Click here to read Genesis 15:1-17:27

In this passage we are once again reminded that God’s plan cannot be thwarted.  Sarai and Abram trusted that God would keep His promises, but also fell victim to the old adage “God helps those who help themselves” (not in the Bible).  The result is a mess – hostility between Sarai and Hagar, mistreatment, Hagar running away, and we’ll also see many future consequences.  It is also revealed that Ishmael is not how God intended to keep His promises, but that it would happen through a son born to Abram and Sarai—Isaac.  This passage does end on a much more positive note—God hears Hagar’s cries, tells her to return, promises to watch over her and her future son.  And more than that, God reveals more of His plan to Abram, emphasizing that it “everlasting,” and instituting the practice of circumcision for Abram and his descendants as a sign and reminder of the covenant between Abram, His descendants, and God.

This passage also continues the motif of a blessing/curse influencing future events, as well as God’s prophecy of what will happen in the future.  One of these we are able to see fulfilled in this passage—Hagar does have a son and names him Ishmael.  Abram will see others fulfilled in his life (in the next few passages we read)—Abram and Sarai will have a son and name him Isaac, Ishmael will be a wild donkey of a man and be at odds with his brothers, and Abram will die in peace at an old age.  And still others will be fulfilled long after Abram’s death—his descendants being enslaved in a foreign land for 400 yrs and their eventual return to the land that God promise to them. It’s important to note these not just because it provides an explanation for why some things are the way they are, but it also shows how God is in charge of all things and that He speaks the truth.  And this provides encouragement to God’s people even when everything else seems to attest to the opposite.

One final theme seen here that is just is important is the God showing His love and provision for His people.  God appears to Hagar after she runs away and responds to her worries.   God even listens to Abram when Abram asks God about an heir in the face of having no children (and asks for proof!) and God sticks with Abram even though it seems like every other chapter Abram we are reminded of his shortcomings and mistakes.  God shows that He is very interested in and devoted to taking care of His people!

Names Places

God – God

Abram/Abraham – son of Terah, descendant of Shem

Sarai/Sarah – Abram’s wife

Hagar – Abram’s Egyptian maidservant

Angel of the Lord- God appearing to Hagar

Ishmael – son of Abram and Hagar

Isaac – promised son of Abram and Sarai



Canaan – the land that God promised to
Abram’s descendants. Described here as
running from the rivers of Egypt to the Euphrates

Beer Lahai Roi – where Hagar spoke with God – between Kadesh and Bered



Eliezer of Damascus – Abram’s legal heir at the beginning of chapter 15



Ur of the Chaldeans – the land where Abram is from

Interesting facts:

Though it is introduced in Genesis 12, the promises that God makes to Abram (called the Abrahamic Covenant) is made official in Chapter 15 when God passes between the animals that have been cut in half.  This was a common practice between a very powerful party and one that had no power (called a suzerain-vassal treaty).  Both parties would walk through to proclaim their dedication to the deal and the dead animals would be a visual reminder of what would happen if either party broke their promise.  Abram would have been familiar with this practice and it would have been especially meaningful because God walked between the animals Himself.  This meant that there were no obligations for Abram to fulfill and that it solely depended upon God!

Names play an important part in the Bible.  It seems especially important in this passage because people are being named (or renamed) according to God’s purpose.  Take a look at the names below:

Abram – “exalted father” – pointing to his father Terah
Abraham – “father of many” – pointing to his future descandants 

Sarai – “my princess”
Sarah – “royal princess” – pointing to the kings that would come through their family line

Ishmael – “God hears” – He heard Hagar when she ran away

Isaac – “He laughs” – Abram laughed when God told him he would have a son at 99

Beer Lahai Roi – “well of the living one who sees me” – the well where Hagar marveled that God saw and heard her