Hagar is perhaps more epithet than name, ha “the,” gar “resident alien.” She is an African (Egyptian) woman or girl of childbearing age held in slavery by Sarah (
Did you know…?
- Hagar is revered as a matriarch by many African American Christians, who find resonances between her enslavement, sexual abuse, and ultimate liberation (including her thwarted first attempt) and the experiences of enslaved African women in the Americas and Caribbean.
- Though not mentioned in the Qur’an, in Islam Hagar (Hajar) is the mother of Abraham’s (Ibrahim’s) promised heir. A portion of her wilderness flight is commemorated annually by pilgrims during the Hajj.
- Israelites practiced two-tiered marriage. The children of a pilegesh (often mistranslated as a “concubine”), a low-status or secondary wife, were not entitled to an inheritance (
- The “angel of the Lord” is often God in disguise. This divine messenger often speaks in the third person for God and the first person as God, sometimes switching back and forth (see
Exod 3:2-4, Judg 2:1, Judg 6:11-16).
How can Hagar be a slave and Abraham’s wife at the same time?
Slavery is part of the cultural fabric of the world that produced the Scriptures. Though some debate whether servitude or even debt-slavery should be used to describe the institution instead, the presumption of right to sexual access marks Hagar’s status as enslaved. And at the same time, at Sarah’s instigation, she becomes Abraham’s wife (ishah), the same status Sarah has (
The larger story is about God’s fidelity to Sarah and Abraham and their failure to wait for the fulfillment of the divine promise (see
Is the Israelite God Hagar’s God?
Hagar has two extraordinary encounters with God. When she runs away, a divine messenger (God in disguise) appears to her (
How does God see Hagar? In