Sarai and Hagar

*The previous posting* told of God’s telling Abraham that he would have countless numbers of descendants, even though Abraham, after decades if trying, had never succeeded in enabling his wife, Sarai, to be with child.

Sarai, no longer being a spring chicken so to speak, decided that another way must be found to enable Abraham to become a father. She went to Abraham and said, “It’s obvious  that God hasn’t allowed me to bear a child. It wrenches my heart that I can’t give you a child, it really does. So I’m giving you permission to lie with my Egyptian slave-girl, Hagar. Perhaps she will give you the child that I cannot.”

“I……I don’t know what to say”, said Abraham. “It’s so good of you to do this for me, Sarai. You are so……so special. How many wives would offer their husband what you are offering me? Hardly any, I should think. Are you sure you want me to lie with Hagar? That’s like me wanting you to lie with my slave, Eliezar of Damascus. If you ever did, I would die with jealousy. You haven’t lain with him, have you? Well, have you?”

“Of course not” said Sarai. “This doesn’t mean, though, that I haven’t had, like, thoughts about it. Eliezar’s a handsome fellow, after all, and still quite young, much younger than you or I. I just can’t help thinking what it must be like to lie with a much younger man.”

“I’m shocked that you would say this, or even think it.” said Abraham. “It doesn’t become you as a woman”.

“Come now”, said Sarai, “I’ve seen you looking at Hagar in that way. When you lie with me, I’ll bet you’re imagining it’s Hagar you’re lying with. Listen, I’m not blaming you. She’s young and she’s beautiful, and you’re a man, right?”

“Well, if you put it that way” said Abraham.

It came to pass that Abraham lay with Hagar, and she conceived. When Hagar knew she was with child, she began to despise Sarai. This made things difficult for Sarai because Hagar, as a slave, lived in Sarai’s and Abraham’s home, and Sarai could palpably feel Hagar’s contempt whenever she bumped into her.

So Sarai said to Abraham, “I have been wronged and you must answer for it. It was I who gave Hagar for you to lie with. But ever since she has known she is with child, she has despised me. May God judge between you and me.”

Abraham, not wanting responsibility for all the attendant problems from having a pregnant woman on his hands, and looking for a way out, said to Sarai, “Hagar is yours. Do with her as you wish”.

Sarai began ill-treating Hagar, and Hagar ran away.

Word of this got to God, who dispatched an angel to find Hagar. The angel tracked her down by a fountain of water on the road to Shur.

“Where are you going, Hagar?” asked the angel.

“None of your business” said Hagar. “I’m running away from Sarai who was making my life hell. That’s all you need to know.”

“You are to return to Sarai and submit to her will” said the angel.

Seeing the look on Hagar’s face which said she wasn’t about to do this, the angel said, “God has told me to tell you that your descendants will be too many to be numbered. I’m also authorised to tell you that the child now in your belly will be a son who you shall call Ishmael. And, because God knows of your ill-treatment, Ishmael will be a wild man, his hand against every man, whose hands will be against him. So Ishmael will necessarily always live at odds with his fellow men.”

Hearing this, Hagar knew it was futile to continue her flight. She did as God ordered, and returned to Sarai. When the boy was born she named him Ishmael, as God had ordered. Abraham was by this time, eighty-six, quite old to be a first-time dad.

Source: Genesis 16

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