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Hagar: A Biblical Heroine

November 10, 2008

In temple last week, we read the first half of the story of Abraham. In case you have forgotten how the story goes: Abraham’s wife, Sarah, can’t have a baby and so she gives him her handmaiden, Hagar, so that he can have an heir. Sarah gets jealous of Hagar and tells her husband to drive her away from their home. But there is no need to pity Hagar. Yes, Sarah is cruel to her, but she is cruel back and although Abraham does cast her out, this exile is what gives Hagar her freedom. She founds a tribe. God talks to her. And according to Islam she is a heroine and a leader, as she is the mother of Ishmael who is the forefather of Mohammed. To feel sorry for Hagar misses the point. She is a strong, resourceful woman. God has chosen her as one of God’s own. I found a great article on her legacy in Europe. Go here to read more about her freedom, rather than her suffering.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2009 2:35 pm

    I heard your interview on “the Current” [CBC] this AM. Good Show! Some Comments if you don’t mind…..

    A perspective on scripture which is often overlooked is the skill that is displayed in the composition of the text. That is, whether assembled by clever editors or inspired words or both – it shows authorship. You remind me of my University Literature Professors who make a great effort for their students to not just read the narrative, but the composition.

    While Hagar may(or may not) have been a literal person and a heroine at that, the metaphoric parallels with later narratives are uncanny.

    Abraham goes down to Egypt out of necessity. It may have been where he(they) found Hagar. He leaves after his G-d plagues the Egyptians. However when she is to provide Abraham with his first born, she experiences an exodus of her own and wanders in the desert to be rescued and introduced to her G-d by name long before Moses. Her son, Ishmael, has twelve sons (the number 12 symbolic of nationhood).

    The narrative is a literary parallel with the spousal and sibling rivalry of Jacob’s family, Joseph’s descent to Egypt, his marrying an Egyptian princess, Jacob giving the(a) birthright to the son of an Egyptian (Ephraim), Moses’ introduction to his G-d, the plaguing of Egypt, meeting (and testing) their (Israel’s) G-d in the desert over water(thirst) and finally their return to the “plains of Mamre”.

    My opinion is that far from the secular curiousity of many observers, these rival wives were far from mistrisses. Neither of Abraham’s wives were vain creatures nor their rivalry sensual. Rather they were intelligent observers of Abrahams potential, wealth and power. They knew the importance his descendants would play in the region. They were independant powers in their own right and saw the importance of not only having a son but teaching him to preserve their values.

    Heroes and heroines are know not only by the deed they do but the lives they live as well.

  2. January 2, 2009 3:05 pm

    Many good points. Thank you. I agree with all you say.

  3. Adym permalink
    September 14, 2009 10:41 pm

    In Islamic culture, Hagar (or Hajer) was an Egyptian princess whom was kidnapped by the Hyksos when they have occupied Egypt. Her ancestors believed in Invisible, Eternal and Unseen One God who have no equal and no partner which means that she was Monotheist as her ancestors. In Islam she is a symbol of Faith, strong trust in Allah and loyalty to Him. In Pilgrimage (Hajj) we remember her, we haste seven time between the Safa & Merwa hills as she hasted, we do as she did. She is the mother of Ismael (Ishmael) and the grandmother of prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) which he praised her. Her name (Hajer) is an ancient egyptian name “Ha: Lotus flower. Jr: Land (e. i. Egypt)” literally means “Lotus of the Land”. It would be a pleasure if you send me an e-mail and I would like to discuss these subject with you.

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