The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar reveals the faithlessness and impatience of humanity that leads to disobedience against God while waiting [in obedience] for God’s promise to be brought into fruition. When we consider God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 and the events that follow, prayerfully, we will gain a new perspective of the love of God for His creation fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.
The popular film “The God Who Sees” by Nicole Mullins and Kathie Lee Gifford is biblically inaccurate and misleads many individuals to view God as harsh and punitive. Because of our perspective of God, our spiritual eyes are often blinded to His never-ending supply of grace and mercy. Hagar was not abandoned, nor was she a victim. This situation was caused by Sarai’s and Abram’s disobedience to God, and Hagar’s pride and arrogance. Sadly, humanity’s saga continues into the 21st century, where we continually rebel against God. Yet, He lovingly forgives us and rescues us in our self-inflicted distress.
The story of Hagar is one of God’s mercy and rescue plans to provide deliverance to people just like you and me who create messy situations, which require divine intervention for resolution.
The characters of our story: Abram, Sarai, and Hagar.
Historical overview: God’s Covenant with Abram
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15:1-5 NKJV
God’s promise included an heir that would come from Abram. Verse 6 in Genesis 15 tells us, “And Abram believed in the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Abram fully believed that God would do exactly what He promised. Certainly, we can expect that Abram shared this joyful news with Sarai, they would have a male child–because males were the rightful heirs according to Jewish law.
“You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7.
Doubting God’s Covenant Promise: How did Sarai convince her faithful husband to agree to have children through Hagar, her Egyptian servant? The last part of Genesis 16:3 gives us the answer for Sarai’s rebellious scheme (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.) Ten years had passed since God made the covenant with Abram to give him a male heir. The 10-year wait for God to fulfill His promise was too much for the older couple who were feeling desperate. Indeed, God had forgotten His promise, forcing them to think, “God requires our help.” Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Question: Did God condone the polygamous marriage between Abram and Hagar?
In Genesis 2:24 when Moses writes of a man leaving his mother and father and clinging to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, that is God’s original standard, he said. Much of the Old Testament, however, is the documented history of God’s covenantal relationship with his people. “A covenant is like a marriage, where two parties make a commitment to be devoted to each other, to be loyal, to be faithful,” he said, noting the Old Testament contains a series of these covenants. An example of this is how Abraham did not trust God or wait for His promise of a son, and then has a relationship with Hagar, yielding Ishmael. https://www.christianpost.com/news/does-god-condone-polygamy-bible-scholar-says-no-old-testament-shows-it-only-creates-turmoil.html
Question: Besides her advanced age, what prompted Sarai to create the plot and why did Abram agree to marry Hagar? Polygamy was against God’s law of marriage between two individuals–husband and wife. Genesis 2:24
So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River— 19 the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” Genesis 15: 18-21
Canaan was inhabited by unbelievers with pagan practices and polygamy was one of those practices. All of us live in glass houses, so we cannot throw stones. We are influenced by worldly customs, often using our desires to manipulate the meaning and intent of God’s Holy Word. Many Christian marriages do not reflect God’s original law for a holy, loving, joined as one flesh, and confusion-free marriage based on a thriving spiritual relationship between God, Husband and Wife. The result is unhappiness along with a high divorce rate among married believers as opposed to working together in harmony to prepare for the reward of eternal life living in the New Heaven and New Earth.
The Disobedient Plan is Fulfilled: Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. Genesis 16:3.
I will deviate from the biblical story for a moment. In the 1990s, I lived in New Jersey in a community whose majority culture included the practice of polygamy. Often we have misconceptions of the actual design and structure of polygamy. Much to my surprise, my friends suggested an individual that was interested in dating me. But when we met, He indicated that the relationship involved an offer to become a first wife with the agreement that a second wife would be brought in at a later time to bear children. Not only would I select the second wife, but she had to be one that would be subservient in nature and respect the position of the first wife along with our husband. I am a servant of the Most-High God. Therefore, I respectfully declined the relationship along with the marriage offer.
The Aftermath of a Broken Covenant
The Internal Chaos Begins: Hagar, the Egyptian servant became Abram’s second wife. When Abram and Sarai agreed to help God produce an heir, Abram broke his covenant vow with God. The conditions of the vow was that God would give them [Abram and Sarai] a male heir. God specifically said in Genesis 2:24 that marriage was between two people.
But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Genesis 16:4. Definition of contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn; the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful.
Becoming Abram’s second wife did not change Hagar’s status as a servant to Sarai. Now the situation begins to escalate: Hagar feels that she is above her mistress because she is Abram’s wife, and pregnant with his child, something that her aged mistress was unable to do.
Abram assumes no responsibility:
Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. Genesis 16:5-6.
The grievous act of two becoming three reaped chaos and confusion. The miserable consequences of sin–disobedience to God always produces negative consequences. And for those who could identify with Hagar, how many Christian, modern-day infertile wives would bring another woman into their home to live as a surrogate mother throughout the pregnancy? Artificial insemination would not alleviate the situation of two women–one legally married and the other carrying her husband’s child living in the home together.
The husband who is the father of the surrogate’s child would have to divide his attention between two women. And yes, it would be natural for the surrogate to develop feelings for the father of the child. Pregnancy empowers the woman as intended by God. But a live-in surrogate would also result in a loss of self-esteem and worth in the wife. The disrespect of woman to woman is certain to develop when we attempt to change God’s original plan for the family by violating His commandments.
Additional consequences: There are no rational thought processes in a situation like this. Sarai taking matters into her own hands resulted in an emotionally charged fiasco. Blaming Abram and retaliation against Hagar were Sarai’s only possible responses. After Hagar running away, the marriage between Abram and Sarai had to suffer. After all, Hagar was pregnant with Abram’s only child. Yes, he would have great concern for her. But God, who is Omniscient–already knew of the pending disobedience. God expected for this situation to become volatile. He was prepared to intervene in a situation above and beyond the disobedient couple’s ability to resolve.
God’s Divine Intervention of Rescue:
The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.”
God’s mercy includes obedience, structure, and discipline. The angel instructed Hagar to submit to Sarai’s authority, which clarifies her position according to God’s hierarchy. In addition, there was a grave consequence for Abram, Sarai, and Hagar’s sins:
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Genesis 16:11-12
There are always consequences when we sin against God. We may suffer the full impact, or we may be shielded entirely from residual damage. Still, we have made a covenant vow to serve and faithfully trust in God. Please know that every sinful act desensitizes us to the barrier that exists between truth and error and obedience and disobedience. Sin always changes our willingness to obey God.
God’s Love and Mercy: A new covenant between God and Abraham is established: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” Genesis 17:1
Prayer: God, it is your grace and mercies that you extend to forgive our disobedience every day. We ask forgiveness for the impatience to wait on your promises. Please give us the strength and the wisdom to trust in you and accept that your plans are perfect and you do not require our help. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in Jesus’ Worthy Name. Amen.
Evidence of a modern surrogacy plan gone wrong: I can recall a surrogacy case in the 1980’s, in New Jersey, where I lived that had a bitter outcome for the mother of the child. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/us/baby-m-and-the-question-of-surrogate-motherhood.html
© 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry