Abraham and Sarah had been living in their promised land of Canaan when a severe famine covered their homeland like a dense fog (Genesis 12:10). Famines in the ancient world were not just inconvenient, they were life-threatening catastrophes and Abraham decided to move his household to Egypt in order to escape it. This transfer to Egypt became its own disaster for the couple. Not only did Abraham’s weakness cause Sarah to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem, but it was in Egypt that nearly all Bible scholars believe that they purchased a servant for Sarah named Hagar.
After so many years of not having a child of her own, Sarah could take it no more. She presented Hagar to her husband and told him to have a child with her. Abraham agreed. Considering how close Sarah had come to being a victim of sexual slavery herself, we would hope that she would be unwilling to subject another woman to it. Sadly, her personal longing for a child, coupled with her complete disregard for Hagar as a person, overwhelmed any compassion that she might have had. Hagar became Abraham’s concubine. Surprise, surprise- this didn’t work out well.
Hagar was powerless, but she must have seethed with anger at the injustice of her situation. The Bible tells us that when she became pregnant, she despised Sarah. Who could blame her?
Abraham and Sarah treated Hagar as if she were sub-human. They didn’t see her as a person, but as a resource for getting what they wanted. They were absolutely shocked when she reacted in a human way.
Do we do the same thing? Just like Sarah, God has rescued us from much. Because of this, we should always be on the front lines of mercy and justice. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.
As followers of Christ, are we people who “see” others? Are we respectful, kind, gracious, full of compassion? When we truly see others, we can love them. In John 15:12, Jesus tells us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” How differently Sarah’s story (and all of history) would have turned out if she had seen Hagar as a person full of value, worth and beauty right from the start.