Have you ever given any real thought to Hagar, the Egyptian maid servant to Sarai? Until recently, I had not. But in recently reading over Genesis Chapter 16, it caught my eye that Hagar was Egyptian. I mean, I knew it before, so why was it such a curiosity to me this time? At what time did the Egyptian maid servant come to be in the household of Abraham? Why was she a servant to his household? And furthermore, and most importantly, why was she so important? So, I went back in Genesis to find the answer.
So here is this young, beautiful Egyptian lady, sent away from her homeland, and her family, into a strange culture. Sent away with a strange group of people who worshiped only one God and not the many God’s of the Egyptians. Sent to live with a family who did not love her, but wanted to use her to conceive a child for Sarai because Sarai was barren. This young Egyptian lady forced to marry and have sex with a man she knew not nor loved not. And after she is sent to do the bidding of Sarai, namely sleeping with Abram, she conceives a child, Abram’s child.
Back in Genesis Chapter 12 verse 10 we read that there was a famine in the land and so Abram (not yet changed to Abraham) went to Egypt to live there for a while. And as the story goes, he tried to pass off his wife, Sarai, as his sister, because he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him and take Sarai, because she was so beautiful. And so, because Pharaoh wanted her, he gave to Abram sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and then he took Sarai. God didn’t like that situation much, and so God inflicted illness on the Pharaoh to hasten the return of Sarai to Abram, and then Pharaoh kicked Abram and everyone in his household, along with all he had, out of Egypt – including Hagar the Egyptian.
And here is where the story takes an unusual turn regarding Hagar. The Bible tells us that when she realized she was pregnant, she began to despise Sarai. Have you ever thought about that? I really hadn’t until now. The very word despise means to detest, loathe, hate or abhor. Hagar didn’t just dislike Sarai, she hated her. She loathed her. She detested her. She abhorred her. I think there could be many reasons or motives for her to despise Sarai.
Start with the forced marriage. I wouldn’t want to be told I have to have marry and have sex with someone against my own will. What could that scene have been like? Was it a “you will go into his tent and become his wife and have sex with him” type of scenario or you will pay the penalty? What would have happened to Hagar had she disobeyed? Not only was she having relations with a Jewish man, a man with different beliefs and culture than her, but now she was going to have to bear a child, a child who would still be nothing more than a slave, just as she was. This child who was not going to be Egyptian, but half Egyptian and half Jewish, would be born and given to Sarai, just to please Sarai’s selfishness and stroke her ego because she wanted to be a mother. How would it make you feel to have to bear a child and give it to someone knowing the child will never really be more than a slave? I would have despised Sarah, too. I have heard preachers say that Hagar taunted Sarah. Kind of like a “Ha, ha I am pregnant and you are not”, but that is not what the Bible says. It says, Hagar despised or hated Sarah. It doesn’t say she teased her.
Hatred takes on many forms. The Bible does not give specifics as to how Sarai knew Hagar hated her. All it tells us is that Sarai blames Abram, and he could care less about Hagar, the woman he has had intimate relations with and who is now carrying his child. He says to Sarai do what you think is best. Really? Do what you think is best? Wow! And so what does Sarai think is best? Apparently, she thinks mistreatment of Hagar, a pregnant young woman, is best. It doesn’t say what this mistreatment was, but apparently it was so bad that Hagar ran away.
But God was not done with Hagar. He had allowed her to come into the household of Abram, and He had allowed her to become pregnant, and now He was going to show this woman, this idolatrous Egyptian woman, about His love and His mercy and His provision. So, He finds her in the desert and He encourages her. Basically, he says, “Go back, and I will bless your descendants. I have seen you and your suffering and I will take care of you.” It must have been very difficult for her to return, but she obeys and God blesses her – this non-Jewish Egyptian. I think she must have been a very strong woman to return to someone like Sarai and to return to the household of Abram, the man who said, in effect “I don’t care anything about you – Sarai do what you want with her. It was only about sex for me.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you are running away from something, stop at the spring in the desert. Pray to God and tell him why you are running away. Listen to his voice and then obey, even if that obedience is difficult for you. Sometimes obedience is the most difficult thing you will have to do. But remember that God always has a plan. He blessed Hagar’s obedience by making her descendants too numerous to count. He will bless your obedience also. Remember this, you are always exactly where God wants you to be. Just like Hagar the Egyptian. Her place in history was carved out from the beginning, even though she knew it not. Yours is too.