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The utility of Abraham and Sarah's maid, hagar, in Genesis.

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The utility of Abraham and Sarah's maid, hagar, in Genesis.

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  • December 6, 2005
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In the bible, Hagar seems to be present only when she is needed. Yes, she is the servant of both Abraham and Sarah, but they treat her very poorly nonetheless. Their behavior towards her shows another side to the characters of Abraham and Sarah and also the personality of Hagar.

When Hagar is first introduced in the bible, it is when Sarah decides to give her to Abraham. This is when they know Sarah cannot bear any children. Already, this shows how they mistreat Hagar. Let me explain. In genesis 17, it clearly says: "and Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid to the Egyptian [...] and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife." (Genesis 17, chapter 16, verse 3). This shows that Hagar was not asked if she wanted to bear children or not, nor if she really wanted to be Abraham's, for lack of a better word, mistress. She is indeed subordinate to Abraham and Sarah, but she is still a human being. Maybe in those days, the servants were treated extremely badly, but to be forced to bear children to please her masters is a tremendous sign of disrespect by them. She did not do it out of love, nor out of faith, not even to have an heir in the family. It was done by force and, probably, fear. Hagar probably did this because she was scared. To begin with, a woman scarcely had her say in a household. Not only was she a woman, but a servant also. If she had fought them off or tried to argue, she, in my opinion, would have probably been killed. Also, when both Abraham and Sarah cast her off with Ishamel, she does not even try to discuss the situation or try to find a compromise with the father of her child. She just leaves. This depicts a certain lack of courage and an inability to stand up for herself. It is, however, quite comprehensible to restrain from arguing if the consequence is being physically hurt. Also, the fact that she actually put up with the whole situation shows a great sign of patience of her part.

Initially, it was Sarah who decided to give her maid to...