Abram was growing old. Although he had great riches and many servants he had no children. One night while he lay asleep in his tent, God appeared to him in a vision. "Do not be afraid," God told him, "for I will protect you, and will give you a great reward because you are faithful."
"What will you give me for a reward ?" Abram asked. And God answered that some day Abram should have a son. Then, at God's bidding, Abram rose up and went outside his tent door and looked up at the starlit heavens. "The children of your family," God told Abram, "shall one day be as many as the stars-so many that no one can count them." Abram understood by this that God was speaking of the people who should some day possess Canaan's land, for they should be Abram's descendants. And he believed in the Lord.
God also caused Abram to understand that there would be a time when the children of his family would become slaves in a strange land, and should dwell there for four hundred years. After that they would again return to Canaan, and possess the land for their own.
One time Abram and his household journeyed into Egypt, during a famine in the land of Canaan. When they returned, they brought with them an Egyptian servant-girl named Hagar. They taught Hagar about the true God and to listen if He should speak to her. They expected her to work faith-fully for them.
One day Hagar did not please her mistress, Sarai. and Sarai punished her severely. Hagar became very unhappy, until she decided to run away.
Now, running away is never an easy thing to do, and as Hagar hastened along the sandy, desert road she grew very tired. She stopped to rest by a fountain of water along the roadside. In this lonely place, in the deep wilderness, some one found her. It was an angel of the Lord.
"Hagar, Sarai's maid, where did you come from? and where are you going?" the angel inquired.
"I am fleeing from my mistress," Hagar replied, "because I am unhappy."
"Return again," the angel said, "and try to please Sarai. After a while God will give you a little son. He shall grow up to be a strong man, and he shall be called Ishmael."
Hagar knew it was a messenger from God who spoke to her. And she knew now that she could never run away from God. So she obeyed the angel's word and returned again to her mistress. The fountain of water in the wilderness where the angel found her was called Beerlahairoi, a word that means, "A well of the Living One who sees me."
So after Hagar returned to Sarai's tent, God gave her the child he had promised. Abram named him Ishmael, which means, "God hears." And Hagar remembered that this was the name by which the angel had said the child should be called. Abram loved Ishmael; but Ishmael was not the child that God had promised to give to him..
The years passed on until Abram was nearly one hundred years old. Then God spoke to him again. Abram fell on his face and listened. God said, "I will make a covenant with you." A covenant is a promise between two persons, each one agreeing to do something for the other. In this covenant God promised to give Abram a son and Abram promised to serve God faithfully. Then God said, "Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, which means, 'The father of many,' and your wife, Sarai, shall be called 'Sarah,' which means, 'Princess.'"