Why does God promise Hagar that she'll have a lot of descendants?

If God had planned on fulfilling his covenant through Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, and knew that the strife between Jews and Arabs would be so destructive, why does he instruct Hagar to return and submit to Sarah?

Paul writes in Galatians 4 that Ishmael represents slavery and bondage while Isaac represents the promise and faith and deliverance. Only Isaac would receive the inheritance while Ishmael would not.

Later on, Ishmael is cast out. So, I am just wondering: why does God increase their descendants, when he knows that they're not recipients of the new covenant?

  • What is the passage that indicates that God had compassion on Hagar?
    – Steve
    Aug 10, 2014 at 20:24
  • @Steve: Wow, I am stunned because I had asked this question but you are absolutely right. The passage does not say anything about God having compassion on Hagar. For some reason, I thought I had read that. I will change my question accordingly.
    – noblerare
    Aug 11, 2014 at 16:40
  • 1
    We can't really answer why God does anything. We can factually answer what any given theologian or theological premise says about this. I'm afraid this is off-topic as a Truth question.
    – fredsbend
    Aug 30, 2014 at 5:52
  • Why does God promise Hagar that she'll have a lot of descendants? Because : Ishmael is Abraham's son also that's why Hagar will have a lot of descendants too. Gen 21:13 : I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar's son because he is your son, too."
    – karma
    Sep 11, 2018 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


God's promise to Abraham was that he would have descendants as numerous as the Stars, what he did not promise is that they would all be his chosen people only that Isaac would.

All Scripture is quoted from the King James translation unless otherwise noted.

Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

This is not the promised land it is the middle east, (or what is now the Arabic nations), this is the promise God made to Abraham:

Genesis 15:1 through 6 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

(This should also answer your other question concerning Isaac)

Genesis 15:13 through 16 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

Even though this was many years before Jacob became Israel it is clearly the Nation of Israel that God is referring to. This not only shows that God is precognizant of events, but that he has a particular path upon which he intends his blessings to flow.

As for showing compassion to Hagar let's take a look at that:

Genesis 16:7 through 13 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 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. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 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. 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. 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?

By that last statement it is evident that she has not served God, since she is asking why are you looking out for me, have I served you in some way I am not aware of? Also sending her back to be subjected to Sari after the way Sari treated her doesn't seem much like compassion to me.

Genesis 16:3 through 6 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. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 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. 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.

So it was Sari who caused Hagar to be cast out into the wilderness to start with, and that after setting up Hagar to bear Abraham's child in her place since she could not have children of her own.

Genesis 16:1 and 2 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 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.

The descendants of Ishmael are the Arabic Nations, the descendants of Esau are the Palestinians, and the descendants of Jacob is the Nation of Israel: and this is the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham. There was no promise made to Hagar, and matter of fact she was always harshly treated by her mistress. So I fail to understand why you feel that God had compassion on Hagar.

  • The question is : why did Hagar obey God (return to Sara) who (in Hagar's pov) doesn't show His compassion to her ?.
    – karma
    Sep 11, 2018 at 14:13

If you noticed that there are two sources of living typified by the two wells later.

But to respond to your question, there is a crucial point to see that as Christians, we are destined for some enjoyment [grace]. Even when Isaac went downward to Lahai-roi, he still enjoyed a well, the well of the living One who sees us and reveals Himself to us.

Some might say, "This is wonderful. As long as I have the living One and He sees me and reveals Himself to me, that is good enough." In reading the Bible, however, we must keep the principle of the first mention. Lahai-roi, which is first mentioned in 16:14, was the place where Hagar went after fleeing from Sarah. Since Sarah represents grace, Hagar's fleeing from her meant that she had left the standing of grace. In the wilderness, in a place of suffering, God visited her. Hence, Lahai-roi was a place where one who had left the standing of grace could still have some enjoyment of God's visitation.

On the one hand, we are destined for enjoyment, and wherever we are we shall have some measure of it. On the other hand, we may have this enjoyment on the wrong standing, not in the place where Abraham planted the tamarisk tree, but in the place where Hagar escaped from grace. Lahai-roi was the place of one who had escaped from grace but who still enjoyed something of God's visitation. Nearly all of us have had this experience. We doubted our position, but we still had some enjoyment and felt confirmed by it. Do not take this enjoyment as a confirmation. Although the enjoyment is our destiny, we may have it on an improper ground, at Beer-lahai-roi, not at Beer-sheba.


In a nutshell, to have her child know of the Lord, and spread it to lands beyond promised(Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrate) to Abram(note that he is not Abraham until he is given a second child by the Lord). Hagar holds a special place due to the fact she borne a child of Abram. While Sarai(not Sarah yet) was blessed with a child, bore into the house of Abraham and granted the inheritance of the conventant, by/from birth. The Lord's demands of cutting the foreskin on the 8th day could not be fulfilled with Ishmael, due to being 13yr when it was established. Therefore, while he smiled on him, and thus his mother, he couldnt rightfully rule the lands promised to Abraham. Yet, he would be blessed, and spread the only teachings he knew of, outside of the promised lands. Most likely this was in Egypt/Africa, beyond the Wadi of Egypt(the Nile). As that's where his mom took him as a child, where they were saved and told by the Lord that Ishmael would usher in his own great line, and found an Egyptian wife for Ishmael.

side notes - Ishmael wasn't a loved son. He was conceived to prevent Eliezer, his slave, from inheriting Abram's possessions.
Abram and Sarai we're half brother and sister. A non-divine 2nd gen. inbred birth at +90yr is not conceivable. They weren't Sons of God like Adam to Nuh/Noah&sons, whom would walked/talked with the Lord and live 100s of years. Their years were numbered to 120 and no more, as all Sons of Man are...


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