29. Hagar, Quite A Character


By Cindy Young

Hagar was

Enslaved: Egyptian handmaid given to Abram’s wife Sarai

Impregnated: by Abram after she was given to him by Sarai to be a surrogate mother

Abandoned: cast out and deserted when she and her son were no longer welcome

Liberated: cast out of Abram’s protection, but still held in God’s hand

And, once again we see God using all types of people in his kingdom.

‘The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her: ‘You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’ She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.’ Genesis 16:7-14

‘The child grew and was weaned, and on the day, Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’ Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So, she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.’ Genesis 21:8-21

‘These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah.’ Genesis 25:13-15

The story of Hagar is an emotional one. Hagar really had no rights or ‘say-so’ about her part in Abram’s and Sarai’s scheme to bring about God’s promise to make Abram the father of many nations on their timetable.

This is the couple she served as a slave. They owned her. They also had taught her about God, which was foreign to her Egyptian view of the ‘gods’ she had known before. She was a foreigner living among God’s ‘chosen people’ who didn’t show her God’s gracious love. They turned out to be flawed believers.

What emotions or feelings do you have when reading this story?

Unlike today, having a concubine was a common family arrangement in the ancient Near East. Sarai giving her handmaid to Abram was an accepted human solution to a problem that God said He would take care of. Sarai became impatient with God’s plan.

After praying for God’s help in our lives, do we ever become impatient with Him? Why?

Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for 10 years.

What are your thoughts about Abram so quickly agreeing to Sarai’s plan? Was he also becoming impatient?

Do we ever follow the path someone is leading us down, even though we know it is probably the wrong direction?

‘Abraham obeyed his wife Sarai’. Genesis 16:2

He might have been thinking about having to live with Sarai if he didn’t ‘obey’ her!

Do we ever take the path of least resistance to keep from having to be uncomfortable?

Hagar did as she was told. She became pregnant by Abram.

Do you feel sorry for her at this point in the story, when she seemingly had no voice?

Should we as Christians try to give people who feel they have no voice time and space to speak?

Should we treat all God’s people as equal?

Human nature kicked in and Hagar became proud and acted superior to Sarai because she was pregnant and the woman, she served was barren.

Does this part of the story make you feel sorry for Sarai?

Or do you feel she got what she asked for?

Did Sarai deserve to be mistreated by Hagar?

How do we behave when we reap what we sow?

Do we turn the tables as Sarai did and blame someone else?

Abram washed his hands of the situation, a whole different lesson, when Sarai asked him to fix it. He told her to do whatever she wanted with her slave. Hagar ran away from her masters after being treated harshly.

What are your feelings now for Hagar?

She felt used, unloved and rejected by a family she had grown to trust. They were her masters but also her caretakers. She was alone and she thought forgotten, but God never leaves us or forgets us. Hagar is the first person in the Bible that an angel of God appeared to and called by name. The angel told her to return to her master and obey her.

Do you think Hagar felt she had a past but no future?

God wanted to focus on her future. He called her by name because she was somebody, not just an object to be used. At this point, Hagar became the only woman in the Bible who was promised her descendants would be too numerous to count.

Hagar began to use a new name for God, ‘You are the ‘God Who Sees Me’, because she saw that even in a deserted place, God saw and cared for her. Hagar was among the few people in the Bible to receive a covenant directly from God. What began as a command to return and submit ended with the prophecy of the birth of one to be named Ishmael, which means ‘God hears’

‘because the Lord has heard that you were treated badly and will help you’.

When Hagar removed herself from those who controlled every aspect of her life, she discovered a personal identity. Her most intimate relationship, it turned out, was with God.

Do we at times allow our earthly relationships to keep us from attaining an intimate relationship with God?

This story did not end with a traditional ‘happily ever after’. Hagar obeyed God but she never really got along with Sarai. She was eventually sent away by Abram at Sarai’s request. Hagar and her son wandered in the desert, near death, when God heard the boy’s cries.

God once again spoke to Hagar and took care of her needs by providing water. God continued to be with them as the boy grew up in the desert.

The Bible speaks to the ‘real world’. It speaks, as in this story, to the ongoing difficulties faced by single mothers, perplexed wives, flawed fathers and troubled sons.

The message is not

‘come to Jesus and you will live happily ever after’.

The message is

‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9


"Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;'"