Welcome to the Women in Scripture series. If you are new, I choose a woman in Scripture to review on the last Monday of each month. So far, I have started with Eve and looked at the life of each woman that I come to next. I hope you continue to join each month.
We meet Hagar in Genesis chapters 16 and 21.
Hagar was not a woman with many rights. She was the servant of Abraham’s wife Sarah, and she did not choose whom she would marry. Hagar was given to Abraham as a wife by her mistress. However, she was still considered Sarah’s servant, and she was still treated as a servant. For example, we see that Abraham made sure that Sarah was protected whenever they went to a new area such as in the meeting with King Abimelech in Genesis 20, but there is no mention of his efforts to protect Hagar. Abraham also deferred to Sarah when making decisions about how Hagar should be treated, showing that Sarah still had authority over Hagar. We also know that Hagar dealt with harshness. Sarah treated Hagar cruelly enough to cause her to try to leave (Genesis 16:6), and Hagar experienced it again when Sarah later demanded that Hagar and her son leave and have no part in Abraham’s inheritance.
Hagar had a couple of responses to her mistress – contempt and running away. Even though Sarah also was wrong in some of her treatment of Hagar, we see that her bitterness has negative consequences. For example, when Hagar conceived a son after Sarah could not, she looked at Sarah with contempt. Her reaction resulted in more pain because Sarah responded cruelly enough to make Hagar want to run away. Hagar was not responsible for Sarah’s actions, but her response to Sarah encouraged unkindness.
The Lord spoke to Hagar and noticed her suffering. He promised her blessing, and he told her to return to Sarah. He told her that Ishmael will have many descendants, and Ishmael would also be a man who both caused and experienced adversity. In that moment, we see another side of Hagar where she had enough faith in God to return to an uncomfortable environment where she was a servant.
Later, when Sarah had a son, she saw Ishmael laughing, perhaps in mockery, but the text is unclear. We do know that Ishmael would be involved in quarrels from the Lord’s prophecy. He may have been showing the same sort of contempt that his mother had shown. As a result of his response, Sarah immediately demanded that Hagar and Ishmael leave, and Hagar wandered in the wilderness where she felt hopeless and thought her son would die. This time, the Lord did not tell Hagar to return. However, He continued to provide for her and Ishmael. This time, we do not know Hagar’s response to the Lord’s provision. Again, even if it was not directly her own contempt, Hagar’s circumstances became more difficult because of the effects of it.
While we do some see some demonstrations of faith in Hagar, her circumstances were largely affected by contempt from herself and her son. She experienced pain and suffering, and she responded by becoming bitter and disrespecting the authority placed over her. We also see bitterness in her son who laughed at Isaac, and Hagar and Ishmael were left to live in the wilderness.
It can always be difficult to manage our responses to difficult situations or authority placed over us. We can choose to grow in bitterness, or we can have faith and follow God through the tough times as Hagar did when she first ran to the wilderness. Becoming angry will do nothing to make our circumstances better. In most cases, it will only make them worse by harming relationships or taking us away from our systems of support.
We have now looked at the lives of Eve, Noah’s wife, Sarah, and Hagar. We have seen each of them display faith in God at times. Some chose to take matters into their own hands or to despise the authority over them. While they may have experienced more difficult circumstances due to their mistakes, God was always faithful in caring for them.
Join me next month as we look at the life of Rebekah.