Vincent Chukwuma Onwukwe


A narrative analysis of the plot(s) of Genesis 16 brings to the fore the motifs of barrenness, wilderness, and divine encounter, and indicates that the text presupposes God’s choice of Isaac over Ishmael, which is more clearly emphasised in Genesis 17 and 21. Be that as it may, one of the major tasks facing a narrative-critical reader of Genesis 16 is to account for the author’s special concentration on the characters of Hagar and Ishmael in a narrative that majorly concerns Abraham and his household. Does this focus suggest the divine election of Hagar and Ishmael? In this article, I shall demonstrate that the motifs of barrenness, wilderness, and divine encounter are narrative devices used by the narrator to underline, in advance, the “theology of separation” and God’s compassion for, and salvation of, the afflicted. I shall also analyse how some factors in the narrative portray God’s and the narrator’s disapproval of Sarah’s involvement of Hagar in her marital life. This shows that Abraham and Sarah tried to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promise in their own way, which is contrary to the plan of YHWH, who had plans (of election) for Isaac. In other words, the focus on Hagar and Ishmael does not presuppose divine election of them, it rather prefigures, among other things, that the place of Ishmael would be in the wilderness.


Genesis 16; Plot; Characterisation; Narrative analysis; Barrenness; Wilderness; Divine encounter

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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