Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God and Hagar

Since I am up working on my Old Testament paper, I thought I would take a break to quickly reflect upon a sometimes overlooked figure in the bible. One of the narratives from the Old Testament that captures my imagination is the story of Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai (later Sarah), wife of Abram (Abraham). I feel such empathy for her whenever I read it. Sarai tells Abram to have relations with Hagar because she is unable to provide him with a child. Immediately after she learns that Hagar conceived a child, Sarai regrets her own suggestion and becomes violently jealous. To please his wife, Abram tells Sarai that she may deal with Hagar as she pleases...and she does something harsh (we’re not told what) that makes Hagar flee.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty. She returns to Sarai and submits to her (Gen. 16:1-15). This pattern is again repeated after the child, Ishmael, is born. Sarah’s anger is reawakened as she sees her son Isaac and Hagar’s son Ishmael playing together. She wants them gone. God lets Abraham know what his will is regarding Isaac and that he should honor the request of his wife. Hagar, once again in a desperate situation, panics when her water runs out and abandons Ishmael under a bush in the wilderness.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty (Gen. 21:1-21). The formula is not lost on me. As I prepare for my September weekend of classes, I am comforted by this story about Hagar. We all feel overwhelmed at times, knowing that there is more to be done than hours in the day will allow. And in the moments when we need Him the most, when our bodies and minds are exhausted, Christ visits us in prayer, comforts us as only He can, and after we have received His refreshing grace, He lovingly instructs us to accept our duty and get back to work.


  1. This is very interesting. I think I hear the voice of that angel in modern advertising like the Nike slogan "Just do it". It seems to work fine when I need a little boost, but in the throes of depression that angel needs to do something a little stronger and I think that it is then when she appears as my daughter who is superior in the art of offering comfort until I am able to hear those three little words that get me up and going again. Now, I will think of Hagar whenever life gets tough and I feel like giving up.

  2. I forget where I read it but it always struck me that Islam looks to Abraham as Ishmael did, as a slave master with no individual regard for a slave, while Judeo-Christian look to God as a father as Isaac did, and that His correction is done as fatherly discipline.

  3. The followers of Mohammed see God himself as their slave master, and yes, they do claim that Ishmael is the father of their religion. But in reading how God encourages Hagar in her sorrow, it strikes me how unlike a slave master He is. I think this is one of the many fundamental theological mistakes that the believers in the Mohammedan version of reality accept.