Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

Part 3

HAGAR—THE WANDERER

Introduction

The story of Hagar is inextricably linked to the story of Sarah and Abraham. In the last chapter, the selections focused on Sarah. In this chapter, the selections we have chosen focus primarily on Hagar.

Hagar's story is found in Genesis 16:1–16, and in 21:8–21. Interpreters have generally assumed that Pharaoh gave Hagar to Sarah in Egypt (see Genesis 12:16). Sarah's solution to the problem of her barrenness was to give Hagar to Abraham as a second wife. After Hagar became pregnant with Abraham's child, her attitude toward Sarah changed. Sarah asked Abraham to do something about the presumptuous slave, and Abraham told her to take care of it. Sarah dealt harshly with Hagar who then ran away.

Hagar encountered the angel of the Lord in the wilderness, who instructed her to return and submit to Sarah. The angel spoke to Hagar twice, promising that her offspring would be greatly multiplied, and that her son would be named Ishmael. Hagar named God, "The God who sees me." She returned to Abraham's household and bore a son, whom Abraham named Ishmael.

After fourteen years, a son, Isaac, was born to Sarah and Abraham. At the feast to celebrate Isaac's weaning, Sarah saw something objectionable in Ishmael's behaviour and asked that Abraham "cast out" Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham was unwilling to do this because Ishmael was also his son. God told Abraham to do as Sarah asked and send Hagar and Ishmael away, which he did. God again spoke to Hagar in the wilderness, showing her a well of water when the supply they carried with them ran out. Ishmael and Hagar made their home in the wilderness, and Ishmael's descendants became a large nation as God had promised.

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