HAGAR (hā'gar, Heb. hāghār, emigration, flight). An Egyptian handmaid to Sarai, wife of Abram. God had promised him a son and heir (15:4), but Sarai was barren. Following the marital customs of the times, she gave Hagar to her husband as her substitute (16:1-16). When Hagar saw that she had conceived, she despised her mistress, causing trouble in the household. Hagar was driven out, but the angel of the Lord appeared and sent her back to her mistress (16:7-14). When her son Ishmael was fourteen years old, his father one hundred, and Sarah ninety, Isaac was born. At a great feast held in connection with Isaac’s weaning, Ishmael scoffed at the proceedings (21:9), so Sarah insisted that Hagar and her son be cast out, and Abraham unwillingly complied. God told Abraham that Ishmael’s descendants would become a nation. Hagar is last seen taking a wife for her son out of the land of Egypt, her own land (21:1-21). Paul made Hagar’s experience an allegory of the difference between law and grace (
HAGAR hā’ gär (הָגָֽר, flight). The concubine of Abraham and the mother of Ishmael. To understand the story of Hagar, it is necessary to begin ten years before she appears upon the scene, to the time when God called Abraham to leave his own country for a new land that He would show him. God then promised that even though Abraham was old (seventy-five years) and childless, He would make of him a great nation (
Abraham followed Sarah’s suggestion. Hagar conceived and then began to show contempt and disdain for her mistress in various ways, causing distress to Sarah. Bitter feelings and wounded pride caused Sarah to blame Abraham for doing what she herself had suggested (
It may be that Hagar decided to go back to her own country, Egypt, for the angel of the Lord appeared to her not far from its border and told her to return to her mistress and submit to her. He also comforted her by adding that she would bear a son, whom she was to call Ishmael (meaning “God hears”); and he told her what kind of man he would be—a wild and lawless one, quarrelsome even with his own kindred, and that she would have innumerable descendants. Hagar’s son was born when Abraham was eighty-six years old.
Fourteen years later, when Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, God gave them a son whom they named Isaac. The day the child was weaned (among the Jews this was about three years after it was born), at a great feast made to celebrate the occasion, Sarah became incensed when she saw Ishmael, now a lad about seventeen years old, mocking Isaac. (The RSV has “playing with,” but the KJV and ASV, more correctly, have “mocking,” which the context and
Hagar and Ishmael left the home of Abraham and went into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water they had with them gave out, Hagar placed her exhausted son in the shade of some bushes and waited for him to die. The angel of the Lord spoke to her that God had heard his cry and showed her where there was a spring of water. He also assured her that God would make of him a great nation. Ishmael lived in the wilderness of Paran and became an expert hunter, and his mother got for him a wife from the land of Egypt.
H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (1942), 493-510, 594-609; G. Von Rad, Genesis. A Commentary (1956), 185-230; J. A. Thompson, Archaeology and the OT (1959), 24-31; D. W. Thomas (ed.), Documents from OT Times (1962), 27-37.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
An Egyptian woman, the handmaid or slave of Sarai; a present, perhaps, from Pharaoh when Abram dissembled to him in Egypt (
1. The Scornful Handmaid and Her Flight:
In the first narrative (
2. Her Vision and Return:
But the angel of Yahweh (who is here introduced for the first time as the medium of theophany) appeared to her as she was resting by a spring and commanded her to return and submit herself to her mistress, promising her an innumerable seed through her unborn son, concerning whom he uttered a striking prediction (see Ishmael). To the angel (who is now said to be Yahweh Himself) Hagar gave the name "Thou art a God of seeing" (the (British and American) "that seeth"), for she said, "Have I even here (in the desert where God, whose manifestations were supposed to be confined to particular places, might not be expected to reveal Himself) looked after him that seeth me?"--the meaning being that while God saw her, it was only while the all-seeing God in the person of His angel was departing that she became conscious of His presence. The spring where the angel met with her was called in Hebrew tradition Be’er-lachay-ro’i, "the well of the living one who seeth me" (Revised Version, margin).
Obedient to the heavenly vision Hagar returned, as the narrative implies, to her mistress and gave birth to Ishmael, Abram being then eighty-six years old.
The idea in 30:13 is not very clearly expressed. The word translated "here" generally means "hither," and there is no explanation of the "living one" in the name of the well. It has therefore been proposed to emend the Hebrew text and read "Have I even seen God, and lived after my seeing?"--an allusion to the belief that no one could "see God and live" (compare
3. Her Harsh Expulsion and Divine Help:
The other narrative (
4. Practical Lessons from the History:
The life and experience of Hagar teach, among other truths, the temptations incident to a new position; the foolishness of hasty action in times of trial and difficulty; the care exercised over the lonely by the all-seeing God; the Divine purpose in the life of everyone, however obscure and friendless; how God works out His gracious purposes by seemingly harsh methods; and the strength, comfort and encouragement that ever accompany the hardest experiences of His children.
5. Critical Points in the Documents:
Genesis 16 belongs to the Jahwist, J, (except 16:1a,3,15 f which are from P), and 21:8-21 to East. From the nature of the variations in the narratives many critics hold that we have here two different accounts of the same incident. But the narratives as they stand seem to be quite distinct, the one referring to Hagar’s flight before the birth of Ishmael, and the other to her expulsion at the weaning of Isaac. It is said, however, that Elohist (E) represents Ishmael as a child "playing" (The Revised Veersion, margin, Septuagint paizonta) with Isaac at the weaning festival, and young enough to be carried by his mother and "cast" under a shrub; while according to the Priestly Code, the Priestly Code (P), (
6. Allegorical Use of the Story by Paul:
To us Paul’s reference does not appeal with the same force as it would do to those to whom he was writing. The incident taken by itself, indeed, does not contain any suggestion of such a hidden meaning. Yet the history of the Hebrew nation is but typical of the history of the church in all ages, and the apostle’s familiarity with rabbinical modes of interpretation may have led him to adopt this method of confirming the truth which he had already proved from the law itself.
For a discussion of the text and interpretation of