The Story Of Hagar
Flight, or, according to others, stranger, an Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid (Gen 16:1; Gen 21:9, 10), whom she gave to Abraham as a secondary wife (Gen 16:2). When she was about to become a mother she fled from the cruelty of her mistress, intending apparently to return to her relatives in Egypt, through the desert of Shur, which lay between. Wearied and worn she had reached the place she distinguished by the name of Beer-lahai-roi (“the well of the visible God”), where the angel of the Lord appeared to her.
In obedience to the heavenly visitor she returned to the tent of Abraham, where her son Ishmael was born, and where she remained till after the birth of Isaac, the space of fourteen years. Sarah after this began to vent her dissatisfaction both on Hagar and her child. Ishmael’s conduct was insulting to Sarah, and she insisted that he and his mother should be dismissed.
This was accordingly done, although with reluctance on the part of Abraham (Gen 21:14). They wandered out into the wilderness, where Ishmael, exhausted with his journey and faint from thirst, seemed about to die. Hagar “lifted up her voice and wept,” and the angel of the Lord, as before, appeared unto her, and she was comforted and delivered out of her distresses (Gen 21:18-19).
Ishmael afterwards established himself in the wilderness of Paran, where he married an Egyptian (Gen 21:20-21).
“Hagar” allegorically represents the Jewish church (Gal 4:24), in bondage to the ceremonial law, while “Sarah” represents the Christian church, which is free.
Let’s dig further into Hagar’s story shall we……
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Hagar: Catfight In Canaan
All through Hagar’s ordeal, we never heard a peep from her.
Did she feel used and abused by her master and mistress?
For Sarah to select Hagar as her personal maid servant, “a position of such importance in the household,”
- Hagar had clearly proven herself a trustworthy young woman, who “served her mistress with devotion.”
- She must have been smart as well, and seeking to please Abram and Sarai, “making herself so valuable, that they would not sell her into a worse existence.”
- What a tight rope this Egyptian maid walked, trying to maintain her sense of self while living in bondage to her Hebrew owners.
On the day she became Abram’s secondary wife, everything changed – for better and for worse. Hagar gained a powerful new husband and a more powerful enemy in his wife. Now she held a child in her womb yet faint hope for a happy future.
But was it so wrong to revel in that brief moment of her life when everything looked good, as if life was finally coming together for her.
Who destined one to be a Sarah-beauty queen of the desert, wealthy and blessed, and one to be a Hagar–servant, lowly, used?
Who decides which one gives the orders and which one obeys them?
Commanding someone to sweep the floor and feed the camels is one thing. Demanding she give up her body and put her womb out for hire is quite another.
Still, she had been the winner. At least for one lightning-second-moment when Abraham had sought her out to make love to her and then later, to check on his son. Her son. Their son. The intimacy she had craved all of her life was as sweet as the gurgling baby in her arms.
But as soon as she knew she was pregnant with Abram’s child, Hagar’s attitude changed and she became haughty toward Sarai.
Genesis 16:4 VOICE
If, as legend tells it, “Hagar was once a princess in her father’s house,” the pampered daughter of a Pharaoh and his concubine, then we can more easily understand her haughty attitude. Most servants did as they were told without complaint and certainly without challenging their masters.
Unfortunately, Sarai proved anything but loyal to the woman bearing her husband’s child. In fact, she “chose to mistreat the servant so severely that Hagar ran away.”
Was Hagar’s escape premeditated or a sudden act of desperation?
Did she cautiously slip away after sundown, hoping no one would see her, or run from Sarai’s presence in broad daylight, tears streaming down her face?
Her name, Hagar, means “flight” or “wanderer”.
Though we might applaud her bid for freedom, “to flee was a thing forbidden to a bondwoman.”
Then the Angel of The Lord said to her,
Hagar, go back to your mistress, and change your attitude. Be respectful, and listen to her instructions. You’re pregnant, and you need to go home.
Genesis 16:9 (VOICE)
Hagar and Her Son Depart
One day Sarah saw the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, poking fun at her son Isaac. She told Abraham, “Get rid of this slave woman and her son. No child of this slave is going to share inheritance with my son Isaac!”
The matter gave great pain to Abraham—after all, Ishmael was his son. But God spoke to Abraham, “Don’t feel badly about the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you. Your descendants will come through Isaac. Regarding your maid’s son, be assured that I’ll also develop a great nation from him—he’s your son, too.”
Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs.
Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy and knows the fix he’s in. Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I’m going to make of him a great nation.”
Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink.
God was on the boy’s side as he grew up. He lived out in the desert and became a skilled archer. He lived in the Paran wilderness. And his mother got him a wife from Egypt.
Genesis 21:9-21 (MSG)
The brazen servant-who-was-a-mistress for a short, exalted time was paying for her sins. Yes, she had been cocky and shamelessly proud. After all, she had slept with and produced the joy of his heart–more than his wife had done for him. Sarah had punished her for her sin, banishing her from the only home she had known. And Abraham, the one who was always gentle and loving to the boy and her, had betrayed her too, sending her and their son away into the desert of certain death.
But now, along in a hot, blazing desert, she realized it was only a mirage, a life-picture too good to be true. Her one priceless dream–her son–was a few feet away, dying. She had sat him down and moved away so she wouldn’t hear his soundless cries for food and water. After he died, she would wait and pray for death, too. She had nowhere to go, no one to lean on.
Hagar, Sarah’s bondservant, did what all of us are tempted to do when we don’t see any way out. She gave up.
