Sarai and Hagar (Genesis 16:1—16)
Abram and Sarai are now old and Sarai has long not been able to bear Abram an heir. “Consort with my maid,” she says, hoping at least that if Hagar, the maid, has a male child, Abram will have an heir. Abram heeds her request (16:1-3).
So Hagar conceives and the relationship between Hagar and Sarai has changed. Now that Hagar is pregnant, Sarai feels that Hagar holds Sarai in less esteem (16:4). Is this what is worrying Sarai or is she more worried that once Hagar’s child with Abram is born, that child will not be considered as Sarai’s heir? Is this mere jealousy? What could Abram say to Sarai to calm her down?
How does Abram respond? When Sarai tells Abram to decide between Hagar and her (16:5), Abram passes the buck back to Sarai. “Your maid is in your hands. Deal with her as you think right.” (16:6) Leaving it up to Sarai is a great idea while she absolutely hates Hagar? Surprise, surprise, Sarai treats Hagar harshly and Hagar, in response, hits the road.
An angel of the Lord locates Hagar and asks her where she is going. “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” (16:9) The angel tells Hagar to go back and put up with the abuse. Why? Because Hagar is a servant who must do what her mistress wants? Because it will build character? Because Hagar’s descendants will be too many to count? (16:10)
Earlier, I asked what could be said to calm Sarai down. Now it’s Hagar’s turn. That last bit about Hagar’s descendants might be seen as at least partially enticing. Then the angel tells Hagar that the child will be a boy. The boy’s name? Ishmael, which means, “the Lord has paid heed to your suffering.” (16:11) One can see Hagar’s shoulders begin to relax.
But then, the angel tells Hagar that Ishmael will be a “wild ass of a man; His hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” (16:12) Would you go back to abuse after being “comforted“ in such a way?
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