B’reishit, Chapter 16: Hagar gives birth to Ishmael

Since she was not able to have children, Sarai suggested that Avram have a child with her maid, Hagar.  Hagar then showed a lack of respect to Sarai, who became angry.  Hagar fled.  An angel spoke to Hagar, telling her to return to Avram and Sarai, and that her “seed will multiply greatly” and that she will name her son Ishmael.  Hagar gave birth to her son and named him Ishmael.

The Torah records three statements made by the Angel to Hagar in three consecutive verses (9, 10, and 11).  Strangely, each of the three verses begins with the phrase

ויאמר לה מלאך ה’

And the angel of the Lord said unto her…

Why the verbosity?  Why not simply use the pronoun “he” in two of the verses (as in, “he said…”)?  Rashi suggests that there were three different angels and so that is why it says “and the angel of the Lord said…” three times.

An alternative answer, however, is that Hagar was in total shock and disbelief that an angel of God was speaking with her.  God spoke to Avram; who was she?  She was merely Sarai’s maid!  Why would God speak with her?  And so each time, with each utterance, she had to be reminded that “this is the angel of God speaking!” until she finally internalized it.  Do we recognize the voice of God when it calls upon us?

Rabbi Roy Feldman

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B’reishit, Chapter 16: Hagar gives birth to Ishmael

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