The Story of Hagar in the Bible is one that is often overlooked
When you hear of the Egyptian girl named Hagar in the Bible, what images come to your mind? A desperate runaway slave girl? A frightened single mom? A slave woman used and betrayed? Or do you picture her in her hour of desperation when she meets the Angel of the Lord by a spring of water and calls Him El Roi, saying, “You are the God Who See me”?
What Is The Story Of Hagar In The Bible?
Perhaps you have read the story of Hagar in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, but wish you knew more. Although Hagar’s story is entangled within God’s promise to make Abraham the father of a great nation, we often relegate Sarai’s mistress to the backstage as a minor character in God’s redemptive story.
But was she?
Hagar’s life before she met Abraham, her background
The first time we read of Hagar is in Genesis chapter 16 when Abraham’s wife Sarai decides to use her young Egyptian slave girl to conceive Abraham’s son in his old age because Sarai (Sarah) was barren. All of a sudden, Hagar appears on the scene. Where did she come from? Why Did God Send Hagar Away? Genesis chapter 12 gives us some insights. After God sends Abraham and Sarah on a detour into Egypt, they return to the same place from where they started, only with more slaves and flocks of herds than before.
Could it be that God was watching over Hagar and that He decided to remove her from Egypt and its pagan gods? Might He have orchestrated Abraham’s side trip into Egypt, not because God needed to send Abraham and Sarah in, but because God desired to bring Hagar out?
This, my friend, is the wonderful sovereignty of God’s plan at work.
Hagar’s life with Abraham and Ishmael
Although God’s grace brought Hagar out of Egypt, it was Abraham and his wife Sarah who decided to use Hagar to produce a child for Sarah (in my Bible study HAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me, we examine whether Hagar became a second wife or Abraham’s concubine). One thing is certain: Hagar’s life would soon be filled with hard times. Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, the conflict between the two women became a constant struggle. One day it finally reaches the point where Hagar runs away. Hagar’s Rescued by an Angel: An angel found Hagar and told her to return to Abraham and Ishmael
History Of Hagar In The Bible
According to the biblical story, Hagar ran into the wilderness where she meets the angel of the Lord by a spring of water on a desert road toward Shur, a wilderness spanning hundreds of miles in the Sinai Peninsula. This road is believed to be a common caravan route of that day between Palestine (the land of Canaan) and Egypt. Maybe she thought she could run all the way back to Egypt. Not a good plan as a single mom alone without even a bottle of water.
Although the angel of the Lord reaffirms that Hagar remains a servant of Sarai, he speaks a prophecy concerning the birth of Ishmael. In fact, he begins by naming Hagar’s son, Ishmael, which means “God hears.” What a tender and good reminder of how much God cares for Hagar. The meaning of Ishmael being a wild donkey of a man (or wild ass of a man) is debated among scholars. In my HAGAR Bible study video series, I share some fascinating insights on this prophecy concerning the son of Hagar based on the Hebrew Bible. I assure you: the words spoken by this divine messenger were not a curse. In fact, Hagar’s family is blessed and the life of Hagar would never be the same! The son of Abraham by Hagar is the first person named by God before he is born.
But the best part is what happens next.
This brave Egyptian girl is the first person in the Bible to give God a new name, El Roi, the “God Who Sees Me.” Don’t you just love Hagar’s courage? Her encounter with the Angel of the Lord is so remarkable that later a well of water is built there and named, beer lahai roi, which means “the well of the Living One who sees me.” The location is forever memorialized as the place where Hagar spoke this new name of the Lord. (Genesis 16:14). Truly, it was God’s kindness that pursued Hagar into the desert. It was His great love for her and her unborn son that compelled Him to send Hagar back to continue in her role as servant of Sarah. If He had not, she and Ishmael would have missed being included in God’s holy covenant! (It’s important to remember that although Ishmael is not the child of promise nor would he become the future heir of Abraham through whom the Messiah would come, when God later institutes the old covenant sign of circumcision, Ishmael is included, reminding us that everyone is invited to embrace the faith of Abraham.)
What Is The Story Of Hagar And Ishmael In The Bible?
After Hagar returns to camp Abraham gives his own son, bore by Sarah’s Egyptian slave-girl the name Ishmael (Genesis 16:15), believing that he would be the child of promise. In fact, thirteen years go by as the boy Ishmael grows up. But the wife of Abraham is anything but happy. Her heart still longs to have her own son. According to the biblical account, the Lord visited Sarah’s husband Abraham and promised that Sarah would also give birth to a son of Abraham – even in her old age – who would be given the name Isaac. And God kept His promise. One year later, it came time for the birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
When it was time for Sarah’s son Isaac to be weaned, Abraham held a great feast. But on that day Sarah, Abram’s wife, saw the son of her slave Hagar laughing. In response, she demanded that Abraham cast out Hagar and her son, declaring that only her son Isaac would be Abraham’s rightful heir. Although the thought of losing his son Ishmael caused Abraham great pain, it was God’s plan to set Hagar free from her mistress so that she would no longer be a slave of Sarai. After the word of the Lord came to Abraham promising that Ishmael also had a great future, the very next morning, Abraham sent Hagar and his son Ishmael away with nothing but some bread and a skin of water, trusting that God would take good care of them. This is where the story of Abraham is put on hold while we read the biblical account of the Angel of God meeting Hagar a second time.
Hagar’s life after Abraham (after she and Ishmael are sent away)
After being sent away from her home and community, Hagar wandered in despair in the wilderness of Beersheba until the skin of water was empty and her son Ishmael lay dying a small distance away. Lost. Broken. Her son is dying. She has run out of water and run out of hope. Is it any wonder Hagar is weeping? Yet it is right there, in the wilderness of heartbreak and despair, where Hagar “lifted up her voice and wept” –and the angel of God speaks to her (earlier, Hagar was met by the Angel of the Lord, but when God meets her the second time, we read that the Angel of God speaks). He comforts her by saying that He heard the voice of the lad. What a tender moment! God does not see Ishmael as a wild man or unworthy of His attention. He cares for both of them (such a sweet reminder of God’s compassion for single mothers). The Angel of God opens Hagar’s eyes to see a well of water. In the spiritual sense, when God opens a person’s eyes or offers them life-giving water, these are a picture of God at work in salvation!
The legacy of Hagar: Why Is Hagar Important In The Bible?
Who could ever have imagined that this Egyptian woman would have such an important role in world history? In His grace, the Angel of God invites Hagar to join Him in raising up Ishmael as she trusts God’s plan for her son and God’s promise to make him into a great nation. I cannot think of any greater purpose in life than trusting God and being invited to join Him in His holy work, can you?
Significance Of Hagar In The Bible
The story of Hagar is one of hope and redemption. Each of us, with all of our triumphs and failures, joys and heartbreaks, scars and all, has been given an opportunity to make a difference in our world. Never underestimate what God can do with a life solely surrendered to Him. Just as God had His eye on Hagar, He has His eye on you. Give God your “wilderness years,” for who knows if they have been preparing you “for such a time as this.
God, do you see me?
Yes, dear one, He sees you!
For a deeper study on the Story of Hagar in the Bible, purchase your copy of HAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me.
Journey into the wilderness, and the story of Hagar. Through this 7-week Bible study, you will find that when you surrender your life into God’s hands, your trials and triumphs serve a magnificent purpose: to draw you into the arms of the faithful God Who Sees Me. Purchase yours today!
Shadia is a passionate Bible teacher, author, and speaker who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary and is the author of several books and Bible studies, including HAGAR, LEGION, and TAMAR.