Ethel PittawayThere is a story in the bible of an African woman who was harassed not only for being a woman and black but also because she was a slave. Hagar’s story begins after years had passed and there was no sign of a child for Abraham and his wife Sarah, Hagar’s mistress. Sarah decided a solution was for Hagar to be a surrogate mother! (Genesis 16:1-3). However relationships at home become unbearable between the two women when Sarah started ill-treating Hagar.  Hagar decided to flee.

The Angel of the Lord found her at the road leading to Shur and told her to return to Sarah but not before making her the amazing promise that she would be the ancestress of a multitude that could not even be numbered. (Genesis 16:9-12).  She was also given a name for the child, Ishmael, meaning, “God hears”.  In response Hagar does what no male or female had ever done before! She gives God a name. She calls God, El-roi, “the God who sees me”. She is amazed that she can say, “I have now seen the One who sees me”.

Sarah continues to be troubled once her son, Isaac, is born. She appears fearful and threatened by Ishmael and Hagar. Perhaps even embarrassed. Is she worried about sharing the inheritance? She decides to once again get rid of Hagar and Ishmael.

They eventually end up in the desert of Beersheba. Hagar’s body wracked with sobs, her heart broken, is giving up. Had she forgotten that the name of her son Ishmael meant, “God hears”? The Angel of the Lord calls to Hagar to reassure her and to remind her about His promise concerning Ishmael. And God provides for her by directing her to a present fresh supply of water.

Hagar, an African woman from Egypt whose name means fugitive, a slave to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was given a promise of a child who would father a nation just like Abraham. She saw God and named God and was given food by God in the wilderness just like the Hebrew people.

Have you been discriminated against because of your gender or race? Perhaps you are a slave to a habit, a person, money or society. Do you need to be directed to a fresh supply of water? The bible is full of promises. Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And “Everyone that drinks of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give them shall never thirst.” John 4:13-14

A wonderful sequel to the story is that when Abraham died, the two brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, together buried their father. (Genesis 25:9-11)

By Ethel Pittaway