“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman” (Galatians 4:21-22 ESV).
While Galatians 4:21-22 provides us with a basic account of Abraham’s family tree, a closer look at his experience can help us make the connection between these members of Abraham’s family and the Galatians’ misguided attempt to find favor with God through the works of the Law.
First, we should recall that God made the following promise to Abraham: “…a son coming from your own body will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). However, its important to note that God did not identify the mother of this promised son in this promise to Abraham, So when Abraham’s wife Sarah told him “Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2), a son born from that relationship might serve to fulfill God’s promise from their perspective. Or at least they could talk themselves into that belief.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that Sarah or Abraham sought God’s direction regarding this idea. In fact, it doesn’t appear as if they ever gave any real consideration to God in this matter at all. Instead, it seems that Sarah saw an opportunity to get something she really wanted and engineered a way to obtain it without seeking God for His counsel or direction.
Although Sarah’s request was perfectly acceptable in that culture, that doesn’t mean she made the right choice. In fact, her example serves as a important reminder for God’s people today. The act of making such decisions without the prayerful commitment to seek God’s direction is a bad idea, and bad ideas often lead to bad choices, and bad choices usually lead to bad consequences.
And sure enough, it wasn’t long before the trouble began…
“So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (Genesis 16:3-4).
So Hagar began to feel differently about Sarah once she discovered she was pregnant. Hagar was now more than just an employee- she was someone who now had something that Sarah desperately wanted. This led Hagar to look upon Sarah with an attitude of contempt and disrespect- and that eventually led to a confrontation as we’ll see next.