1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Genesis 16:1-2
In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Abraham and Sarah, his wife trying to have children. But nothing happened. They then did something that to our modern ears sounds appalling: Abraham had a child with another woman, Sarah’s maid Hagar. And it was Sarah’s idea! Why would they do something like this?
Well, that was the normal thing to do at that time. Kenneth Kitchen in his book “On the Reliability of the Old Testament”, pages 325-326, details the legal customs of the time concerning heirs. It was not unusual for a woman to have a maid who would bear children for the family if the woman could not. It is even codified in the laws of Hammurabi.
There are two things we should take away from this short story. First, the normal way of doing things is not an excuse to do the same as everyone else. In this case God said your heir will come from your wife. And only from your wife. “Everyone else is doing it” does not cut it with God!
Secondly, this demonstrates that what we read in the bible was common at the time and lends further weight to the reliability of the book of Genesis. If this was written hundreds of years later in an effort to claim the land of Canaan, as many critics contend, the writers would be ignorant of the customs of the times they were writing about. Many of the customs and practices that we read about in Genesis were commonplace during the time Abraham lived. This is evidence for the historical accuracy of the bible, those who say there is no evidence are missing the mark by a wide margin.
So, don’t do and think like everyone else; and you can trust the bible as historically accurate.