From the Bible, we know little about Hagar. In a series of short blogs we’ll look at the Biblical account of Hagar, what the Koran has to say about her, her role in history of the Middle East and the role Hagar plays in Islam and world events today. We’ll also explore ancient laws dealing with birthright and inheritance and the lessons in faith we can gain through Hagar’s experiences.
Hagar in Genesis: A brief summary
From the Book of Genesis we know a bit about the Egyptian maidservant who served Sarah in the House of Abraham. Hagar was given to Abraham by Sarah when Sarah could not bear an heir. She bore Ishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham. After the birth of Isaac to Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away.
How did Hagar come to the House of Abraham? (Genesis 12:10-20)
When Pharaoh claimed Sarai for his harem he gave Abram a bride price. Included were sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, men servants and maidservants, and camels. (Genesis 12:16)
While there is no record of Hagar’s background in either the Bible or other ancient records, it is very possible that Hagar was among the maidservants given to Abram. If so, she probably would have come out of the house of Pharaoh. She could possibly been a free woman, either a relative of Pharaoh or some other official, but it is more likely that she was a slave.
A stranger in a strange land. A massive change of cultures.
As a member of the Egyptian royal house, Hagar (which means stranger) lived in a highly sophisticated society. Egypt of that time led the world in culture, medical knowledge, multi-cultural awareness and had a well-organized religion. She now found herself in a nomadic household with a still developing theology. Instead of living in luxurious building, she now lived in tents. Rather than urban living, she was in the middle of semi-desert, moving constantly to follow the grazing herds.
(This would have been much like the character played by Eva Gabor in the late 1960’s TV comedy Green Acres. For those needing a reminder or born after this ancient time Google “Green Acres ” or look it up on YouTube.)
Hagar became the maidservant of Sarai (Sarah). While Abram (Abraham) was the ruler (Patriarch) of the tribe, Sarai ruled the household and was the matriarch of the women. While Hagar would have had relatively high status, she was still a slave.
Hagar, coming out of the House of Pharaoh, would have felt very much a stranger indeed.
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