Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hagar - I'm not invisible

Last time we mentioned that Hagar was probably at the bottom of the tribal "pecking order," and that Abraham and Sarah never seemed to use her name; instead they referred to her as "that slave girl."
Pretty harsh, no?
Why was Hagar almost invisible?
Let's back up a bit . . .

Recently, Abraham and Sarah had sojourned in Egypt, and when their visit drew to a close, the Pharaoh had given them some parting gifts. He would have given sheep, oxen, camels, . . . and servants. Hagar was probably one of those servants. She was counted as property, just like the livestock that was changing hands. Even her name was appropriate to this situation: Hagar means "fugitive" or "immigrant." As far as being a human being, Hagar didn't count. She was invisible.

Her value to Abraham and Sarah was that of a slave. Following orders of her mistress, anticipating needs where she could, apparently she was very good at doing her job, because she became Sarah's maid servant. She would have been very close to Sarah at all times; she would take care of her clothing and her food, attend her during bathing, and basically be there when she was needed. A foot step away at all times.

Then her value changes. Her attitude does, too, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Sarah gets impatient with God and doesn't want to wait any longer for the child that God promised to her and to Abraham. So, since there was some fine print in the contract, she tells Hagar that she is going to bear a child for her. All kidding aside, this may seem extreme to us nowadays, but if you studied Sarah with us, you know that this was common practice in that era. So Hagar was still invisible to Sarah; she was just a means to achieve an end. Not a person.

So, Hagar becomes pregnant with Abraham's child. The Bible says she unwisely looked with contempt on her mistress. Might have been the way she looked at her, could have been a snippy word said. Maybe when she began to experience morning sickness, she rubbed it in when Sarah asked how she was feeling. We don't know for sure. We only know that it really irked Sarah.

She went to Abraham and wanted him to do something about it. She even blamed it on him! Abraham pretty much shrugs his shoulders and tells her it's her problem. Oh boy. Hagar is still invisible.
Sarah begins to treat Hagar harshly. The Bible doesn't tell us much about this, either -- maybe she talked harshly to her, or gave her more (or more menial) chores. Maybe she struck her. In any event, Hagar believed that her only choice was to run away.

With Hagar the Invisible out of the way, maybe the next step is for Sarah to choose another maid servant for Abraham? One who won't be so uppity? No one will miss "that slave girl," right? But that isn't what happens. Our passage says that she heads out into the wilderness. And how's this for a twist in the plot: an angel of the Lord appears to her out there.

She's not one of Abraham's family, with blessings and promises.
She is an Egyptian slave girl.
At the time, she would have been considered by most people to be a "nobody." Why? Well, she was young, single, and worse, female. Remember how we've talked about the place of females in the ancient societies . . . everyone around would have said, "Ahhh, got no use for her."

Does this remind you of a young, single female in the New Testament? Yep, I mean Mary.  Both of these women are visited by an angel of the Lord, and they are given amazing news. Mary is told she is going to have a baby, and His name will be Jesus. Hagar is told that she will have a son, and that his name will be Ishmael (it means "God hears"), and that God would make it so that her offspring were so numerous that they couldn't be counted!

So, Hagar is the first woman in the Bible to be visited by a divine messenger, and she is also the first woman to see and have a conversation with God. Scholars who study the wording of the scriptures say that the "angel of the Lord" is probably a manifestation of God -- in this and other passages, He identifies with God, He speaks as God, and possesses the authority to say "I will multiply your offspring," etc.  Pretty important stuff . . . we can see that God doesn't think Hagar is a "nobody." She's not invisible where He is concerned.

And here is another important thing about Hagar: she is the only person in all of scripture who gave God a name -- she calls Him "El Roi," or "the God who sees me." Hagar, the slave girl who was invisible to many, has been seen. She's been called by name by the angel of God.

We'll continue this tomorrow....


Cathy said...

While we were on vacation this year, we took a trip to Ottawa, our country's capital city. Near the parliament building are all kinds of commemorative statues. One of them was a group of five women who lived in the early part of the 1900's. They are remembered for fighting the battle in the courts to have women be declared "persons" legally, under the law. This didn't happen until around the year 1925. Unlike our various countries and cultures, women have always been "persons"to God. I didn't know about the first that applied to Hagar, with God's name...... it's fascinating! And there are so many other "firsts" that came to women in the scriptures, showing the God has always seen us.

Austin Towers said...

That was illuminating, Jacque! I hadn't really studied Hagar before in such depth. Even though she was a "nobody" she was known to God! Very encouraging for us all! Caro xx