The Woman Who Complicated the History of Salvation

- Elsa Tamez


It enables us to read the whole biblical text from a perspective of liberation.

Bible study from this perspective is full of conflict. Women hear the voice of God favouring them. Most men don't hear this because they come from a tradition that believes that they are chosen because of their masculinity.

An oppressed woman: Hagar

On reading the stories of Sarah and Hagar (Gen. 16: l-4; 21: 8-20) we generally identify ourselves with Sarah, the beautiful wife of the great patriarch Abraham, the father of the faith. We do this for two reasons. First, because the stories are so constructed as to lead the reader to such identification, and because Sarah's role is crucial in the history of Israel. Second, because the story continually emphasizes the submission of the workers, and the attitude of Sarah towards Hagar appears quite natural.

The marginalized demand as first-born sons to be included in the history of salvation. They break the order of things.(Issac inherited parental blessing not Ismael who is the first born child) They complicate history.

Hagar rejects her slavery

She is the pregnant wife of her master, involved with him in the completion of God's promise. Possibly she thought Abraham was on her side, and wouldn't pay any attention to the laws. Sarah saw her rights as wife and mistress threatened. Abraham breaks relations with Hagar and gives her back to Sarah. Hagar is demoted to her old status of slave. Sarah couldn't send Hagar away because of the law (Cod. Ham. 146) which prohibited it in these circumstances, but she ill-treated her (v.6) - to such an extent that Hagar fled in spite of all the dangers of the desert. There were only two alternatives le ft to Hagar: subject herself to the humiliations inflicted on her or die in the desert. She chose the second.

Hagar and Ishmael, marginalized in history (Gen. 21)

Sarah no longer needs Ishmael, her adopted son. Her own son, Isaac, has now passed safely through the dangers of early childhood. Ishmael, the son of Abraham but not of Sarah, ought to leave so that he will have no share of the inheritance. Sarah acted the way she did because she wanted to be the only wife in the house, and mother of the promised descendant and inheritor. God let her act that way because he had other plans for Hagar, a better future than in the house of Abraham. Hagar leaves to enjoy a greater liberty: she is Ishmael's sole parent now; neither Abraham nor Sarah can claim any rights over him. She will have to struggle very hard, for she must be both mother and father to him. Sarah's intention is to erase them from history, and make herself the only mother of the promised people, but what of the blood of Abraham in Ishmael? Who can erase that? Only if they die in the desert will that threat be eliminated.

God blesses Hagar and Ishmael

Twice Hagar stopped in the desert, and both times the angel of the Lord saved her. The first time he found her pregnant, near a spring (16:7), the second time on the point of dying from thirst (21:16). Each time God saved her and blessed her. Hagar the slave is the only woman in the Old Testament who had the experience of a theophany (chap. 16). This is most important. Hagar is an Egyptian slave woman. How could she have the privilege of seeing and talking with God? Hagar experienced this manifestation because God wished to point out that the oppressed are also God's children, co-creators of history.

Finally, Hagar and her son will be free from Egyptian oppressors and Hebrew discrimination. They will be one with Yahweh, the Lord, through the rite of circumcision (chap. 17), and because of his name, Ishmael – God hears - for God will always be ready to help those in search of a new life.

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