From "Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness" by Luigi Alois Gillarduzzi. (Wikimedia)

Hagar in the Bible

Though she gave Abraham a son, she was banished.

Hagar, an Egyptian girl, was the servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. The childless Sarah gave Hagar to the 85-year-old Abraham as a concubine, so that she could have her husband’s child through her maid. Hagar treated Sarah with insolence when she became pregnant. Sarah complained to Abraham, who told her that Hagar was her slave; therefore, she could do with her whatever she wanted. Sarah treated Hagar so harshly that the maid ran away to the desert.

An angel met Hagar at a spring and told her to return to Sarah, prophesying that Hagar would have a son whom she would name Ishmael and that her descendants would be without number. Hagar returned and, in due course, gave birth to Ishmael. Fourteen years later, when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah gave birth to a son, who was named Isaac.

One day, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac and demanded that Abraham send the slave girl and her son away and then declare Isaac as his sole heir. Abraham loved Ishmael and did not want to yield to Sarah’s demand, but God told him to do what she said and reassured him that his descendants through Ishmael would also become a great nation. Abraham rose early in the morning, gave Hagar some bread and water, and sent her away with the boy.

Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. After they had finished drinking all the water in the bottle, Hagar, not wanting to see her son die of thirst, placed him under a shrub. Then she moved some distance away, crying and lamenting.

God heard her cries and sent an angel who told her not to fear and added that her son would grow up to be the ancestor of a great nation. God opened her eyes, and she saw a well nearby. She filled her water bottle and gave the boy a drink.

Ishmael grew up in the wilderness, became a skilled archer, and married an Egyptian girl whom Hagar chose for him. Some scholars identify Hagar with Keturah, the woman whom Abraham married after the death of Sarah and with whom he had six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

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