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Part 2: Injustice of Hagar (Genesis 16)

Observations of Hagars Narrative:

In my doctorate, research the problem I encounter is that the dismissal of women's voices denies the church the complete revelation of God and God's work among human beings. Hagar's voice is no less important than Sarai's or Abram's. What is hard is that her story brings more questions and doubts than it does answers. Hagar is an enslaved person owned by Sarai and Abram. Hagar's story is often diminished or unexamined. It is not a "nice" biblical narrative. It is a story of enslavement and abuse against a person. Hagar is used and abused by Abram and Sarai for their own ends. This is an examination of Genesis 16. In the first part of the chapter, we see Sarai's perception of Hagar. We do not hear Hagar's. voice in the story until she encounters God. I would encourage you to open your Bibles to Genesis 16 and also read the chapter and not just this post.

Introduced in chapter sixteen of Genesis is Hagar, the Egyptian enslaved person of Sarai. Sarai is the one who directs our attention to Hagar, and it is Sarai's voice we hear (16:2). Sarai decides for Hagar and gives her to Abram. Hagar has no right over her body (16:3). Hagar is under the power of Sarai. Hagar experiences sexual trafficking by her owners for their own ends. For Sarai, the plan unfolds precisely as she wants. Hagar became pregnant by Abram (16:4a). Sarai is going to get what she wants a child, even if it was through surrogacy. Sarai is unhappy with the situation, and so is Hagar. Sarai becomes jealous of Hagar and begins to treat her harshly. Hagar takes action by running away. Elness suggests that "The text is clear that the description is Sarai's perception of Hagar. Hagar is not given any words to provide her testimony--her side of the story--a case of testimonial injustice."[1]

In the second half of Hagar's story, we are introduced to her voice when she experiences an encounter with a divine messenger. We see in verses 7-9 the conversation between Hagar and an "Angel of the Lord." Matthews suggests that "Hagar is the first person to be recorded as encountering and speaking with an "Angel of the LORD'"[2] (16:7) and she is "The only character in the Bible who gives God a name based on her experience of the divine."[3] Imagine that is her voice that is recorded as giving God a name, not just LORD or God Almighty. It is Hagar's voice in which we hear a conversation with an "Angel of the LORD." God took time to listen to her voice and speak with her and even extended the blessing of Abram to her son Ishmael and his descendants.

[1] Beth E. Elness, “Hagar and Epistemic Injustice: An Intercultural and Post-Colonial Analysis of Genesis 16,” Old Testament Essays 34, no. 2 (January 2021): 445–59, [2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27 - 50:26, The New American Commentary / Gen. Ed. David S. Dockery 1B (Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 188. [3] Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “Hagar: Bible | Jewish Women’s Archive,” accessed February 9, 2023,

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