167 Then YHWH’s messenger found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 The messenger said, “Hagar! Sarai’s slavegirl! Where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She said, “From Sarai, my mistress. I’m fleeing.”
9 Then YHWH’s messenger said to her, “Return to your mistress and be afflicted by her hand.”
10 The Lord’s messenger also said to her, “I will give you many children, too many to count!”
11 The Lord’s messenger said to her, “You have conceived and will bear a son and call him Ishmael [God Hears] for God has heard your suffering.12 He will be a wild-ass of a man; his hand against everyone, the hand of all against him. He will camp in defiance of all his relatives.”
13 Hagar called the name of YHWH, who spoke to her, “You are El Roi [God of Seeing],”for she said, “Do I not still go on seeing after he saw me?”] 14 Therefore, that well is called Beer-Lahai-Roi [Well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me]; it’s the well between Kadesh and Bered. 15 Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram named the son Hagar bore Ishmael. 16 Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Sarai may be an included part of the first promise to Abram—to be a great nation in those days included its continuation through the bloodline of the founder. Up to this point, multiplication was going to go through Sarai’s body.
At question now is whether that understanding continues or has been set aside with this new wife—Hagar. From the standpoint of having read this story before, Hagar carries the irony of setting up the reversing of a later account of slavery in Egypt and release through a desert journey back to Canaan.
As Abram’s wife, Hagar is worth following, if for no other reason than to keep this moment of tension, and, thus, the attention of those hearing or reading this account.
We now hear a specific reference to a messenger (an “angel” of G*D) searching for a particular person and spotting her on her way south, toward her native land. This encounter takes place by a spring. There will be many more tales told about meetings at springs and wells. It is helpful to begin a list and see what it tells you.
A first thing to note is the lack of surprise at an encounter with an angel. It is only later iconography that will add weird wings and glowing halos. Initially, angels look like humans.
Another thing to note is the advice no one should give today—go back into an abusive situation and expect a reward for being additionally harmed.
Pregnant and alone in the Negeb, the direction to return can be seen as care for the one to be born (forenamed, here, as Ishmael). The oracle about Ishmael prepares us for difficulties as he will reside in defiance of his kin (a hint that Sarai may yet have a line of descendants).The unnamed spring becomes a well; the messenger espying Hagar to her seeing a way out (though requiring her to travel a way back to an intolerable situation) morphs into YHWH. Seeing and not just hearing a promise is highlighted. “Beer-Lahai-Roi,” where we see what sees us, will be a recurrent place in Genesis. Where would you identify as your Beer-Lahai-Roi—your place of “being seen” in a time of travail?