Genesis 16 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Genesis 16 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

(16:1) "I pray thee, go in unto my maid."
Sarai is the first of a long line of barren women who were desperate for children. (In the Bible, it is the women who are barren, never the men.) She sends Abram into her slave, Hagar, so that she can "obtain children by her." Abram gladly complies.
What the Bible says about polygamy
Is polygamy OK?
My question to the author of the SAB: how do we determine if a man is barren? Ah wait, we need to wait until the year 1600 A.D. or thereabout for the microscope, and perhaps even a few hundred years more for sufficiently advanced medical tests to become available.
But on if polygamy is OK, I suggest the author of the SAB to look at the results of this polygamy: did it bring more happiness or more grief to Abraham?

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.

(16:6) "Do to her as it pleaseth thee."
Hagar conceives, making Sarai jealous. Abram tells Sarai to do to Hagar whatever she wants." And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled."
Why does the author of the SAB not ask the question if polygamy is OK at this place? Maybe because it has now become obvious it isn't?

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.

(16:9) "Submit thyself under her hands."
The angel tells Hagar to return and submit to her abusive owner, Sarai.
Does God approve of slavery?
I'm fairly sure Hagar's position can't be described as a slave. If the author of the SAB thinks so, let him come up with a definition that captures a concubine who receives an portion when sent away. Why not simply sell her if she's a slave?
On calling Sarah an abusive owner, Sarah dealt ‘hardly’ with her, but calling it abuse goes beyond the available evidence.

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?

(16:15) "And Hagar bare Abram a son."
Ishmael was Abraham's first son, and Isaac was his second. Yet Genesis 22:2 and Hebrews 11:17 say he had only one son.
How many sons did Abraham have?
Abraham had one heir, but multiple sons. Note that in chapter 22:2 Ishmael had already been sent away.

14 Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; 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.

(16:16) "Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram."
How old was Abram when Ishmael was born?
As this verse says, 86 years old. On the author of the SAB's misreading of the age when Terah got Abraham, see chapter 11:32.