The story of Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Hagar and their children can be found in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament in chapters 11-23. Today my focus is on Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s firstborn son.
I have been on a little excursion through the book of Genesis for the last couple of weeks looking at the world’s earliest mothers and their children. It has been interesting for me in that God is bringing some things to my attention that I had not previously noted.
Hagar and Ishmael-a hidden story
If you grew up in church and Sunday School, you are probably very familiar with a large portion of the story of Abraham and Sarah, but more than likely, because it was not really a children’s type of story, the part about Hagar and Ishmael was left out.
As a young adult, when I first learned of this part of the story, I was a little bothered by it because it cast a shadow upon Abraham and Sarah. Now, I am not going to dwell on what may or may not have been the faults of Abraham and Sarah in this saga because…haven’t we all made some messes in our lives that our wonderful, forgiving God has had to “mop up”?
God is always so faithful to His beloved children, to His chosen vessels. I will be first to admit that I have made some really messy messes and although He never hid them, as He has so obviously not done with this story, He did enter into the scenes and mop and clean them up and He lovingly set me back on the right track again.
Let’s be honest, have you ever victimized anyone? Not something that I like to think about or admit but if I think about it hard enough I can pinpoint some times when I have been guilty. Can you honestly say that you have never been a little guilty?
Hagar was an Egyptian of slave, the maid of Sarah. How she became the slave of Sarah we do not know but according to the Bible this was the case. We learn in the Bible in these few chapters that she was given to Abraham by Sarah in order to produce an heir for Abraham. Sarah had given up on God giving her the naturally born child that He had promised her. Sarah was going to claim that heir as her own child although Hagar was going to do all the work. Hagar became pregnant and a son was born. The son was claimed by Abraham and the boy was raised until he was a teenager as Abraham’s son. Sarah finally birthed the son whom God had promised to her at which point she told Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. After consulting with God, Abraham complied.
This happened before God’s new kingdom was introduced on earth by His Son Jesus Christ. Hagar was the victim of a scheme, a victim. Can you imagine, being victimized in such a way. This type of thing still happens every day in these present times and we in civilized countries are appalled. There is no getting around the truth. We call it rape, polygamy, slavery, baby farming or maybe even sex trafficking. The perpetrators are arrested, put on trial, internationally exposed, ostracized and imprisoned. We set up ministries to help the victims. Some people dedicate their lives to rescuing the victims.
Yes, no need to remind, it was a different time, different place, many reasons why it happened then and not now, but can’t you see that even so it was still victimization of a woman who was given no choice but to comply. Many of us Christians still ignore and look at Hagar as the “bad guy” in this story.
God clearly recognized the victimization. How do I know? Because of the way that he dealt with Hagar.
Rescue and freedom for a slave woman and her son…
God’s heart is always for the victim, the underdog, even if He knows that their wounds are going to cause unbearable pain in generations to come and this is what struck me so profoundly in the case of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, former slave to Sarah and former concubine to Abraham.
How did He deal with Hagar? With love and supernatural care. No, being a victim of the enemy of our souls is NO FUN. Being so highly favored of God as to be one whom He has gifted with many supernatural gifts and one whom He speaks to and supernaturally cares for is the ultimate.
How did God care for her?
The first time that the Bible mentions that Sarah dealt with Hagar harshly was because of her pregnancy and the upcoming birth and the fact that Hagar developed a despising attitude toward Sarah. After Sarah dealt with her Hagar ran away.
Here is what happened next in Genesis 16:7-14:
7 Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” 10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi;observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
So, Hagar returned to Sarah and as far as we know, Hagar did not give Sarah any more problems but as time wore on and Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham, Ishmael had become a teenager by then and Sarah saw the boy, Ishmael, scoffing at Isaac (her baby). She demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be removed from the camp. Abraham complied with her wishes after also hearing from God.
Here is the account of them being banished from the camp forever and the visitation and sweet ministrations of God to Hagar, once again, in Genesis 21:14-21:
14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. 15 And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, “Let me not see the death of the boy.” So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.”
19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. 20 So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
So what do we see in this account? First, Hagar gained her freedom from slavery and was delivered from what looked like the envy and hatred of Sarah. Second, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham on behalf of his son, Ishmael.
What really struck me in this story of God’s redemption of an Egyptian slave. He dealt with her and her son lovingly. He never turned His back on her or her son even though those who were responsible for getting her into the mess that she was in abandoned her.
We also see that God cleaned up the mess that human hands created in trying to do His work for Him. His promises to Abraham about Sarah and their descendants were fulfilled.
There were consequences, though, as there are to all of us who try to do God’s work for Him according to our own understanding. It is said that…
According to the Koran, Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael were the ancestors of the Arab nations, and of the prophet Mohammed. The Koran says that it was at Mecca that God saved Hagar and her son from death by thirst. Muslim ritual reflects the story of Hagar, and every year for thirteen centuries Muslims performing the Hajj have retraced Hagar’s steps as she desperately searched for water.
Deliverance, yes, but deliverance doesn’t stop the consequences. This story is another proving factor in a case that would prove that our God, the God-Who-Sees, is a God of Redemption.
Blessings to you in your own journeys through God’s Word!