` This is not Genesis 16 — imaginary family values

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And Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not had a child by him, and she had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. And Sarai said to Avram, “Behold, the Eternal has held me back from childbirth. Please, go to my maidservant; perhaps I will be built up through her.”

And Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, babe, the Guy Upstairs told me, in the last chapter, that I would have children. If I don’t sleep with anyone but you, then the only way He can fulfill His own prophecy is by letting me make you pregnant! So stick with me, honey, and let Hagar find her own damn husband.”

Why doesn’t the story go that way?

In the previous chapter, along with God’s promise that Abram would have children, there is a warning (Genesis 15:13): “your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and [the natives there] will make them work and suffer for four hundred years.” So perhaps, when Sarai made her offer, Abram thought: Hmm. If my heir is the son of an Egyptian woman, when my descendents have to become “strangers in a land not theirs,” they’ll be going somewhere other than Egypt. And Egypt, as I saw when I visted there a few chapters ago, is no place for a nice monotheist; they’re as rich as Sodom and Gomorrah, and just as corrupt, too. I know that if I stick with Sarai, she’ll eventually get pregnant, but taking Hagar would spare my descendants a lot of grief.

Too bad it didn’t work out like that, eh?

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