We know Hagar as Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant whom Sarah acquired when she, Abraham and Lot moved from Canaan to Egypt because of a famine in the land of Canaan. In ancient Near Eastern homes, the rank of personal maidservant to the master’s wife reflected honor, obedience, and trustworthiness. On the other hand, the position stripped Hagar of all personal rights, making her totally subject to Sarah’s every whim.
Because Sarah was barren, Hagar’s surrogate maternity was perfectly legal, though it was a clear violation of God’s law – Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” This act, on Sarah’s and Abraham’s part, was a lack of faith in God Jehovah. They took things into their own hands, like many of us do when we lack faith and patience to wait on His sure promises.
During Hagar’s pregnancy she became full of pride and started thinking too highly of herself. She probably mocked Sarah for not being able to give Abraham a child, and possibly even stated that he thought better of her than Sarah for it. Women who were sterile were considered a reproach in those times. Sarah responded to Hagar’s pride with a vindictive accusation against her husband, who then insisted that Sarah assume full responsibility for her maid – Genesis 16:6 “But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.” So Sarah mistreated Hagar to the point that she ran away.
God heard Hagar’s cries and He revealed Himself to her in Genesis 16:7-13 – “And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” God met Hagar’s immediate need in tender grace while He allowed her to experience His presence.
Twice “the Angel of the Lord” came to Hagar’s aid, in the instance stated above, and also in Genesis 21, after Isaac was born, and the Lord told them to send Hagar and Ishmael away, after Sarah saw Ishmael mocking. Verses 9-20 – “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.”
Hagar’s legacy speaks very tenderly to the growing number of disadvantaged and unfortunate women of the world. Under no circumstance can they escape God’s caring/watchful eyes. As He provided for Hagar, He can and will provide for every woman. What great love and compassion our LORD has for all mankind!
Throughout Hargar’s life, she experienced estrangement and prejudice as a foreigner, hardship and abuse as a servant, grief and abandonment as an unwed pregnant woman, and hopeless despair on two occasions as she faced imminent death. Yet, despite all these difficulties, Hagar responded to the God who addressed her. She did not get compensation from Sarah and Abraham; her life was never easy, but God did reward her. In the all-seeing God, Hagar found refuge and life.
Yes, Hagar was rejected because God had a purpose. But we may take much comfort in knowing that just as God was there for Hagar, so is He here for each of us.