Weird bible stories: In which an angel of God follows the Fugitive Slave Law

And he had intercourse with Hagar, and she became pregnant; and when she saw that she was with child, she looked with contempt upon her mistress and despised her.

Then Sarai said to Abram, May [the responsibility for] my wrong and deprivation of rights be upon you! I gave my maid into your bosom, and when she saw that she was with child, I was contemptible and despised in her eyes. May the Lord be the judge between you and me.

But Abram said to Sarai, See here, your maid is in your hands and power; do as you please with her. And when Sarai dealt severely with her, humbling and afflicting her, she [Hagar] fled from her.

But the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness on the road to Shur.

And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from, and where are you intending to go? And she said, I am running away from my mistress Sarai.

The Angel of the Lord said to her, Go back to your mistress and [humbly] submit to her control.

We can stick with Genesis 16 for this week’s weird bible story.

So you recall from yesterday that Abraham now enters into a second marriage with Hagar, Sarai’s slave they purchased in Egypt. And he has sex with her and impregnates the younger woman.

Perhaps now that she was a concubine, Hagar assumed that she was no longer property, or that her status with relation to Sarai had changed, and carrying her husband’s child, perhaps she even assumed that Abraham would make her a proper wife at some point. Regardless, she saw that she was pregnant,  and Sarai was  infertile, and in that culture she would be seen as a better wife. So whatever the case, Hagar starts to act less like a slave and more like an equal to Sarai, perhaps refusing to follow orders, perhaps talking back to her. And Sarai does not like this.

So she blames her husband for the problem, and Abraham reminds her that Hagar is her slave and she can do whatever she wants with Hagar, you know… since Hagar is only property.

So Sarai begins abusing the woman. We don’t know what exactly that would entail, but given the culture and the history of slavery, I think we can all guess it involved humiliation, hard labor, and/or physical violence of some kind. Not enough to kill the pregnant woman or get her to  miscarry, but enough to punish her for daring to consider herself anything but a slave.

We do know that whatever is happening to the young woman, it is enough to get her to run away.

So she is staying by a spring of water, when an angel from God finds her and tells her to go back and submit to the abuse.

Okay, he also tells her that her son will be a great man who will prosper, but he tells her to go back and submit to the abuse. He doesn’t go tell Sarai to relax and stop beating the woman. Or tell Abraham to set her free. He tells the slave to go back to a master whose cruelty drove her to a desperate flight into the wilderness.

Now maybe it might make some sense if Hagar was ill-prepared in her journey, but skip ahead a few chapters and you find Hagar and her son exiled by Abraham with insufficient supplies and resources to survive in the desert anyway, and God miraculously delivers them.

So… seriously… go back to an abusive person who sees you as nothing more than property and will eventually exile you to the desert with the intention that you die?


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