El Roi (El-Raw-ee) is the name given to God by Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant (personal hand maiden) of Sarai, when she flees Abram’s camp after being mistreated by her mistress, Sarai. This is the only time the name El Roi is used in the Bible. However, through this story and various other Scriptures, we will discover the loving, compassionate, omnipotent El Roi, The God Who Sees.
In Genesis 16, we come across an Egyptian slave, who by no choice of her own, is “used” by Sarai, the wife of Abram. It was a common custom in that period of time for a maidservant to bear a child that would be given to a barren mistress as her own. The maidservant typically had no choice in the matter. Today, we have a hard time understanding why a wife would offer another woman to her husband to provide an heir; but in ancient rabbinic times, a man could “put away” (divorce) his wife or marry other wives if she didn’t provide children after ten years. Sarai may have been fearful for her status. For whatever reason Sarai made this decision, it turned out badly because after conceiving a child fathered by Sarai’s husband Abram, Hagar began to flaunt her pregnancy in front of the barren Sarai (despise, lowered in esteem). There was now a tug of war in the household.
Because Hagar despised her, Sarai wanted to blame Abram. After being confronted with the situation, he told Sarai to do to Hagar “whatever you think best” (v.6 NIV). Abram told Sarai to do what was right; instead, Sarai mistreated Hagar. The treatment must have been severe, because in desperation, Hagar fled.
Next, we find Hagar by a spring in the desert. She was probably tired, thirsty, hungry and distraught. Oh, yeah, she was also pregnant! She had no husband, no family and nowhere to go. She was a runaway slave.
“Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7 NKJV)
The New King James Version capitalizes Angel. Some scholars believe that the Angel who visited Sarai was the pre-incarnate Jesus (before He became flesh.) The Hebrew word used for “found” in this text means “finding: to find someone or something that is lost or misplaced”. I’m sure Hagar felt very lost and very misplaced. Have you ever felt this way? Lost? Misplaced? Mistreated?
In v. 8, we see a type of Hebrew parallelism (chiasmus) that shows the compassion of the God Who Sees. In this verse he knows her by name and he knows her history (to whom this slave girl belongs) and yet in the same verse he asks her where she has been and where she is going! God already knew yet He asked the questions anyway. Don’t you wonder what the full conversation might have been? This distraught young woman pouring out her heart of despair to God. The Angel of the Lord brought two things to light in this conversation, Hagar’s social position and the future of her son. I believe our conversations with God work the same way. As we pour out our hearts to Him we open up enough to see our situation clearly. I know many times I have said, “Help Lord, I don’t know how I got to this place and I don’t know what to do!” He wants us to trust him and open up to him. God will not force himself on us, and yet he desires a relationship with us. Although He knows everything about us, he prompts, he encourages, and he draws out the parts of us that hurt so that he can replace them with promises of Himself.
As Hagar pours out her desperation and sees the reality of her life, The Angel of the Lord tells her to humble herself by returning to the household and facing the oppressive life a slave must endure. He doesn’t promise that her situation will change, but he does promise her a grand future! He gave her the blessing of descendants too numerous to count and ensures her future provision. She saw God, she believed Him and she went home. But first, she gave Him a name.
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 (NIV)
A few interesting things about a couple of names mentioned in this chapter of Genesis. Hagar’s name in Hebrew means “flight” and the spring where God found Hagar was on the road to Shur, which means “wall”. Have you ever felt like Hagar…with your back against the wall and all you wanted to do was flee?
So, Hagar returns and bears a son and names him Ishmael. She remained in camp until just after the birth of Isaac, the son God gave to Abraham (Abram) and Sarah (Sarai) in their old age. However, it appears Ishmael may have learned some bad habits from good ol’ mom. After Sarah witnessed Ishmael mocking Isaac, Sarah insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away for good.
In Genesis 21:14 we once again find Hagar in the desert. And once again God comes to her rescue. We see the fulfillment of the promises that He made to her in verses 20-21. Ishmael’s descendants are innumerable and as God promised in Genesis 16:12, Ishmael still fights with his brother (Islam vs Jews).
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV)
Read the full story of Hagar in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:8-21.
The God Who Sees study verses:
- Why did Hagar give God the name El Roi? (Genesis 16:13)
- How well does God know us? (Luke 12:7)
- Complete this verse: Deuteronomy 12:28 (NIV)
- Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right ___________________________________.
- Where are the eyes of the LORD? (Proverbs 15:3)
- What is he watching? (Proverbs 15:3)
- What three things did God do for Jacob when He found him in the dessert? (Deuteronomy 32:10)
- What will God do for us with His eyes upon us? (Psalm 32:8)
- What are some other things that God watches over? (Deuteronomy 11:12) (Jeremiah 1:12)
- What is something that might keep us out of trouble if we asked God to watch over it? (Psalm 141:3)
- How would that benefit us?
- How long will God watch over us? (Psalm 121:8)
- Why does God search the earth? (2 Chronicles 16:9)
- Can we hide from God? (Job 34:21-22) (Hebrews 4:13)
- Does God only see those things we do in the open? (Matthew 6:3-4)
Read Psalm 33:13-22 and journal you thoughts about The God Who Sees.
- Because she had seen the “God Who Sees Me”
- He even knows the number of hairs on our head
- We wake because the Lord sustains us (he watches us as we sleep)
- In the eyes of the LORD your God
- The wicked and the good
- 1) shielded him 2) cared for him 3) guarded him
- Instruct us, teach us in the way we should go, and counsel us with his loving eye on us.
- The land, His Word
- My mouth, my lips
- (your words here)
- To strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
- He also sees what is done in secret