If one were to ask which woman in the Bible had the most words spoken to her by an angel, Hagar  may not even be considered yet she is at the top  of the list! So we may ask why would this be? Why  should an Egyptian woman receive such favour of  Yahweh? Let us see what the record has to tell us.

We first read of Hagar in Genesis 12:16, assuming  this is when she commenced service in Abram’s household  as a maidservant, given to him by Pharoah. Then  again in Genesis 13:1, being included in the phrase  “and all that he had” when Abram and Sarai went up  out of Egypt. From this we conclude, out of no choice  of her own nor possibly any choice on Abram’s part,  she entered his household, his community, his ecclesia.

Adoption into a faithful household

Her new home was to be Canaan. God was working to  bring her into this faithful household, and to the land  which her lord and master had been promised. Once  in the land she remained a faithful servant, and became  the handmaid of her master’s wife – a very privileged  position. She would have been part of the inner circle of  the family, aware of the rivalry that developed between  Lot and Abram’s herdsmen, and the considerate way  that Abram ultimately solved the problem by giving  his nephew the choice of where to dwell. She was there  and aware of the concern Abram had when Lot, his  nephew was taken captive by Chedorlaomer. She saw  Abram hastily gather his 318 trained men so that they  might go and recover Lot from the hands of his captors.  She was aware of Abram and Sarai’s concern for their  family members. She had experienced and become  accustomed to the godly spirit of Abram.

Planned happiness brings misery

She may well have known that God had promised the  land of Canaan to Abram, as well as a great family,  as many as the stars of heaven. She also knew of the  sadness of heart of both Abram and Sarai in that they  remained childless – a great challenge to them both in  their aging years. Hagar may well have pondered why  Abram and Sarai remained faithful to the hope of the  promise being fulfilled. Then, an unexpected opportunity  came her way – she was Sarai’s handmaid, but  now she was called upon to become Abram’s wife and  produce the child her mistress had desired for many  years. As handmaid she was required to be obedient  to her mistress, so she accepted the new role, even as the laws of the day required of her. But with this  elevation of her position, pride stepped right in. She  was able to quickly conceive, something her mistress  had spent many years anguishing over and desiring.  She despised and belittled her mistress to the point  where Sarai demanded of Abram that something be  done, and he allowed Sarai to deal with Hagar as she  saw fit. Bitterness between two women over such an  event is not unexpected, but it is not pleasing in the sight of Yahweh (Prov 30:22-23).

Miserably she fled the family home in which she  had played an active part for the last ten years, and was  found in the desert, sad and bewildered. Yahweh was  aware of her plight because she was carrying his faithful  friend’s child (James 2:23). An angel was sent and she  was found by a fountain of water in the wilderness. A wonderful, caring dialogue then takes place between  an angel of the heavenly host, and Hagar, an Egyptian,  handmaid to Sarai – wife of the heir of the whole earth.

Conversing with an angel in the desert

Four times in five verses (Gen 16:8-12) the angel questions  and advises Hagar as to her future and that of the  son she was to bear. Hagar is encouraged to return to  her mistress and submit herself under her hands. She  was then given an unconditional promise not dissimilar  to that given to her master, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly,  that it shall not be numbered for multitude.”  What an unbelievable message direct from Yahweh’s  angel, to an Egyptian slave in the wilderness! But there  was more – she was assured of God’s presence because  she was told that Yahweh had heard about her affliction  and she would have a son to be named Ishmael, “God  shall hear”. But it doesn’t stop there; the angel went  further in dialogue and told this expectant mother what  type of a man (and nation) her son would develop into  (v12). All those years of experience in Abram’s house  were not lost on Hagar because she knew she was in the  presence of an angel and therefore called the well, Beerlahai-  roi, meaning, “The well of Him that liveth and  seeth me”(v14). After this amazing interaction, Hagar  did as the angel requested of her (v9), and returned to  her mistress. In due time Hagar bare Abram a son just  as the angel had told her. Abram named him Ishmael,  as Hagar had reiterated to him. Abram loved this first  son, but he was not to be the heir.

Household tragedy

More than 14 years pass before anything more is  recorded of Hagar. Isaac was born and Sarah as an  aged and doting mother observed Ishmael mocking  her son. It appears that this was the climax of tensions  developing beforehand. Sarah determined to cast out  the bond woman and her son from the family home,  “for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with  my son,” she said (Gen 21:10; Gal 4:30). Although  Abraham was greatly saddened by this event, he was  reassured by Yahweh that Sarah’s decision was right,  and he was not to fear as Yahweh would care for this  son and a great nation would come from him. Abraham  provided Hagar and his son, “the lad”, now about 17  years of age, with a bottle of water and sent them away  from Abraham’s household. Hagar is next mentioned  as sitting apart from her son in the wilderness of  Beersheba. They now have no water and she did not want to see her son die. She had lifted up her voice and was weeping. We note that God heard the voice of the lad, but the angel spoke to his mother Hagar,  out of heaven this time, giving her full assurance that  they will not die. Her eyes were ‘opened’ and she saw  a well of water; she filled the bottle and gave the lad  drink. She was encouraged with the repetition of the  promise given in excess of 17 years earlier that a great  nation would develop from her one son. We find that  God continued to be with the lad in the wilderness and  in due time Hagar returned to Egypt to take a wife for her son. This is the last recorded event in Hagar’s  life – a sad ending.

Initially we may get the impression that Hagar had  a hard life – taken out of Egypt from her own family, a  servant in a strange land, and then twice sent out into  the harsh wilderness almost at the point of death. She  was given the opportunity to provide a child for her  barren mistress, and then the child was put in second  place when Isaac, the heir, was born. It may all seem  rather unfair.

A resume of Hagar’s life

However, when we take another look, we see that  Hagar was privileged to be taken as a servant into a  wealthy family (Gen 13:2); she was surrounded with  the principles of godliness as displayed by her master  and mistress. She was part of a household, an ecclesia,  of whom it was said, God knew Abraham, “that he will  command his children and his household after him, and  they shall keep the way of Yahweh, to do justice and  judgment” (18:19). She was aware of the promises the  God of heaven had made to Abraham and then, at the  top of the list she had experienced something very few  people in the past 6000 years have ever experienced –  personal, interactive conversations with an angel of the  Almighty God on a number of occasions. She was given a wonderful promise for her son’s seed by this angel;  water was provided for her and her son miraculously on  two occasions; both she and her son were saved from  death in the wilderness. But, these amazing events  in her life do not appear to have developed faith, the  looking to a better future, as in the case of Abraham,  who “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose  builder and maker is God” (Heb11:10).

She represents natural Israel as Galatians 4 would  teach us. She lived in the environs of the ecclesia of  God in Abraham’s home for at least 28 years, but this  privilege seemed to have little impact on her conscience  toward God (Eliezer, Abraham’s servant being a contrast).  Hagar was concerned with the here and now;  she continued an Egyptian in thought and intent, and  in due time taking her son with her to Egypt that he  may find a wife. The biblical story of Hagar ends here.  We can only ponder as to whether she remained in the  darkness of Egypt, or came to appreciate the faith of  Abraham and take it to herself.

What about us?

We are all as Hagar by birth and have been given opportunity  to become one of the seed of Abraham by  faith. God can take us (like Hagar) out of Egypt, but  we must take ‘Egypt’ out of our hearts. Let us personally  look for our angel’s influence in our lives, not just to see  the event, but focusing on the ways of Yahweh working  out His purpose in our lives that we may attain to the  reward: “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed,  and heirs according to the promise”.