family
of Abram, which was disturbed with strifes, was the living representation
of the Church. As to domestic broils, we know that the principal part of
social life, which God hallowed among men, is spent in marriage; and yet
various inconveniences intervene, which defile that good state, as with
spots. It behoves the faithful to prepare themselves to cut off these
occasions of trouble. For this end, it is of great importance to reflect
on the origin of the evil; for all the troubles men find in marriage,
they ought to impute to sin.

6. "Behold, thy maid is in thy hand." The greatness of Abram's humanity
and modesty appears from his answer. He does not quarrel świth his wife;
and though he has the best cause, yet he does not pertinaciously defend
it, but voluntarily dismisses the wife who had been given him. In short,
for the sake of restoring peace, he does violence to his feelings, both
as a husband, and a father. For, in leaving Hagar to the will of her
enraged mistress, he does not treat her as his wife; he also, in a
certain way, undervalues that object of his hope which was conceived in
her womb. And it is not to be doubted that he was thus calm and placid in
bearing the vehemence of his wife; because, throughout her whole life, he
had found her to be obedient. Still it was a great excellence, to
restrain his temper under an indignity so great. It may, however, here be
asked, how it was that his care for the blessed seed had then vanished
from his mind? Hagar is great with child; he hopes that the seed through
which the salvation of the world was promised, is about to proceed from
her. Why then does he not set Sarai aside, and turn his love and desire
still more to Hagar? Truly we hence infer, that all human contrivances
pass away and vanish in smoke, as soon as any grievous temptation is
presented. Having taken a wife against the divine command, he thinks the
matter is succeeding well, when he sees her pregnant, and pleases himself
in foolish confidence; but when contention suddenly arises, he is at his
wit's end, and rejects all hope, or, at least, forgets it. The same thing
must necessarily happen to us, as often as we attempt anything contrary
to the word of God. Our minds will fail at the very first blast of
temptation; since our only ground of stability is, to have the authority
of God for what we do. In the meantime, God purifies the faith of his
servant from its rust; for by mixing his own and his wife's imagination
with the word of God, he, in a sense, had stifled his faith; wherefore,
to restore its brightness, that which was superfluous is cut of. God, by
opposing himself in this manner to our sinful designs, recalls us from
our stupidity to a sound mind. A simple promise had been given 'I will
bless thy seed.' Sarai's gloss supervened, namely, that she could have no
seed but a supposititious one by Hagar: this mire of human imagination,
with which the promise had been defiled must be purged away, that Abram
might derive his knowledge from no other source, than the pure word of
God.
  "And Sarai dealt hardly with her." The word "anah", which Moses uses,
signifies to afflict and to humble. I therefore explain it as being put
for reducing Hagar to submission. But it was difficult for an angry woman
to keep within bounds, in repressing the insolence of her maid.
Wherefore, it is possible that she became immoderately enraged against
her; not so much considering her own duty as revolving the means of being
avenged for the offenses committed. Since Moses brings no heavier charge,
I confine myself to what is certain; that Sarai made use of her proper
authority in restraining the insolence of her maid. And, doubtless, from
the event, we may form a judgments that Hagar was impelled to flee, not
so much by the cruelty of her mistress, as by her own contumacy. Her own
conscience accused her; and it is improbable that Sarai should have been
so greatly incensed, except by many, and, indeed atrocious offenses.
Therefore, the woman being of servile temper, and of indomitable
ferocity, chose rather to flee, than to return to favour, through the
humble acknowledgment of her fault.

7. "And the angel of the Lord found her." We are here taught with what
clemency the Lord acts towards his own people, although they have
deserved severe punishment. As he had previously mitigated the punishment
of Abram and Sarai, so now he casts a paternal look upon Hagar, so that
his favour is extended to the whole family. He does not indeed altogether
spare them, lest he should cherish their vices; but he corrects them with
gentle remedies. It is indeed probable, that Hagar, in going to the
desert of Sur, meditated a return to her own country. Yet mention seems
to be made of the desert and the wilderness, to show that she, being
miserably afflicted, wandered from the presence of men, till the angel
met her. Although Moses does not describe the form of the vision, yet I
do not doubt, that it was clothed in a human body; in which,
nevertheless, manifest tokens of celestial glory were conspicuous.

