In Genesis 16, we read the story of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian servant. Sarah was unable to have children, so she told Abraham to have a child with Hagar. When Hagar became pregnant, she began to despise her mistress Sarah. Sarah then dealt harshly with Hagar, and Hagar fled into the wilderness (Genesis 16:1-6).
An angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness and told her to return to Sarah and submit to her. The angel also told her that her offspring would be greatly multiplied. In response, Hagar “called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me'” (Genesis 16:13).
There are a few key reasons why Hagar refers to God this way:
1. God saw her affliction
Hagar was mistreated and marginalized. She fled into the wilderness to escape harsh treatment. She must have felt desperate, alone, and abandoned. Yet God saw her in her distress and sent an angel to meet her in her moment of need. The angel spoke to her tenderly, compassionately, and even promised her a future and a heritage through her son. God demonstrated that He truly saw her painful situation and cared enough to intervene.
2. God saw her
More fundamental than seeing Hagar’s suffering is that God truly saw her. She was an Egyptian slave, forgotten, neglected, and exploited. No one else saw her or cared for her. But God’s eyes were upon her, expressing value and worth. He cared not only about her circumstances but about her as a person. The angel was sent because God saw her in a personal way.
3. God is omniscient
The name “God of seeing” or “God who sees me” expresses God’s omniscience and omnipresence. He sees all things at all times. Nothing escapes His vision or awareness. God saw Hagar even in the wilderness, outside the covenant community. No human could see Hagar in such a remote place, but God could. His eyes run to and fro over the whole earth (2 Chronicles 16:9).
4. God is personal
This name reveals God’s personal nature. He is not a distant, detached deity. He sees each individual in all their pain and need. As David proclaimed, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1). God intimately knows each person, including the most vulnerable. Hagar recognized this personal care in God calling out to her.
5. God keeps His promises
The angel gave Hagar specific promises about her future son and offspring. By calling God “the God who sees me,” Hagar expressed confidence that God would fulfill His promises. He saw her situation, and she trusted His continuing watchful care over her life. God demonstrably kept His covenant with Abraham, and Hagar believed He would be faithful to her as well.
In summary, Hagar called God “the God who sees me” because He saw her painful circumstances, saw her personally and intimately, expressed His omniscience and omnipresence, revealed His personal and relational nature, and proven His promise-keeping faithfulness. This name forever memorializes God’s tender care for the downtrodden and encouragement of the forgotten.
Here are some other key details about this meaningful name from Genesis 16:
- The Hebrew phrase translated “the God who sees me” is El roi.
- This is the only place in Scripture where God is referred to by this name.
- Hagar is the only person in the Bible to use this phrase to refer to God.
- This name reveals God’s character as one who sees suffering and cares for the afflicted.
- God demonstrated His care and faithfulness to both Abraham’s wife (Sarah) and concubine (Hagar).
- After this, Hagar refers to God as “the LORD” (Yahweh), showing her integration into the covenant community (Genesis 21:17).
The name El Roi provides great comfort and assurance. No matter our circumstances, we can be confident that God sees us, knows us, cares for us, and will faithfully keep His promises to us. Even when we feel abandoned and forgotten, God’s eyes are upon us.
For further study on this topic, consider these additional Bible passages:
- Psalm 139 – God’s omniscience and omnipresence
- Psalm 113:5-6 – God sees both the high and lowly
- 2 Chronicles 16:9 – God’s eyes roam the earth
- Job 31:4 – God sees all our ways
- Jeremiah 32:19 – God sees all people’s deeds
- Matthew 6:4,6,18 – God sees even in secret
- Matthew 10:29-30 – God sees even sparrows and the hairs of our head
- Luke 1:48 – God saw Mary’s humble state
Additionally, study other instances in Scripture where God demonstrates special care for the poor, oppressed, and those society often overlooks. This continues throughout the Bible from the Exodus to Christ’s ministry. El Roi shows that throughout Scripture, God repeatedly sees vulnerable people in their affliction and engages in compassionate care.