Now that it was done, instead of happy expectation, Sarai felt only sadness. Hagar would have their baby. She tried not to think about another woman in Abram’s arms. She scolded herself for being childish. It was the custom, and Abram had every right. Still, when Hagar became pregnant, Sarai was far more relieved than joyful. At least that part was over.
Was it her imagination, or was Hagar patronizing her? No doubt Hagar had moved up several notches in Abram’s eyes, now that she was carrying his child. But Sarai was sure she still held first place in Abram’s heart. Didn’t she?
Hagar had always considered herself fortunate. She was one of many servants acquired on the journey to Egypt, and the mistress had chosen her to be her personal maid. She never dreamed she would move into this place of honor, second wife to the master and mother of the sole heir. But it had happened just like that.
She had been alone with the mistress in her tent. “Hagar,” the mistress had said to her, “you will have a baby for me.” She had tried to make it sound like a command, a neutral transaction, as simple as telling her to draw water, but she had avoided Hagar’s eyes.
“Yes, Mistress,” Hagar said quickly, the way she would have answered any other directive, and although her hands had continued working, her mind had raced to consider all the implications.
Now Hagar cupped her hands around her belly full of new life, and she could not help feeling a little pride. She had done what the mistress could not. No denying it, the mistress was still beautiful, but old and washed up compared to her. Hagar could see the faint lines around her mouth and a dark sadness settling on her when she thought no one was watching. Hagar was the future; her old mistress was the past. Because of this, Hagar could not treat her with the same respect.
Sarai could no longer deny Hagar’s open disregard for her, and she complained to Abram. “I put my maid into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant, she despises me. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
Abram looked at his wife and decided it would be better not to point out that it had been her idea. Nothing he said now would be right. He spoke carefully, “She’s your maid, Sarai. You can do what you like.”
Sarai seemed satisfied, and Abram breathed a sigh of relief. He hoped this was the end of it. He did not want to be in the middle of a war. He had simply wanted an heir.
After that, Sarai did not hold back. It was easy to find fault with everything Hagar did. She had become a lazy and careless servant, and Sarai did not hesitate to point out her shortcomings and berate her harshly for every perceived transgression.
At first it had been easy for Hagar to dismiss Sarai’s pettiness. In fact, it fed her pride to see Sarai stoop so low. She pitied her. But as Hagar’s belly grew with evidence of the child she carried, it seemed Sarai became more demanding and unreasonable. Hagar thought of running away, but where would she go? How would she and the baby survive?
In the end, Hagar did not care. One day Sarai asked her to fetch water, and Hagar went to the well, filled her flask, and just kept on walking, away from the camp, away from everything she knew.
What happened next:
The Runaway and the God Who Sees
What came before:
The Big Idea: Part 1
Note: Though I try to remain faithful to the events and characters as described in the Bible, I take some liberties where the Bible is silent, especially regarding what the characters might have thought or felt. I encourage you to read the original story to separate fact from fiction.