Today, read or listen to Genesis 16 in your translation of choice. I love the NLT
Hagar's pain of Sarai's mistreatment seems almost deserved. After all, Hagar treated Sarai with contempt first, right? What goes around comes around, right? However, the actual Hebrew word for contempt conveyed here is to be slight, sharp, or cursed. Hagar no longer honored Sarai. Darting looks and muttering insults were more than likely given to Sarai. I can imagine the folding of sheets in a snap and jerk motion. Cleaning in a frenzy. Snotty answers and a sharp tone are what Sarai received.
But let's back up a bit. If you were thrown into the bed of an 86 year old man, without any say, beating rugs with an attitude would be an outlet. But it was only AFTER Hagar found out she was pregnant that her bitterness began to brew. Why?
Let's look at a couple of points.
Points to Ponder 1 - Some commentaries say that Hagar may have been a gift from the King of Egypt given to Abram. Then she is regifted by Abram to Sarai, then regifted again with Sarai giving her to Abram. But now, Hagar becomes a sort of wife to Abram and pregnant with the backup plan created by an impatient first wife. This alone is enough to create some kind of anger or contempt in anyone. It's awfully gutsy of Hagar to disrespect her mistress, but at this point, she has nothing to lose. Until…
Points to Ponder 2- Saria was regretful of her decision. In the story, we can see how the tension builds, and then, low and behold, Sarai blames Abram for the whole mess. Brilliant Sarai. You gave your husband a free pass, and he took it, and it's his fault. I tend to lean towards this a bit. I agree, she never EVER should have done it, but her barrenness blinded her. She wants Abe to clean up this mess, and Abram will not concede. "She's your maid. Do with her as you see fit", he tells her. Hold on, when Abe slept with her, Hagar became a second wife. His responsibility. The Mother of his firstborn. But Abe has no feelings at all for her. She was just a little piece on the side. So Sarai's solution; make the girl so miserable she wants to quit. Now, this is something I can understand. Anyone in the workforce or otherwise ever experience this type of injustice? Managers, seniority, coworkers, friends, family, or ex's making your life so miserable it takes all you got to show up. To quit is out of the question, but how long do you endure the abuse?
Point to Ponder 3- No one came to Hagar's rescue. She was given to Abram like a parting gift. No goodbyes to her family. No cake, no ice cream, happy birthday! Perhaps Hagar had to learn a new language, a new custom, or a new taste for strange foods. And then, She's gifted again. Still, no one comes to her defense. The silent pain this woman felt is tangible. Now, she's pregnant, and no one seems to be happy about it, not even her. No one sees her pain. No one sees her. To top it off, her new "Husband" dismisses her and their baby. Remember, he knows she's pregnant, and yet, he still tells Sarai to do with her as she pleases. Hagar is not his problem. She is the incredible invisible woman. Then, in her running, in her heartache, in a place where no one knows where she is, and no one seems to look for her, ALMIGHTY GOD sees her. The one who knows what it is to be unseen, underappreciated, or dismissed until somebody needs something. Oh yes, our Savior sees her. He comes to her rescue and calls her by name. She was not a commodity; she was His daughter. She was important to Him. Little, invisible forgotten, mistreated, a bit naughty, and a whole lot of broken Hagar was seen by an all-powerful, invisible God. And because God saw her, she lifted her eyes, and she saw Him! Can you relate to even one slice of this scenario?
In 2008, I was asked by an older woman in the church, "what makes you feel value?" I was surprised by my answer, for it came quickly and without thought. "To be defended." She looked at me and said, "That's not an answer." Oh, but it was Pat. I believe my response came swiftly because I had recently endured some pretty harsh slander, and short of my husband, no one, not even my friends, came to my defense. And when the truth came out, the apologies were secret. I wanted to run, but God gave me a promise in that painful season. Oh, Hagar, you were right, He is the God who sees us. He is the lifter of our head and a promise giver in our painful places.