Hagar was not sure how long she had been walking, but she had drained the last drops from her flask a long time ago. She had sobbed and cried out, to no one in particular, all the things she wished she had said. By the time she discovered the spring, her head was hot and throbbing. Dirt streaked across her face where her tears had mingled with the wilderness dust. Hagar sat down to rest, splashing the cool water on her face. For the first time since she left, she realized she had no plan.
“Hagar,” came a voice behind her. She turned to see an angel of the Lord. “Sarai’s maid,” he said, “where have you come from and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she answered. A tear escaped as she recalled her harsh treatment. Maybe it was hormones, self pity, anger, or all of the above. The pregnancy had not been her idea. Hadn’t she given them what they wanted? How was it suddenly now her burden to bear alone? She had no idea where she was going.
“Return to your mistress,” the angel said. As if that were not bad enough, he added, “and submit yourself to her authority.”
A knot tightened in Hagar’s gut. This was not an ordinary man who knew her name and was now telling her what to do. But she could not, she would not, do this. She would die in the wilderness before going back.
But then he said, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
Her hand went instinctively to her womb. Now he had her attention.
“You are pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.”
“You are the God who sees me,” Hagar said half to herself. The Lord, Abram’s God, had noticed her, an Egyptian slave girl. He had seen her suffering, he had heard her cries, and he had come after her.
She was still trying to process this when the angel of the Lord said, “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey.” Hagar was not sure what to make of this. “He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
This last bit was troubling. But at least her son would be a fighter. He would stand up for her and for his rights. If she was going back to live with Sarai, perhaps this is exactly the man he would need to be.
Hagar called the place Beer-lahai-roi, “well of the Living One who sees me.” She refilled her flask and returned to the camp before nightfall. She was resolved to stick it out for the sake of her son. And yet, it was not her resolve, but her hope in the God Who Sees, that made it bearable. She knew now, no injustice went unseen. It didn’t matter what her mistress thought of her, it didn’t matter what she said, the God Who Sees had promised her a future in this place.
When the time came, Hagar gave birth to a son, and they called him Ishmael.
Technically, Ishmael was Sarai’s son. According to custom, he was born on her knees, symbolizing the surrogacy. But it was nothing like what she had expected. She had felt the slick of Hagar’s sweat against her own thighs, the tension when she bore down. But who was she kidding? Hagar’s child would never be hers.
Sarai would not admit it out loud, but she had resented the child from the moment she knew of his existence. Petty and unfair, but true. From day one she had been sorry she had not left well enough alone. She and Abram had been happy together, just the two of them. As the baby’s head crowned, what she felt was not joyful anticipation, but something more like dread.
What happened next:
Yelling into the Void
What came before:
Abram and Sarai | The Big Idea: Part 2
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.