A Daily Genesis

Genesis 16:1-3

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 16:1 . . Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.[/B]

It's entirely possible that Abram purchased Ms. Hagar while they were all down in Egypt during the famine back in chapter 12.

The word for "maidservant" is [I]shiphchah[/I] (shif-khaw') which is a female slave (as a member of the household). So, Hagar wasn't just another skull in the slave pool. As a member of the household staff, she merited a measure of respect. Hagar probably seemed like a daughter to ol' Abram in spite of her slave status.

It's my guess that Hagar was Sarai's personal assistant similar in status to that of Anna: lady Mary's maid in the popular television series "Downton Abbey".

The duties of a lady's maid typically include helping her mistress with make up, hairdressing, clothing, jewelry, shoes, and wardrobe maintenance. A lady's Maid has a duty to serve her mistress, but to also help out with household-related chores and activities; e.g. clean dishes, remove stains from clothing, fill jugs with fresh water every day, polish and dust the furniture, and ensure her lady's quarters are clean and tidy.

I think all-in-all; Hagar had it pretty good; that is, until this fertility issue came along to spoil everything.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 16:2a . . And Sarai said to Abram: Look, the Lord has kept me from bearing.[/B]

Sarai's logic, at least from a certain point of view, was reasonable. She was likely familiar with Gen 1:22 and 1:28, where fertility was stated to be a blessing; therefore, in her mind at least, infertility was an evidence of God's disfavor.

There's a rare defect in women that is just astounding. I read about it in the Vital Signs column of Discover magazine. The defect, though rare, is most common in otherwise perfectly gorgeous women-- girls like Sarai --and seems to be somewhat hereditary. Their birth canal is a cul-de-sac; viz: a blank pouch. There's no ovaries, no fallopian tubes, no uterus, and no cervix. One of the first clues to the presence of the defect is when girls are supposed to start menstruating, but don't.

The story I saw was of a young Mexican girl (I'll call her Lupé). Young, beautiful, and filled out in all the right places; Lupé came to a clinic for an examination to find out why she wasn't having periods and that's when they discovered she didn't have any generative plumbing.

Lupé was devastated, not only with the news that she would never have any children of her own, but to make matters worse; in her home town's culture, fertile girls are highly valued and respected, while the sterile ones are treated like expendable grunts-- char-girls and slave labor.

Lupé left the clinic with the full weight upon her heart that in spite of being a ten, and in spite of her feelings to the contrary, she would have to spend the rest of her youth solo because no man in her community would want her; and even among her own kin Lupé would be looked upon as cursed and untouchable.

I'm not insisting Sarai had the same problem as Lupé. It's only one possibility from any number of fertility problems; e.g. hostile womb, anovulation, tubal blockage, uterine issues, etc; including age. (Sarai was 75 at this point in time; with 175 being a ripe old age in her day. So if, say, 85 is a ripe old age in our day; then she was equivalent to 36.)

But unbeknownst to Sarai, God wanted her biological progeny to be a miracle baby rather than a natural baby; and why God didn't keep Abram informed about that I can only speculate: but won't.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 16:2b . . Consort with my maid; perhaps I shall have a son through her.[/B]

This is the very first instance in the Bible of the principle of adoption. According to the customs of that day, a Lady had the right, and the option, to keep a female slave's children as her own if the Lady's husband sired them. No one bothered to ask Ms. Hagar how she might feel about it because slaves had no say in such arrangements.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 16:2c . . And Abram heeded Sarai's request.[/B]

Sarai wasn't specifically named in God's original promise of offspring; so Abram may have figured that any son he produced could qualify as the promised seed. This is one time he really should have gone to one of his altar and inquired of The Lord what to do. But it was an innocent mistake, and totally blindsided Abram because what he and Sarai did wasn't out of the ordinary in their own day.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 16:3 . . So Sarai, Abram's wife, took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian-- after Abram had dwelt in the land of Canaan ten years --and gave her to her husband Abram as concubine.[/B]

Hagar no doubt was attracted to any one of a number of fine unattached young men in Abram's community; but due to circumstances beyond her control, she was doomed to a lonely limbo of unrequited love. Her lot in life, though no doubt very comfortable and secure, was, nonetheless, probably tainted with an unfulfilled longing that robbed her of true peace and contentment.

Abram was ten years older than Sarai; so he was 85 at this point in time; which is equivalent to about 43 of our own years of age.

The word translated "concubine" is [I]'ishshah [/I](ish-shaw') --a nondescript word for women (cf. Gen 2:22-23) which just simply indicates the opposite side of Adam's coin.

Concubines in those days weren't adulteresses. They had a much higher status than that. Webster's defines a concubine as: a woman having a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife.

So they weren't quite as low on the food chain as a mistress or a girl toy. They at least had some measure of respectability and social acceptance; and they had a legitimate place in their man's home too. But, at the same time, they were not a real wife. They were, in fact, quite expendable. When a man was tired of a concubine, he could send her away with nothing. They shared no community property, nor had rights of inheritance.

If Hagar had truly been Abram's wife, then she would have enjoyed equality with Sarai as a sister-wife. But she didn't. Hagar continued to be a slave, and there is no record that she and Abram slept together more than the once. She didn't take up a new life married to Abram; and Abram never once referred to her as his spouse. He always referred to Hagar as Sarai's slave.

The tenor of the story is that Sarai gave her maidservant to Abram as a wife, but not to actually marry him. Sarai's intention was that Hagar be a baby mill; nothing more.

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