Messianic Education Trust
    Lech L'cha  
(Gen 12:1 - 17:27)

B'resheet/Genesis 16:13   And she called the name of the L-rd, the one who was speaking to her, "You are the G-d who sees me"

View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

The 'she' in our text is Hagar; this text is part of the story of Hagar running away from Sarai after her mistress mistreats her when Hagar has - at Sarai's suggestion and instigation - become pregnant by Avram. After escaping into the wilderness, she is found by an angel of The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem at "a spring of water in the wilderness" (B'resheet 16:7) and sent back to submit to Sarai with the promise of a son and many descendants.

The opening phrase, is a well-known construction. The verb , to call, here in its Qal 3fs prefix form with a vav-conversive for narrative sequence, followed by the noun , name, is how people are named. Avraham officially 'called' his son with Sarah, Yitz'khak, 'laughter' (B'resheet 21:3); the prophet Hosea was told to name his firstborn son ("call his name") Jezreel (Hosea 1:4); Naomi adopted the name ("call my name") Mara, meaning 'bitter', after she returned as a widow to Bethlehem. All these names have particular meanings, either directly as words or - in the case of Jezreel - referring to a place or event that happened or would happen there. Nahum Sarna comments that "The name is inextricably bound up with existence and with the nature and character of the Being who bears it." It is quite remarkable that Hagar, an Egyptian maid-servant, so doubly disenfranchised in the the society of her time by both status and gender, is the first person in the Scriptures to give a name to HaShem.

This is too much for What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos who paraphrases the whole text: "Then she prayed in the name of the L-rd who spoke with her. She said, 'You are the G-d who sees everything.'" The verb 'called' is replaced by 'prayed', so rather than naming G-d - which from the time of creation when Adam names all the animals as part of his mastery over them implies some degree of superiority or control - Hagar is shown praying in the name of G-d; the preposition 'to' is replaced by 'with' to soften the anthropomorphism and the extra verb "she said" is inserted to confirm that she is addressing rather than naming G-d. Finally, Drazin and Wagner explain, the last phrase is changed to a statement or praise, lest Hagar might have thought that the deity was blind or unable to see her.

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno agrees with the idea of Hagar praying, although for different reasons: "Calling the name of HaShem signifies prayer, (for one should first) praise the Holy One, Blessed is He, in thought or words (before praying) as our Sages teach us: 'A man should always first recount the praise of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and then pray' (b. Berachot 32a). In this manner the worshiper will concentrate on G-d as we find 'I have set HaShem before me always' (Psalm 16:8)".

The last two words of the text form the name that Hagar gives to HaShem: . The words form a construct, so are rendered, "the G-d of ...", but the second word - the only time it is used exactly in that form in the Hebrew Scriptures - has no one distinct meaning. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi holds that it is a noun, because the vowel under the resh is a kametz chatuf rather than a holem; his suggestion is "The G-d of Vision". Since neither vowel is shown or indicated in the consonantal text , but share the same pronunciation, a long 'o' sound, some think it is a participle with a 1cs suffix pronoun, "the one who sees me". Sarna sees "a marvellous ambiguity that allows 'G-d of seeing', 'the all-seeing G-d', 'G-d of my seeing' and 'G-d who sees me'". Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch votes for the word being a noun and ascribes the following to Hagar: "You are a G-d of seeing, sight belongs to You, You see!" He explains that "it was brought home to her that one could flee from Man but not from G-d." Hagar again: "You are a G-d of seeing, Your eye is everywhere, from You one cannot escape." The Psalmist has a certainty of being watched, of knowing that G-d sees him at all times:

