Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. – Genesis 15:1
After Lot was rescued by Abram, the Lord re-affirmed His promise to make a great nation of Abram. Abram reminded the Lord that he was childless so his heir would not be of his own household. He was corrected by God, who said that Abram’s heir would be of his own body. Abram believed what he heard, but questioned how he might gain possession of it.
After being commanded to bring God several animals, which Abram did, he fell into a deep sleep. During this sleep, he was told by God that his descendents would live in a country not their own as slaves. They would be mistreated for 400 years, at which point God would punish the nation holding them. They would emerge from enslavement with great possessions. Abram was also told that he would die at an old age and be buried with his fathers.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar, so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” – Genesis 16:1-2
Sarai, who was barren, was desperate to have a child. She decided to use her maidservant as a surrogate, and asked Abram to impregnate her. Abram agreed to the request. After he made Hagar his wife, he slept with her. She conceived.
Be careful what you ask for, …
Hagar began to despise Sarai after finding out she was pregnant. Sarai blamed Abram for turning Hagar against her. Abram told Sarai to handle Hagar as she saw fit. Sarai saw fit to mistreat her, which caused Hagar to run away. An angel found Hagar and asked where she was going. She informed the angel that she was running from her mistress. She was told to return and submit to Sarai. She is also promised descendents too numerous to count.
Of this child, the angel of the Lord told her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery. He will be a donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Hagar returned and bore Abram’s son, Ishmael.
More questions than answers.
Why did Abram have to fall into a deep sleep to continue a conversation he was having with God? We are told that four generations will suffer under slavery, but not why. We know that, in those times, children suffered due to sins of the father. However, Abram had not done anything to be punished for. In fact, it appears quite the opposite. He was so favored that he would be the father of generations of God’s people.
But first, …he had to have an heir.
It is not hard to see why Abram might give in to his wife’s demands. He had been promised a son of his own body. This would be his heir, right? Perhaps, he saw this as the fulfillment of God’s promise. He ended up with an angry Sarai, a bitter Hagar, and a doomed son. All because Sarai got what she asked for.
Sarai couldn’t see anything beyond her own yearning for a child. And once her request was granted, she blamed everyone else for her unhappiness. She lit into Abram and mistreated Hagar. She was hated. She was miserable. All because she got what she asked for.
Poor Hagar. I completely empathize with this poor woman. She does what is asked of her and is mistreated for it. To top it all off, she is commanded by God to just put up with it. Her child is doomed to a harsh and miserable existence. All because Sarai got what she asked for.
The plot is sometimes…missing.
As I stated before, I have more questions than answers. We don’t know why Hagar grew to despise her mistress. This is an important detail, don’t you think? Was there jealousy at being second choice? Was Hagar forced or intimidated into doing Sarai’s bidding, making her resentful?
The various authors of the Bible are notorious for leaving out pertinent information. Their narrative abilities were sorely lacking. The information they saw fit to share doesn’t always tell us what we would like to know. In fact, I am fairly confident that the author didn’t intend to make me feel what I felt. What I learned of Abram confused me. Sarai angered me. And, my heart went out to Hagar. There was definitely nothing, in this sad threesome’s story, to make me proud.
I know many Abrams. These people are so concerned with the future that they don’t consider the ramifications their actions have on the present. I know plenty of Sarais. These people are so obsessed with getting what they desire that they don’t consider how anyone else may feel. And, unfortunately, I know far too many Hagars. These people are simply tools used for someone else to get what they want.
The Bible may be confusing and lacking in detail, but there is always a moral.
The moral of this one: Be careful what you ask for, because you just may get it!