8. "And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid." By the use of this epithet, the
angel declares, that she still remained a servant, though she had escaped
the hands of her mistress; because liberty is not to be obtained by
stealth, nor by flight, but by manumission. Moreover, by this expression,
God shows that he approves of civil government, and that the violation of
it is inexcusable. The condition of servitude was then hard; and thanks
are to be given to the Lord, that this barbarity has been abolished; yet
God has declared from heaven his pleasure, that servants should bear the
yoke; as also by the mouth of Paul, he does not give servants their
freedom, nor deprive their masters of their use; but only commands them
to be kindly and liberally treated. (Ephes. 6: 5.) It is to be inferred
also, from the circumstance of the time, not only that civil government
is to be maintained, as matter of necessity, but that lawful authorities
are to be obeyed, for conscience' sake. For although the fugitive Hagar
could no longer be compelled to obedience by force, yet her condition was
not changed in the sight of God. By the same argument it is proved, that
if masters at any time deal too hardly with their servants, or if rulers
treat their subjects with unjust asperity, their rigour is still to be
endured, nor is there just cause for shaking off the yoke, although they
may exercise their power too imperiously. In short, whenever it comes
into our mind to defraud any one of his right, or to seek exemption from
our proper calling, let the voice of the angel sound in our ears, as if
God would draw us back, by putting his own hand upon us. They who have
proudly and tyrannically governed shall one day render their account to
God; meanwhile, their asperity is to be borne by their subjects, till
God, whose prerogative it is to raise the abject and to relieve the
oppressed, shall give them succour. If a comparison be made, the power of
magistrates is far more tolerable, than that ancient dominion was. The
paternal authority is in its very nature amiable, and worthy of regard.
If the flight of Hagar was prohibited by the command of God, much less
will he bear with the licentiousness of a people, who rebel against their
prince; or with the contumacy of children, who withdraw themselves from
obedience to their parents.
  "Whence camest thou?" He does not inquire, as concerning a doubtful
matter, but knowing that no place for subterfuge is left to Hagar, he
peremptorily reproves her for her flight; as if he had said, 'Having
deserted thy station, thou shalt profit nothing by thy wandering, since
thou canst not escape the hand of God, which had placed thee there.' It
might also be, that he censured her departure from that house, which was
then the earthly sanctuary of God. For she was not ignorant that God was
there worshipped in a peculiar manner. And although she indirectly
charges her mistress with cruelty, by saying that she had fled from her
presence; still the angel, to cut off all subterfuges, commands her to
return and to humble herself. By which words he first intimates, that the
bond of subjection is not dissolved either by the too austere, or by the
impotent dominion of rulers; he then retorts the blame of the evil upon
Hagar herself, because she had obstinately placed herself in opposition
to her mistress, and, forgetful of her own condition, had exalted herself
more insolently and boldly than became a handmaid. In short, as she is
justly punished for her faults, he commands her to seek a remedy by
correcting them. And truly, since nothing is better than, by obedience
and patience, to appease the severity of those who are in authority over
us; we must more especially labour to bend them to mildness by our
humiliation, when we have offended them by our pride.

10. "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly." For the purpose of mitigating
the offense, and of alleviating what was severe in the precept, by some
consolation, he promises a blessing in the child which she should bear.
God might indeed, by his own authority, have strictly enjoined what was
right; but in order that Hagar might the more cheerfully do what she knew
to be her duty, he allures her, as by blandishments, to obedience. And to
this point those promises tend, by which he invites us to voluntary
submission. For he would not draw us by servile methods, so that we
should obey his commands by constraint; and therefore he mingles mild and
paternal invitations with his commands, dealing with us liberally, as
with sons. That the angel here promises to do what is peculiar to God
alone, involves no absurdity, for it is sufficiently usual with God to
invest his ministers whom he sends with his own character, that the
authority of their word may appear the greater. I do not, however,
disapprove the opinion of most of the ancients; that Christ the Mediator
was always present in all the oracles, and that this is the cause why the
majesty of God is ascribed to angels. On which subject I have already
touched and shall have occasion to say more elsewhere.