O L-RD, You have examined me and know me.
When I sit down or stand up You know it; You discern my thoughts from afar.
You observe my walking and reclining, and are familiar with all my ways.
There is not a word on my tongue but that You, O L-RD, know it well.
You hedge me before and behind; You lay Your hand upon me.
It is beyond my knowledge; it is a mystery; I cannot fathom it.
Where can I escape from Your spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I descend to Sheol, You are there too.
If I take wing with the dawn to come to rest on the western horizon,
    even there Your hand will be guiding me, Your right hand will be holding me fast.
If I say, "Surely darkness will conceal me, night will provide me with cover,"
    darkness is not dark for You; night is as light as day; darkness and light are the same.
(Psalm 139:1-12, JPS)

It seems that it is impossible to hide from G-d; no matter where we might go or think of going, He is already there and can still see us. We cannot, as Hirsch has Hagar realise, escape from G-d, there is nowhere to hide. Three times the Scriptures tell us about people who will try to hide from G-d at a time of judgement. Hosea spoke to the people of the northern kingdom before the Assyrian dispersion: "[the inhabitants of Samaria] shall say to the mountains, 'Cover us,' and to the hills, 'Fall on us'" (Hosea 10:8, ESV); Yeshua told the crowd who were weeping as He was being led out for crucifixion, "[Your children] will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us'" (Luke 23:30, ESV); then in Revelation John paints a picture of "the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (Revelation 6:15-17, ESV).

Because Hagar saw a manifestation of G-d, she names Him as a result of her experience: the God who sees me. This was a surprise, not at all what she had expected. Isaiah spoke of the Messiah who was to come, saying that His mother "shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14, ESV) because he would be exactly that: G-d with us, His physical presence in our midst. In practice, "when He was circumcised, He was called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb" (Luke 2:21, ESV), because Joseph had been told, "You shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21, ESV). What manifestation of G-d have you had and how have you named Him?

Scripture is full of names for G-d. David calls Him, "my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14, ESV); Peter and the apostles called Him, "The G-d of our fathers" (Acts 5:30, ESV). At the crossing of the sea, Moshe calls Him, "A man of war" (Shemot 15:3, ESV), while Nahum knows Him as "a stronghold in time of trouble" (Nahum 1:7); for Joel He is, "the G-d who thunders" (Joel 4:16), whereas Job recognises his "Advocate in heaven" (Job 16:19). Jeremiah and Zechariah both saw visions of G-d as the Refiner (Jeremiah 9:6, Zechariah 13:9); Isaiah as the Comforter (Isaiah 51:12). How do you see Him - in your work, in your life - do you dare to name G-d or do you name Him all the time? Is He your joy (1 Peter 1:8) and your delight (Psalm 43:4), or is is He your covering or atonement (1 John 2:2). Or is He perhaps the G-d who carries you (Isaiah 46:4) and strengthens and shepherds you (Psalm 28:8-9)?

G-d has given us many of His names, reflecting His attributes and character, so that we may call upon Him in our times of joy and sorrow, pain and laughter. He has a name for everything and all circumstances, for He is Immanuel, "G-d with Us". He encourages us to name Him by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, for He has promised always to be with us; He is found with us and redeems us where we are. We must always be ready to speak and proclaim His name because - as Peter and John told the Sanhedrin, "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, ESV). Far from being unspeakable, His name should always be on our lips. May it be so today!

Further Study: Micah 5:2-4; Ephesians 5:18-20

Application: Do you know G-d by several names? Look some of them up in the Bible today and then think how you can name Him from what He has done in your life. Then find someone to share that name and experience with - they need to hear it too!

Comment - 17:55 18Oct15 Bonnie: I wanted to share something I saw in this Torah portion, and that was when Hagar was in such terrible circumstances, and the voice from Heaven said, "What ails you Hagar?" I thought to myself, how can He say that? But that's the "heavenly perspective." I love that!

Comment - 17:23 19Oct15 Tom Hiney: In calling upon G-d, I regard Him as guide, comforter, strengthener, confidante, one who loves me, Almighty, King, Lord and Messiah, in that Jesus is G-d. I think that Hagar was right in calling upon Him and in naming Him.

© Jonathan Allen, 2015

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