Verses 1–3

I. The maker of this match (would one think it?) was Sarai herself: she said to Abram, I pray thee, go in unto my maid, Gen. 16:2. Note, 1. It is the policy of Satan to tempt us by our nearest and dearest relations, or those friends that we have an opinion of and an affection for. The temptation is most dangerous when it is sent by a hand that is least suspected: it is our wisdom therefore to consider, not so much who speaks as what is spoken. 2. God’s commands consult our comfort and honour much better than our own contrivances do. It would have been much more for Sarai’s interest if Abram had kept to the rule of God’s law instead of being guided by her foolish projects; but we often do ill for ourselves.

II. The inducement to it was Sarai’s barrenness.

1. Sarai bare Abram no children. She was very fair (Gen. 12:14), was a very agreeable, dutiful wife, and a sharer with him in his large possessions; and yet written childless. Note, (1.) God dispenses his gifts variously, loading us with benefits, but not overloading us: some cross or other is appointed to be an alloy to great enjoyments. (2.) The mercy of children is often given to the poor and denied to the rich, given to the wicked and denied to good people, though the rich have most to leave them and good people would take most care of their education. God does herein as it has pleased him.

2. She owned God’s providence in this affliction: The Lord hath restrained me from bearing. Note, (1.) As, where children are, it is God that gives them (Gen. 33:5), so where they are wanted it is he that withholds them, Gen. 30:2. This evil is of the Lord. (2.) It becomes us to acknowledge this, that we may bear it, and improve it, as an affliction of his ordering for wise and holy ends.

3. She used this as an argument with Abram to marry his maid; and he was prevailed upon by this argument to do it. Note, (1.) When our hearts are too much set upon any creature-comfort, we are easily put upon the use of indirect methods for the obtaining of it. Inordinate desires commonly produce irregular endeavours. If our wishes be not kept in a submission to God’s providence, our pursuits will scarcely be kept under the restraints of his precepts. (2.) It is for want of a firm dependence upon God’s promise, and a patient waiting for God’s time, that we go out of the way of our duty to catch at expected mercy. He that believes does not make haste.

4. Abram’s compliance with Sarai’s proposal, we have reason to think, was from an earnest desire of the promised seed, on whom the covenant should be entailed. God had told him that his heir should be a son of his body, but had not yet told him that it should be a son by Sarai; therefore he thought, “Why not by Hagar, since Sarai herself proposed it?” Note, (1.) Foul temptations may have very fair pretences, and be coloured with that which is very plausible. (2.) Fleshly wisdom, as it anticipates God’s time of mercy, so it puts us out of God’s way. (3.) This would be happily prevented if we would ask counsel of God by the word and by prayer, before we attempt that which is important and suspicious. Herein Abram was wanting; he married without God’s consent. This persuasion came not of him that called him.