A look at Hagar in the Bible
|Much talked about is Sarai, wife of Abram, otherwise known as Sarah, in Genesis. How she was barren and, after much prayer and in her advanced years, was finally blessed with a son, Isaac. This chapter, however, is centered around her slave, Hagar. In Genesis 16, Sarai convinced Abram (who had not yet been renamed Abraham) that he might conceive a son. The story of how she came into their household is an interesting one. In Genesis 12, there was a famine where Abram and Sarai were making their home. To escape, they fled to Egypt. Sarai was a beautiful woman, so Abram claimed her as his sister so that he would not be killed for the sake of an Egyptian claiming her. Sure enough, Sarai came to the Pharoah’s attention, and he took her into his household as his wife. Because he claimed to be her brother, the pharaoh treated Abram well by giving him cattle, sheep, donkeys, camels, and servants. Thus, Hagar came to his home. When the Pharaoh discovered the ruse after being cursed by God for his adultery, Abram took Sarai and all that he had accumulated while in Egypt to Bethel. |
When Hagar came to Abram and Sarai, according to the book of Jashar, she learned all of Sarai’s ways and so came to know and love God. Thus, she was chosen by Sarai to bear Abram a son, since Sarai was deemed barren. Both the Bible and the Book of Jashar agree that Hagar began to despise Sarai once she became pregnant. Hagar was so happy knowing that she did what Sarai couldn’t and thought herself better than Sarai. In return, Sarai was jealous of Hagar. Hagar most likely despised Sarai because she knew her child would be given to her to raise.
When Sarai spoke to Abram about Hagar’s disposition, he basically told her to do whatever she wanted with her. The Bible says Sarai mistreated Hagar; the book of Jashar used the word afflicted. Whichever the case, Hagar fled from her enslavement into the desert. After she came to a well, an angel of the Lord appeared to her. He essentially promised her many descendants through her son Ishmael, as well as bidding her to return to Abram and Sarai.
Hagar’s story follows a pattern that all of us have faced at one time or another. As a new believer, the devil beset her to try to turn her away from God, for her love was still fragile and untested. Before being given to Abram, Sarah was a daughter of the pharaoh and grew up worshipping multiple false gods. I have heard our relationship with God described as a marriage, and I find that to be true in both Hagar’s story and my own life. After first committing to knowing and loving God, life is wonderful, just like a honeymoon period. In Hagar’s story, she prospered after leaving Egypt. After the honeymoon period is over, that is when the hardships arise, as in Hagar’s case, when the doubts about Sarai and the longing for children set off a set of circumstances that can test any relationship. I am sure that being sent back into a situation from which she had fled further tested her faith in God. We all have moments like this. When things are going pear-shaped, it is easy to blame God, but he always has a plan. Sometimes the path has to change as the devil throws obstacles in the way, but God always has an outcome in mind.
In Hagar’s case, her son Ishmael was to be her crowning glory, and he needed to remain with the soon-to-be-renamed Abraham and Sarah to fulfill his destiny. In Genesis 21:13, Sarah exiles Hagar and Ishmael from their camp. The accounts differ between the Bible and the Book of Jashar. The Bible doesn’t really give a reason for this and states that Ishmael was 4 years old at the time. The Book of Jashar states that he was 14 and had tried to kill Sarah’s son Isaac with a bow and arrow. As they leave, God tells Abraham, who was worried for his son, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring." When Hagar and her son were dying in the desert, God once again sent an angel to her. He showed them water so they could survive, and Ishmael grew up there, marrying an Egyptian.
In the Bible, Ishmael isn’t mentioned again except to list his sons and say that his descendants did not get along. The Book of Jashar, however, tells more of the story. Abraham would go visit his son’s camp and wives. Eventually Hagar, Ishmael, and the rest of their family came back to live with Abraham. Isaac and Ismael did not get along and were in constant competition. Ishmael eventually took his children and went to the wilderness of Parah (in the Arab nations), where he and his descendants built a nation over which they ruled. Hagar was never mentioned after they came back to live with Abraham and Sarah.
What we learn from Hagar’s life is that God has a plan for each of us. We all have a purpose. No one is an accident of birth. Hagar was the daughter of a Pharoh who was so low on the importance scale that she was given away to be a slave. God didn’t see her that way, though. To him, she was just as important as Abraham. She was going to be the mother of a nation, although we don’t know if she lived long enough to see that nation born. But we see her as a loving mother who raised her son in a desert, eager for him to survive and thrive. In each of her desperate moments, God sent an angel to her to help. God was always with her, even when it seemed that he had forsaken her. He was always watching and willing to help. The Bible doesn’t state what form the angel took; it just states that he was sent to help and guide his people. I know there have been times in my life when someone was put into my life, whether for a moment of need or to help my life turn around. These people were definitely God-sent, for he always wants to see us prosper and fulfill our purpose in his grand plan.