Women in the Word – Hagar

hagar-in-the-desertLife is not always fair and there are times when the sins of others have a dramatic impact on the events which transpire in one’s pilgrimage on this earth.  Such is the case of Hagar, an Egyptian slave to Sarah, the wife of Abraham.   Given that her name means ‘stranger’ she indeed was unfamiliar with the tenets of the Jewish faith.  Many commentators believe that Hagar eventually converted and became a believer in Jehovah God.  This fact is substantiated on two specific occasions in Hagar’s life.  Journey with me in Genesis as we familiarize ourselves with the life of this young Egyptian and how God intervened in her life.

Hagar became the helpless victim of the scheming of Sarah.  Abraham’s elderly wife had not been able to conceive and bear him a son.  In Jewish culture, this was a disgrace upon a woman.  To avoid the scorn and ridicule of others, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to bear a child.  Since Hagar was owned by Sarah, the child born to the slave girl would also become the property of Sarah.  This entire plot was a sin before God. and all three participants were equally guilty.  Sarah distrusted God in that her weak faith gave way to taking matters into her own hands.  Abraham, the ‘friend of God’, should have obeyed the law of God and refused to participate in Sarah’s scheme.  Hagar, the lesser of the three should not have yielded, but then as Sarah’s slave, perhaps she did not have a say in the matter.  As we learn in Genesis 16,  the end result of this arrangement led to tears, heartache and strife.

Once it was discovered that Hagar was with child, jealously engulfed Sarah.  It is conceivable that in her humanness, Hagar chided her mistress.  Her pregnancy had elevated her into a new position in the world.  Perhaps for the first time in her life, Hagar was treated with respect.  This only heightened the tensions between Hagar and Sarah to the point that it became quite difficult for them to dwell together.  Thus, Hagar fled into the wilderness only to have God intervene and redirect this distraught fugitive.  Hagar was in awe that “Thou God seest me”.  She accepted God’s counsel and returned to Sarah.  Although this must have been a very difficult thing in which  Hagar to submit, it was comforting to receive the promise from God that her son would become the father of a great multitude.  She must have realized that she was the object of God’s special care when He gave her the name of her son, Ishmael which means “God hears”.

Fourteen years later, God opened Sarah’s womb and she bore a son, Isaac.  Tensions manifested once again between, not only the mothers but also the sons, Isaac and abraham-and-hagarIshmael.   Sarah could take it no more and she demanded Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness.  In actuality, she was condemning the mother and child to death.  However, once again, God intervened provided water, and we are told that Ishmael grew and became an archer in the wilderness of Paran.  In spite of God’s divine intervention in her life, Hagar seemingly failed in rearing her son in the faith that she had embraced while living in Abraham’s household.  Not only was this evident in the fact that she found a wife for her son in Egypt, instead of the Israelites, but also in the realization that Ishmael is recognized as the ancestor of the Arabs and the prophet Mohammed.

Once can only speculate why this religious cult evolved from a son of Abraham.  Perhaps it was anger toward Jehovah for allowing Hagar and Ishmael to be cast out into the desert.  Maybe they give Mohammed the credit for leading Hagar to the well of water.  Whatever the reason, these folk became the instrument of Satan in warring against God’s people. For thirteen centuries, the Muslims have performed the ‘Hajj’, retracing Hagar’s steps in search of water in the wilderness.  This is one of the 5th Pillars of Islam.  Muslims are commanded in the Koran to carry our this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime if they are physically able.  In 1999, 2 million Muslims journeyed to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Hagar was indeed a victim of other’s sins, but she had a free will and did not exercise it for righteousness.  The life of Hagar teaches us that the temptations of a new position often lead to foolish actions, especially in times of trial and difficulty.  Had she patiently trusted God to work out his divine purposes instead of taking matters into her own hands, perhaps she would not have become the mother of the wicked Muslin religion.