11 "And shalt bear a son." The angel explains what he had briefly said
respecting her seed; namely, that it should not be capable of being
numbered on account of its multitude; and he commences with Ishmael, who
was to be its head and origin. Although we shall afterwards see that he
was a reprobate, yet an honorable name is granted to him, to mark the
temporal benefit of which Ishmael became a partakers as being a son of
Abram. For I thus explain the passage, God intended that a monument of
the paternal kindness, with which he embraced the whole house of Abram,
should endure to posterity. For although the covenant of eternal life did
not belong to Ishmael; yet, that he might not be entirely without favour,
God constituted him the father of a great and famous people. And thus we
see that, with respect to this present life, the goodness of God extended
itself to the seed of Abram according to the flesh. But if God intended
the name of Ishmael [which signifies God will hear] to be a perpetual
memorial of his temporal benefits; he will by no means bear with our
ingratitude, if we do not celebrate his celestial and everlasting
mercies, even unto death.
  "The Lord has heard thy affliction." We do not read that Hagar, in her
difficulties, had recourse to prayer; and we are rather left to
conjecture, from the words of Moses, that when she was stupefied by her
sufferings, the angel came of his own accord. It is therefore to be
observed, that there are two ways in which God looks down upon men, for
the purpose of helping them; either when they, as suppliants, implore his
aid; or when he, even unasked, succours them in their afflictions. He is
indeed especially said to hearken to them who, by prayers, invoke him as
their Deliverer. Yet, sometimes, when men lie mute, and because of their
stupor, do not direct their wishes to him, he is said to listen to their
miseries. That this latter mode of hearing was fulfilled towards Hagar,
is probable, because God freely met her wandering through the desert.
Moreover, because God frequently deprives unbelievers of his help, until
they are worn away with slow disease, or else suffers them to be suddenly
destroyed; let none of us give indulgence to our own sloth; but being
admonished by the sense of our evils, let us seek him without delay. In
the meantime, however, it is of no small avail to the confirmation of our
faith, that our prayers will never be despised by the Lord, seeing that
he anticipates even the slothful and the stupid, with his help; and if he
is present to those who seek him not, much more will he be propitious to
the pious desires of his own people.

12. "And he will be a wild man." The angel declares what kind of person
Ishmael will be. The simple meaning is, (in my judgment,) that he will be
a warlike man, and so formidable to his enemies, that none shall injure
him with impunity. Some expound the word "pere" to mean a forester, and
one addicted to the hunting of wild beasts. But the explanation must not,
it seems, be sought elsewhere than in the context; for it follows
immediately after, 'His hand shall be against all men, and the hand of
all men against him.' It is however asked, whether this ought to be
reckoned among benefits conferred by God, that he is to preserve his rank
in life by force of arms; seeing that nothing is, in itself, more
desirable than peace. The difficulty may be thus solved; that Ishmael,
although all his neighbours should make war upon him, and should, on
every side, conspire to destroy him; shall yet though alone, be endued
with sufficient power to repel all their attacks. I think, however, that
the angel, by no means, promises Ishmael complete favour, but only that
which is limited. Among our chief blessings, we must desire to have peace
with all men. Now, since this is denied to Ishmael, that blessing which
is next in order is granted to him; namely, that he shall not be overcome
by his enemies; but shall be brave and powerful to resist their force. He
does not, however, speak of Ishmael's person, but of his whole progeny;
for what follows is not strictly suitable to one man. Should this
exposition be approved, no simple or unmixed blessing is here promised;
but only a tolerable or moderate condition; so that Ishmael and his
posterity might perceive that something was divinely granted to them, for
the sake of their father Abram. Therefore, it is, by no means, to be
reckoned among the benefits given by God, that he shall have all around
him as enemies, and shall resist them all by violence: but this is added
as a remedy and an alleviation of the evil; that he, who would have many
enemies, should be equal to bear up against them.
  "And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." As this is
properly applicable only to a nation, we hence the more easily perceive,
that they are deceived who restrict the passage to the person of Ishmael.
Again, others understand, that the posterity of Ishmael was to have a
fixed habitation in the presence of their brethren, who would be
unwilling to allow it; as if it were said, that they should forcibly
occupy the land they inhabit, although their brethren might attempt to
resist them. Others adduce a contrary opinion; namely, that the
Ishmaelites, though living among a great number of enemies, should yet
not be destitute of friends and brethren. I approve, however, of neither
opinion: for the angel rather intimates, that this people should be
separate from others; as if he would say, 'They shall not form a part or
member of any one nation; but shall be a complete body, having a distinct
and special name.'

13. "And she called the name of the Lord." Moses, I have no doubt,
implies that Hagar, after she was admonished by the angel, changed her
mind: and being thus subdued, retook herself to prayer; unless, perhaps,

(continued in part 24...)



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