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Why would Sarah allow Abraham to sleep with her maidservant?

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Genesis 15:2-3

 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.  Genesis 16:1-4

Previous to this incident, God promised Abram a son through his wife Sarai.  They were in the 70s-80s-90s and starting to panic.  People just don't have kids at that age.

Abram was ready to pass the estate down to Eliezer, a servant in his household, probably the oldest boy who worked with him.  This was a common practice in Abram's time.

Sarai thinks, "Well, instead of a servant who is not related by blood, why not have a half-blood related son be the heir?"  So she made the suggestion to Abraham that he sleep with Hagar who will act as a surrogate.  While most women today cannot imagine suggesting to their husbands that they have sex with another women, it highlights some ideas about the culture.
  • It was a common practice since they did not have test tubes and in-vitro fertilization like we do today.
  • Ancient documents found at Nuzi near Kirkuk on the Tigris River say that a childless man can adopt his own male servant to be an heir. The Code of Hammurabi allowed this practice also.  (Case for Christ Study Bible)
  • It shows the need to will your estate to someone or all that hard work will just turn into chaos and be destroyed.
  • It shows the honor and privilege to have children in that culture.  Childless families felt cursed, as if God was mad at them.
God never advocated this practice and told Abram and Sarai to trust him instead.  When we take things into our hands and go outside God's will, problems occur, as they did for Sarai and Abram.