Genesis: Hagar and Ishmael

Genesis 16:1-16

In the last story of the Bible, Abram is promised a child by God. Sarai, however, is unable to conceive a child. Sarai then tells Abram that he should sleep with her maidservant Hagar, whom she acquired in Egypt ten years ago. Abram agrees to sleep with Hagar and take her as his second wife, another example of polygamy in the Bible. When Hagar knows she is pregnant, she begins to despise her mistress, Sarai.  Sarai then goes to her husband, Abram, and says this is all his fault. Abram tells his first wife that Hagar is her maidservant and it is her place to “[d]o with her whatever [she] thinks best”. Sarai mistreated Hagar, abuses her in some way, and Hagar flees. Hagar flees to a spring in the desert where an angel comes to her. The angel ask why she is fleeing. Hagar responds to the angel saying that it is because her mistress is mistreating her. The angel tells her to go back to her mistress and submit to her. The reward for her submission will be more descendants, which doesn’t seem like much of a reward to me. No person should be forced to live in an abusive situation; that is immoral. Tyranny of any kind should never be tolerated, but in the Bible it often is. The angel tells her that she will give birth to a son, and she will name him Ishmael. Ishmael “will be a wild donkey of a man”, a jackass perhaps? He will be aggressive towards everyone and everyone will be aggressive towards him. Ishmael doesn’t sound like he will be one of the most savory of characters, rather quite a brute. Hagar returns to Abram and Sarai, and she bears Abram a son, whom he names Ishmael.

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2 thoughts on “Genesis: Hagar and Ishmael

  1. This is a one-dimension take on an ancient biblical story. It is evident that you haven’t done much research on the passage and that you have a very limited understanding of biblical/cultural history. Consider these aspects:
    “another example of polygamy in the bible”– this is never encouraged in the Bible. There is no instruction from god that encourages this practice. Abrahams family was also not the only culture to practice polygamy. In this particular case, god promised Abraham that a son would be born to him through his and Sarah’s body (his first wife). Man’s timing however is not Gods timing, and instead of waiting patiently for gods promise, Sarah encouraged Abraham to start a family line with Hagar. This was wrong; abraham should have not taken another wife, but should have trusted god. We shouldn’t judge Abraham too harshly–in theory, he did the “logical” thing… He thought if he waited any longer, he and Sarah would not be able to have anymore children. Even through this act of disobedience and sin, god still kept his promise to abraham (genesis 21).
    “abusive situation”–this is an uncomfortable situation but it is a direct result if man taking matters into his own hands. Sarah was jealous of Hagar, perhaps even intimidated by her since Abraham was going to have his family through Hagar and not Sarah. Sarah mistreats her, and this is wrong. However, god tells Hagar to go back. Hagar obeys god without questioning Him and is greatly rewarded. Remember that Hagar is a slave woman, and to have her name remembered throughout the line of her son, Ishmael, is incredible for someone of her position. Chances are that Sarah realized that Hagar was doing the honorable thing and backed off (especially after she had her own son).
    “Ishmael” is a product of his Abrahams wrong choice, but he doesnt pay the price for it. In hebrew his name means “god hears”. Hagar was trying to hide from her mistress and from god, but god heard her in her distress, and comforted her by blessing her son. This section of the bible is a prophecy. Ishmael himself will not be hostile, but his descendants will be. This doesn’t mean that they all will be–after all they’re people like you and me–but they will present conflicts. This prophecy is still true today. Ishmaels line became the ishmaelites, who today are the Arabs. Issacs line, the Israelites, have been at war against Palestine since the age of time. Although this would be ishmaels line, god promised Abraham that “I will surely bless him…he will be the father of twelve rulers and I will make him into a great nation.” genesis 17:19-20.
    Your short analysis of this account doesn’t do the morals of this story justice. God keeps his promises even if we sin; god sees us in our distress; god blesses us when we obey him. Even though you have clearly indicated that you believe that there is no god, the god that I believe in says this: “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. God has wonderful things in store for us, spiritual things, not just mans idea of wonderful things. Mans pride gets in the way; we often don’t depend on anyone but ourselves. That’s when gods plans, what could’ve been, dont work out. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that it’s not our job to judge whether god is doing the right thing at the right time; our job is to trust him.

    1. Well, madam, thank you for your comment. I never claimed this to be anything but a one-dimensional take of the Bible. I thought I had made that clear, not only in the title of this blog, but also in the about page. It appears I failed to make that transparent, since people continue to bring that up. This is sort of my diary, or my initial take on biblical stories, as I read them. I do not claim to be a biblical scholar—that’s not what this blog is really about. Yes, this post is short. That is the nature of blogs. I tried to make my posts short, so they would be easy and quick to read.

      Do not insult me by pointing out such obvious information. Of course other cultures in the region and around the world practiced polygamy, that’s not the point. Abram (Abraham) is considered the central, and founding figure, of the Judaeo-Christrian and Islamic faiths. My focus here is particularly on the Judaeo-christian faith. He is seen as Yahweh’s chosen man, and family. (Though it is unlikely he was ever a real person. He could just have been a fabrication by the priestly class who were one of the key authors of the Pentateuch—Moses wrote very little, if any, of the Pentateuch.) The point is, if Abraham was the chosen person by Yahweh, then why was he such a terrible, immoral person—particularly by today’s standards of morality? Why would Yahweh choose an incestuous polygamist, liar, and a cheat as his spokesperson to the world. Was there really no other person on earth of greater morality at the time? I find it difficult to believe there wasn’t.

      As for Hagar, I find no morality in this story. There is nothing moral about asking someone to return to an abusive situation, even if in the long term there is a greater reward. Ishmael stands for “God hears,” yes, I can read footnotes too. Let’s not point out the obvious. Though, God does not literally hear. If he did he would be material, and if he were material he would be finite. If he is finite, he can not be all powerful, etc. I will not insult you by continuing, because I’m going to assume you come to this argument with a basic understanding of religious philosophy.

      You address “God’s plan.” The problem with your argument here is that if God has a plan for us, then everything is determined. This is of course assuming he really is all powerful and so on. If everything is determined, then we can not change things. If we can not change things, then we do not have free will. You address the issue of free will in one of your other comments. Here you try to imply both exists. It is not logical for both to exist. It could be if you framed it the right way, but you don’t here.

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