Genesis 16 introduces us to Sarai’s Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. After Hagar conceives by Abram, she begins to hold Sarai in less esteem (16:4). As a result, Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar so that she flees (16:6). This account of an Egyptian (Hagar) being mistreated and fleeing from a Hebrew (Sarai) is the inverse of the Hebrews being mistreated and fleeing from the Egyptians in Exodus—Genesis 16 foreshadows future events by offering the reader a mirrored image of what will happen to Israel during Egyptian captivity.

 When Hagar disrespects her mistress, Sarai begins to “afflict” (ענה; anah) her until she “flees” (ברח; barach). Exodus uses the same Hebrew words to describe Pharaoh “afflicting” (ענתו; anoto, 1:11) the Israelites until they “flee” (ברח; barach) from Egypt in the exodus (14:5). Hagar’s affliction and escape from Sarai foreshadows Israel’s affliction and escape from Pharaoh. Moreover, “Hagar” consists of two Hebrew words: הָ (ha; “the”), and גֵר (ger; “stranger”). Hagar, “the stranger” from Egypt, provides a foundation for God’s later injunction upon Israel to “love the stranger (הַגֵּר; hager) for you were strangers (גרים; gerim) in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19 cf. Lev 19:34).

Finally, after God cares for Hagar in the wilderness, she calls the Lord a “God of seeing (ראי; roi)” (Gen 16:13). This scene anticipates the use of the same Hebrew word in Exod 3:7, when God says, “I have surely seen (ראה ראיתי; raoh raiti) the affliction of my people who are in Egypt” (cf. 3:9; 4:31). The story of Sarai and Hagar points to what God will make more explicit as Israel’s story unfolds: Israel is God’s specially chosen and beloved people, but God also provides loving care for those outside of Israel—for people like Hagar, the very embodiment of “the stranger.”

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23 COMMENTS

  1. This ties in very well with the lecture on the 'tassels, beard, corners, Ruth, charity and Israel. Slowly, many things are coming together and making sense for me. As questions arise while I read or listen to the lectures, they are being answered. It is like the lawyer who is leading the witness in a courtroom. LOL 'Amazing LOVE, how can it be, that THOU my GOD should die for me!' HE is in FULL control and has HIS own National Security! GOD BLESS Israel and it's people forever!!! Hallelujah!
    • Great to hear that things are coming together for you and we're answering your questions, Vida. That's what we're here for, so we appreciate you letting us know!
  2. While you raise an interesting analogy, I believe it is a bit off. There are significant differences between the Hagar event and the Exodus: Hagar's own actions precipitated Sarai's banishment, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt took no such provocative actions; Pharoah was repeatedly warned, no such warning occurred in the Hagar/Sarai situation; Abram would have looked after Hagar as he was sympathetic toward her, no such situation was present between Pharoah and the Hebrew slaves; the Egyptians pursued the fleeing slaves, no such pursuit occurred in the Hagar case. A more apt parallel seems to exist between the Hagar exile
    • Terry, of course there are differences between the Hagar episode and the exodus. I don't argue that the stories line up at every point of the narrative. However, the major events of the texts are analogous and the Hebrew terms are the same. Genesis is trying to make a subtle allusion to what will come in Exodus -- a literary whisper for the attuned biblical ear, if you will. To get a Hagar-exile connection, you'd need to ascertain whether there is parallel Hebrew language used across both narratives.
  3. Dear Dr. Schaser, Yes, "Love the Stranger," and all those with diverse ethnicity and opinions, especially those with whom we disagree! - Kindness, Collins (Dr. Meek), Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA P.S. Dr. Schaser: I've read of the place name "Shazer" in ancient scripture; good name. - Dr. Meek
    • Great sentiment, James. More open-mindedness and acceptance of the "stranger" would certainly make the world a better place. Don't know if I've seen "Shazer" in the Bible -- which place name are you referencing? If it's in there, I'd love to know about it :)
  4. Dear Dr. Schaser I`m Flavio, from Brazil. I am collecting material on aspects of Jesus' life and I really need your opinion. 1. What languages did Jesus speak? 2. Was Jesus illiterate? Thanks for your help Sincerily, Flavio Ferreira Lopes Rio de Janeiro - Brazil [email protected] [email protected]
    • Hi Flavio, 1. Jesus spoke Aramaic and would have had a knowledge of Hebrew as well. Since we know that Greek was used from first-century Greek inscriptions found in Israel, we can also assume that Jesus was familiar with at least some Greek, but I don't think he spoke it as a discursive language. 2. There's no question that Jesus knew the Tanakh and could read it in the original Hebrew (e.g., Lk 4:16-20), but since Jews were trained in memorizing and reciting the biblical text from an early age, that doesn't tell us much about Jesus' overall literacy in non-biblical texts.
    • Hi Nico. Excellent article as always. Maybe one would ask you the difference between your love in matching the same words from different biblical chapters and the harmonisation of scripture. Is your approach the same as systemisation?

      + More answers (1)
    • Thanks for your question, Ibrahim. There's no evidence that Abram committed a sin by taking multiple wives, and no explicit condemnation of polygamy in the Hebrew Bible. However, the text problematizes polygamy when it goes too far; for instance, when Solomon takes 700 wives, those wives influence him to worship gods other than the God of Israel (see 1 Kgs 11:3). It isn't until the Roman period that polygamy is explicitly discouraged in Jewish circles -- including the New Testament, which encourages leaders to have only one wife (see 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6; cf. Deut 17:17).
  5. It’s interesting to see someone would question the literacy of our Savior. As HE was born into humanity HE is also THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD! That question is ludicrous, period.
  6. I appreciate the likeness in the comparison of Hagar and the Exodus.

    However, the bigger issue in my opinion became the two half brothers. Ishmael became abusive towards his younger brother Isaac, and couldn't be tolerated by Sarai. Therefore, Abraham's decision to send them off.

    Blessings
  7. It's embarrassing that one could query the literacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear that he read the scriptures and that He could write. He was trained in wood work and could deliver the scriptures off hand. He is omnipotent,omnipresent and omniscient. He could tell from afar what is in the mind of people as attested by His response to the Pharisees severally. Or is someone trying to know if He studied medicine,law or engineering?
    • Jesus was many things, but he wasn't "omnipresent." Omnipresent means "everywhere at once." As a fully human being, Jesus could not have enjoyed omnipresence. More, when we assume that Jesus "knew everything" because of his divine status, we rip him out of his historical Jewish context -- as a rabbi in the first century, Jesus had to learn the things that he knew about Scripture in the context of Jewish tradition of his day.
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