Hagar: Least Appreciated Spiritual Angelic Experience

by: Rick B

June 8, 2014

Of all women in the Bible, I think the angel visiting Hagar is least appreciated by Christians and Jews.  This is how I summarized the story of Hagar for my daughter.

Hagar with Ishmael in the wilderness

Hagar with Ishmael in the wilderness

Hagar was born in Egypt and was a servant of the prophet Abraham.  Sarai was Abraham’s first wife and they could not have children.  She convinced Abraham that he should marry Hagar and see if they could have a child.  Hagar was soon pregnant.  She gave birth to a baby boy named Ishmael.  Years later, Sarai got pregnant also and had a baby boy named Isaac.  Sarai became jealous of Hagar and Ishmael and convinced Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.   Abraham was very sad, but sent them away.

Hagar and Ishmael went into the wilderness and were running out of food and water.  An angel appeared to Hagar and promised that she would be the mother of a great nation.  The angel helped them find a well of water where Ishmael hit his foot on the ground.  This is called the ZamZam Well.  Muslims travel to Mecca each year in remembrance of this miracle.

I personally find the mistreatment of Hagar by Abraham and Sarah as especially cruel, and I also find the angelic appearance to her incredibly spiritual.  I think this angelic visit is the most under-emphasized angelic story in all of scripture.  I think there is some dissonance when we understand that Arabs are a chosen people of God, just like Israel, which is why it doesn’t get the same “publicity” as other angelic experiences in scripture.

I have a Muslim friend, and I didn’t realize that the pilgrimage to Mecca is a re-creation of the story of Hagar and Ishmael.  It is probably the most important holiday in Islam.  Is that why we downplay this story?  What are your thoughts about Hagar.


(This is part of a series of posts from the children’s book, Women of the Bible, illustrated by my daughter and her cousin.  If you’re unfamiliar with this series, check out my first post.)


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5 Responses to Hagar: Least Appreciated Spiritual Angelic Experience

  1. ji on June 8, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    One thing I have tried to remember about this story, to help me temper the notion of cruelty, is that Abraham inquired of God, and God told him to send away Hagar and Ishmael. There was no desire for cruelty on Abraham’s part.

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  2. handlewithcare on June 8, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Clearly Hagar was an obedient woman for whom the Lord had high regard in giving this angelic ministration, and it reminds us that our God is kind in regarding those to whom unfairness is meeted out, as we might see it in the moment. I love this story, and having had a close moslem colleague for some years who recently participated in the haj was really moved to realise that this incident is memorialised during that experience. Makes me realise that God is indeed mindful of all of His children, even if we have misread the narrative up to this point.

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  3. Mormon Heretic on June 8, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Whether you want to blame it on Sarah or Abraham, the mistreatment of Hagar is a very heart-breaking story. Thank God an angel came to help her and Ishmael.

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  4. Roger on June 8, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    I recently read “Texts of Terror” by Professor Phyllis Trible. It focuses on four biblical females who get the rawest of deals. Hagar is the first section. If one wants to ponder God’s will, mercy and justice—work your way through this.

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  5. Kristine A on June 11, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    I really appreciate this series, by the way, even though I rarely comment. This story is so utterly heartbreaking from every side. This post from Signature Books on Women’s Rights in Old Testament Times (Ch 5 Sarai) helped me understand the legal rights/dynamics that played into the situation . . . but it is still no less heartbreaking.

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