Unloved and Abused (Genesis 12 & 16)

I’m going to push the pause button on our identity series because I think this is a fitting place to insert the tragic and inspiring story of a noteworthy biblical character. Her name is Hagar. She was a woman who had every reason to think that God did not see her.

Hagar enters the biblical narrative in Genesis 16. She was either born or sold into slavery in her native Egypt. We are not told how she came to be with Abram and Sarai, but from what we know of their story, the following is the most likely scenario…

Sometime after Abram and his company entered Canaan, there was a severe famine in the land. Abram decided to travel to Egypt and hang out there until conditions were better in Canaan. You know the story—Abram didn’t want to be killed on account of his gorgeous wife, so he and Sarai conspired to tell a little lie. Pharaoh, believing them to be brother and sister, took Sarai as his concubine. By way of thanks, Pharaoh showered Abram with gifts—including male and female servants.

Pharaoh got wise when plagues broke out in his household. He quickly gave Sarai back and escorted Abram and crew out of Egypt. But Abram didn’t leave empty handed. He walked away still in possession of his newly acquired presents, including Hagar—who was given to Sarai as a domestic slave. (Genesis 12)

And that was just the beginning of Hagar’s troubles.

Several years after God promised Abram an heir, Sarai decided to shortcut the process. Discouraged by her continuing barrenness, she offered her servant, Hagar, to Abram for the purpose of conceiving a child. Abram agreed, and Hagar, being only property, had no say in the matter. I think the idea was that the child Hagar conceived would become Sarai’s child at birth. Thus Abram would have his heir and Sarai would be relieved of the shame of her barrenness. (Genesis 16)

Things didn’t work out that way, however. Sarai’s maidservant seems to have been somewhat feisty. When she discovered she was pregnant, she began to cop an attitude.  After all—who was blessed and who was barren? Wasn’t it she, Hagar, who was the real mother of Abram’s heir?

This did not sit well with her mistress. Sarai retaliated by grievously mistreating her servant—so much so that Hagar fled.

Again showing herself to be of a spirited nature, Hagar took off alone and pregnant, through highly inhospitable terrain, apparently intending to return to Egypt.

And that is where we will leave her for today.

Next time, we’ll take a look at God’s response to this situation and see what we can learn from it.

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