N.B. All JUNE posts are excerpts from All the Women of the Bible
I did NOT author this post. I am STILL PROCESSING it because the piece is so good! Each time I read about Hagar, I get angry with Abraham! His choice caused trouble still reverberating generations later. Hagar was the victim of Abraham’s ill-advised action. She was a mere slave in his household. In other words, she was not an “at-will” employee who could rebuff Abraham's sexual advances. Hagar was a slave subject to the commands and whims of her owners.
I can imagine when her boss, Sarah, told Hagar to have sex with Abraham, Hagar felt bone crushing pain - inside. First, because she was being forced to procreate; that with her boss’s husband and with an old man – Abraham was 76 years old when Ishmael was born! Then, Hagar had to allow this man, of a strangely different culture than her own Egyptian one, to father this child she knew could never be her own. She would be forced to hand the heir over to her frustrated, mean, childless boss, Sarah. Awful dynamics. They get weirder.
I am willing to believe Hagar held out hope that bearing such indignities, child included, could be assuaged by having a son which, in turn, would give her status within the household and increased value in the eyes of her owners. Didn’t happen.
Abraham should have told Sarah an unequivocal, “No! No, I am not having sex with that woman. God made a promise to me and I believe Him.”
With unwavering conviction, he should have told his aching wife, Sarah,“I am having that baby with you, Honey. Hang in there. This thing will happen. And besides that, I don’t want Hagar involved in our promise, ok?”
But he didn’t refuse Sarah's anxiety ridden request. He didn’t calm her with words of faith. He did the dirty with the slave maid and there came Ishmael.
Admittedly, I am foisting my 21st century, Western sensibilities onto the ancient circumstance. I am blissfully choosing to ignore my familiarity with that practice of old. Still, I posit that had Abraham “manned up,” held his “manhood” in check, exercised his godly authority as head of the household refusing his wife’s distraught request, the painful results we see today would have been avoided.
Hagar, I am sorry you were forced to play understudy in Abraham and Sarah’s dream. The promise was never made to you; no role drawn up for you. You had to improvise. I thank God He delivered you from their nightmare. Read on…
The Flight of Hagar
Strife quickly followed the human arrangement that Sarah had made. Having conceived by Abraham, Hagar chides the childless Sarah, and the jealousy begotten between these two women was transplanted to their maternal hearts and penetrated even their children. Ishmael came to tease and vex Isaac, and discord arose between Abraham and Sarah. The ill treatment accorded to Hagar by Sarah was not only cruel, but also irrational. Had Sarah not instigated the wrongdoing that was the cause of her jealousy? Therefore it was unreasonable for her to lay the blame upon another. As things were, mistress and maid could scarcely dwell together, so Hagar fled. Better a flight than a fight! Being compelled to flee was a thing forbidden to a bondwoman.
Far from home in “the way to Shur,” the appearance of a calm and gracious angelic messenger from God must have been a relief to the poor, pregnant fugitive. As Hagar traveled further from her jealous mistress the Lord was at her heels, and said to her in her distress, “Return to thy mistress.” Hagar had left her position as handmaid without notice and without permission, so she must return. Sarah had wronged her, but she was not permitted to retaliate by doing wrong herself. Two wrongs do not make a right. It was no easy matter for Hagar to return and submit herself to Sarah, but it was the only right course, and a divine revelation helped her to pursue it.
At that renowned well Hagar met God, and in awe cried, “Thou God seest me.” He had given her counsel, and although not pleasing to flesh and blood, Hagar took it and went back to Sarah. Had she persisted in remaining in the desert she might have died in it. God gave her a promise that although the wrongdoing of her master and mistress had led her into a false position, yet His favor would rest upon her and she would have a son who would be the progenitor of a great multitude. The soothing promise of God was a balm for the wounded spirit of the poor and lowly handmaid. Though Ishmael, the name God gave Hagar for her coming son, might not be the Child of Promise as Isaac would be, yet he would be the child of a promise made to her.
Is it to be wondered at that she called the well where God spoke to her and revealed the future of her son “Beth-lahairoi,” meaning, “The well of Him that liveth and seeth me”? It was there that the veil fell from Hagar’s eyes, and she received the assurance that she was the object of God’s special care. Dr. Alexander Whyte extols Hagar for her submission to God in this glowing fashion—
Hagar, by reason of the extremity of her sorrow; by reason of the utter desolateness and brokenness of her heart; and by reason of the sovereign grace and abounding mercy of God—Hagar, I say, stands out before us in the very foremost rank of faith, and trust, and experience, and assurance. Hagar, to me, stands out among God’s very electest saints. Hagar has only one or two who can stand beside her in her discovery of God, in her nearness to God, in her face-to-face fellowship with God, in the instructiveness, in the comfort, and in the hopefulness of her so close communion with God.... The best and the most blessed of them all was not more or better blessed than was Hagar the polluted outcast on her weeping way to Shur. The pure in heart shall see God.
- Still Processing