After all, what use is there in praying when God has never seemed too interested in what happened to you anyway?
Her story yields lessons for you and me offering wisdom for those times when our desert feels like the most deserted, deadly one. Hagar, this low-class servant girl, is our teacher here and shows us how to survive abandonment, despair, and the death of a dream.
Your Greatest Enemy In The Desert Is Fear
Hagar thought she needed water, food, and shelter to survive. It turns out that her real need was confidence-a belief that she was going to survive this latest crisis in her life. She had been in the desert in similar circumstances; maybe not as bad as this, but she had survived the experience.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you thought you could not do.”
Looking fear in the face takes courage. Refusing to be overcome by a spirit of paralyzing, terrorizing panic requires an unmovable faith in the fact that God will keep His promise of never leaving us alone.
Don’t make major decisions about life when you’re discouraged and down.
When we find Hagar in the desert in this dramatic story in Genesis 21, she is on a deathwatch; sure her only child is going to die. It turns out that she was not alone at all, her son did not die, and her life did not end. Making decisions when we are depressed, afraid, or angry assures a crop of failure. Pain distorts vision. When you are surrounded by darkness, it’s not a great time to pick up the phone and call your offended, sell your house, or declare God to be dead. What seems absolutely true today does not necessarily make it so. There is always one more thing you know about your own circumstances.
Just because you can’t see God in Your Desert of Death doesn’t mean He’s not there.
Hagar thought she was alone, but obviously she was misinformed. God was there.
Did she think God only cared about Sarah and Abraham, the really important people He had chosen for His really important work?
She was wrong. Perhaps if she had not experienced this terrible desert, she would not have discovered that God is also the God of the destitute, the rejected, the refugee, and the one who has received the sentence of death.
Just as He had a great plan for Sarah, the wealthy mistress who had everything, He had a unique, grand plan for Hagar-the poor unimportant bondservant, too. He shows up in her desert, just like He will show up in yours. His words were straight and to the point, refusing Hagar the pity we all want at such a time.
“Get up” He commands her. Obviously self-pity and prophecies of doom are not appropriate, ever. Excuses of why others can, but we can’t, are not acceptable. Simply, “Get up.” Now there’s a word from God that will work even on our good days!
Just like Hagar, sometimes we are so self-involved, focusing on what might happen that we don’t see the things around us that will see us through. I’m wondering why Hagar didn’t see the well of water nearby her when she thought she and her son were going to die from dehydration. When God shows up, He shows her the solution that was there all along. Just a few feet away from her was the water she and her son needed to live.
The ordinary, everyday miracles of our life are often overlooked while we cry out to God for “a miracle to see us through.” Miracles can come in the shape of an old friend who is always there come hell or high water or in a still undeveloped talent that has the potential to start a new business…or in the junior college in our community or the Christian counselor who helps us see our problem in a new way.
Look around you. Your water-well is close by. It’s okay to ask God to do what He did for Hagar, to simply open your eyes to see something you never saw before.
Ishmael, Hagar’s son, didn’t die. In fact, God grew him into a nation.
She ended up being the ancestor of even more sons and tribes and nations. Crises don’t change us. They simply hold the seeds of change in their dry, never-ending, thirsty deserts. It’s up to you and me to invite the Holy Spirit to come into our situation and show us things about the Father that we may have forgotten; that He loves the lowly, needy one; that He visits us in our deserts; and that He always enlarges us through the thing we thought was going to kill us.
Though the “strength of Islam”…is said to be bound up with the name of Hagar, more than two millennia passed before that new religion emerged in Arabia in the 7th century AD, guided by the prophet Muhammad. “Ishmael’s pedigree lent legitimacy to the new faith, but the Koran never mentions Hagar’s name.”
The Bible, however, includes the name of Hagar 15 times, and today Hagar has become a “symbol of downtrodden women who persevere.” A quick checking on the Internet reveals outreach efforts named “Hagar’s House” and “El Roi” – ministries to single parents, to battered women, to those who feel estranged, pushed out, discounted.
What Lessons Can We Learn From Hagar?
Running Can Be A Sign Of Strength
A woman trapped in an abusive relationship may long to flee from her home, as Hagar did, yet fear for her life if she leaves. Great courage is required to gather a few belongings and run for the safety of a shelter – and great humility as well, to admit needing such a refuge.
In the end, for Hagar and her sisters in suffering, the decision to run marks the beginning of a new life.
We Have A Hero Who Hears
During Hagar’s two crises in the wilderness, she learned that God is the best of heroes, clearing the path of obstacles and deflecting unseen dangers. Indeed, God sees our needs before we speak them and does not wait to be summoned, though if we call out his name, he is sure to listen.
Lord, Open Our Eyes That We May See
When Hagar and her son were dying of thirst, God opened her eyes and showed her a well.
Opened eyes, opened ground – who can say which was the greater miracle?
When we’re stuck in misery, we often can’t see farther than the tissue pressed against our runny noses. It’s natural to plead for our circumstances to change, but let’s also pray the Lord will open our eyes to the wondrous possibilities right in front of us and the everyday miracles given by his generous hand.
True Freedom Is Found Only In God
The Lord stands ready to set us free as well: from past mistakes that have a stronghold on us, from present burdens too heavy to bear, from a future that appears dark and uncertain. When we embrace that freedom with our whole hearts and trust him to guide us, our feet will have wings.
God’s Word To Women
Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature
Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible: Flawed Women Loved by a Flawless God