Hagar

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Hagar
In Brief
This practice of surrogacya can be found in several ancient Near Eastern texts. Hagar is Sarah's Egyptian slave woman whom Sarah gives Abraham as a secondary wife and would bear a child for him. After Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarah treats her harshly, and eventually, Hagar flees from her mistress into the wilderness, where God's messenger speaks to her. She is the only character in the Bible who gives God a name based on her experience with the Divine. Although the Qur'an does not tell Hagar's story, a collection of the words of the Prophet Muhammed extol Hagar (Hajar). Hagar has long represented the plight of the foreigner, the slave, and the sexually abused woman.

Contents
1
The slave (enslaved person) as Surrogate
2
Hagar's Encounter With God
3
Hagar in the Qur'an

The Slave as Surrogate
Hagar is Sarai's Egyptian slave woman, whom Sarai (later Sarah) gives to Abram (later Abraham) as a wife who would bear a child that would be considered Sarai's (Gen 16:3b). Although it resembles modern technological surrogate motherhood, this custom may seem bizarre. However, ccuneiform texts of the second and first millennia BCE attest to this custom in ancient Mesopotamia.
The first such text dates from around 1900 BCE from the Old Assyrian colony in Anatolia. In the Code of Hammurabi, the most famous text concerns the marriage of a naditu, a priestess, attached to a temple that is not allowed to bear children. Her husband has the right to take a second wife, but she can give her husband an enslaved person if she wishes to forestall this. A marriage contract stipulates that if the wife does not give birth in two years, she will purchase a slave woman for the husband. In the ancient Near East world, a slave woman could be seen as an incubator, womb-with-legs.
Sarai and Abram see Hagar in this role and never call her by name. Hagar, however, sees herself as a person and, once pregnant, does not consider Sarai a superior; "she looked with contempt on her mistress" (Gen 16:4). Sarai, in turn, "abuses her" (Gen 16:6; NRSV, "dealt harshly with her"). The Hammurabi laws acknowledge that the pregnant slave woman might claim equality with her mistress, and they allow the mistress to treat her as an ordinary enslaved person. This may be what Sarai is doing. However, Hagar is not passive.
Hagar's Encounter With God
Rather than submit, Hagar runs away to the wilderness of Shur, where she meets God's messenger, who tells her to return and submit to Sarai's abuse for then she will bear a son who will be a "wild ass of a man" (Gen 16:12). Just as the wild ass was never domesticated, so too Hagar's son would never be subject to anyone and would live "with his hand against everyone" and "in everyone's face" (Gen 16:12).
In this encounter with God's messenger, Hagar realizes that she is speaking with God, and she gives God a name, El Roi, "The God who sees me." Hagar is the only person in the Hebrew Bible who gives God a name (Gen 16:13).
The angel's announcement to Hagar is similar to announcements to Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Mary, the mother of Jesus: all would have children with extraordinary destinies, and all are addressed personally, not through their husbands.
Her name, Hagar, could be heard as Hagger, meaning "the alien"; Hagar is an alien in Abram's household as Israel will be aliens, gerim, in a foreign land. Hagar is to be degraded as Abram's descendants will be degraded, and YHWH has "given heed to affliction" as God will hear the affliction of Abram's descendants.
Hagar returns to Sarai and bears a son, whom Abram named Ishmael. Hagar and Ishmael are freed at Sarai's instigation (Gen 21:9–14). The newly freed slaves head to the desert and struggle with thirst. God then saves the dying Ishmael, not because of Hagar's cries or God's promises to Abram, but because God heard Ishmael's voice (Gen 21:15–21). God's relationship with Hagar is resealed with her son, as God's relationship with Abram is resealed with Isaac and his son Jacob.
Like Jacob, Ishmael has twelve sons. Hagar is the ancestor of these twelve tribes of Ishmael (Gen 25:12–15).
We are informed that Sarah saw the son of Haggar scoffing. This conflict between the two sons was almost inevitable, even though they were approximately 13 years apart. Abraham found it hard to agree with Sarah's complaint when he did not want to reject his son through Hagar, Ishmael. Notice the conflict came from Ishmael unto Isaac. Ishmael was the one scoffing at Isaac.
Even as Ishmael and his descendants have persecuted Isaac and his descendants, we should not be surprised that the modern-day people who follow God, yet in reliance upon human strength and wisdom (the flesh), persecute those who follow God in faith through the promise.
God instructed Abraham, "Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice." Perhaps Abraham did not want to give up Ishmael because he considered the son of Hagar something of a backup plan. If something should happen to Isaac, there would always be Ishmael. God did not want Abraham to trust in a backup son or a backup plan. God wanted Abraham to trust in Him. Abraham might have been tempted to reject Sarah's counsel just because it was Sarah who offered it. Instead, he sought the LORD in the matter, did what Sarah suggested, and did so apparently without feeling he merely gave in to Sarah's demands.
God's solution was clear – get rid of the son of the flesh.
The solution is the same in our battle between trusting the flesh and trusting God. Law and grace cannot live together as principles for our Christian life, and there is no question we belong to the free, not the bondwoman.
ii. God wants us to be ruthless with the flesh in the same manner: And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).
As Hagar and Ishmael traveled away from Abraham, their supplies eventually ran out. Their water was used up, and Hagar expected that she and Ishmael would soon die.
As Hagar lifted her voice and wept, God answered. Curiously, God answered in response to the lad's voice instead of specifically to Hagar's weeping. In some way, Ishmael cried out for mercy and help.
God showed special favor to Ishmael because he was a descendant of Abraham. He promised, "I will make him a great nation. God's promise gave Hagar and Ishmael reason to fear not.
Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water: Whether the miracle was in creating a water source or revealing an existing water source, God provided for Hagar and Ishmael.
Spurgeon explained the likeness between Hagar and the one who needs God. "As in Hagar's case, the supply of their necessities is almost depleted; however, the well is near. Secondly, it often happens that supply is as much there as if it had been provided for them and them only, as this well seemed to have been. Thirdly, no great exertion is needed to procure all that we want from the supply already made by Got. She filled her bottle with water — a joyful task to her, and she gave the lad drink."
The idea is emphasized that God was not against Ishmael and his descendants. God was with Ishmael and had a promise for his future.
Hagar in the Qur'an
The Qur'an does not tell the story of Hagar, but the Hadith (collections of the words of the Prophet Muhammed) give her the name Hajar, which may mean "splendid" or "nourishing." Sarai is explicitly jealous of Hajar and Ibrahim (Abraham) and accompanies Hajar into the wilderness in this narrative version.
Hagar has long represented the plight of a foreigner, an enslaved person, and a sexually abused woman. She has been the focal point for oppressed peoples. Her story resonates with sexually abused survivors, the poor and vulnerable, and African American women in the past half-century. While race is not a meaningful term for the biblical period, Hagar's identity as an Egyptian woman has led some interpreters to see Hagar as African and dark-skinned. In the relationship between Sarai and Hagar, some readers see the story of the white female oppressor and the black slave woman.

General Notes:
aSurrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman, the gestational (The period of development in the uterus from conception until birth; pregnancy.) carrier, agrees to bear a child for another person or people, who will become the child's parent(s) after birth.
b(Genesis 16:3) So after Abram had been living in Canaan for ten years, his wife Sarai took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
cCuniform: 1 having the shape of a wedge. 2: composed of or written in wedge-shaped characters - cuneiform syllabary.


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