If you had been following my treatise on Bible Stories, you would know that so far Abram remaineth to be blessed with a child, though promises had been made suggesting that he would have his own son, who would inherit him, and not the ‘Chief Servant’ in his house.
His wife Sarai, seeing that like her husband she was advancing in age urged him to go have sexual relations with her servant Hagar (an Egyptian maid) so she may “obtain children by her”, and Abram obliged her. This act seems to be popular in those days as other instances are recorded including that of Abram’s grandson, Jacob who also did same with the maids of the two sisters he married.
The relationships between these men and the servants by whom they fathered children may not be that of love, but rather one that tended to be businesslike. The maids also did not seem to be in positions to object to the machinations of their “madams”, as the case may be.
Sarai gave Hagar to Abram to be his “wife” (though later events suggests that she may not have been granted all the accoutrements of been one), after they had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. Other examples of these kinds of relationships, like that of Jacob cited above suggest that the products of these relationships weren’t treated any less than the child/children born to original husbands and wives.
Sooner had Abram slept with Hagar than she conceived. As with many women whose fertility has been no doubt confirmed, she began to despise her “madam” (who she may now have begun to see as her “mate” seeing that they shared a husband), for being less than “a woman”. Many women seeking the fruit of the womb undergo this indignity by their friends, colleagues and mates who rub the conditions of their unfortunate circumstances in their faces covertly or even overtly in some cases, intentionally and/or not. It is also pertinent to note that many women in marriages where conception is a challenge are quite sensitive and tend to read between the lines of even the most innocent of words or gestures, even when they are often not responsible for the issue of “Childlessness” in their marriages.
Sarai was distressed by the attitude of Hagar, interestingly she put the blame on the hapless Abram (I would probably be called sexist or chauvinist if I said that that behaviour is typical of most women), but Abram was wise enough to throw it back in her direction, reminding her that Hagar was still her maid, and she should feel free to do with her as she deemed fit, to which Sarai responded by treating Hagar harshly necessitating her having to flee from Sarai’s presence.
Again, many people will not find Sarai’s behaviour out of place. Growing up as a kid, I have often heard people relate the harsh treatment children get from childless women (especially with female teachers to children) to the childless situation of the woman in question, but I’ve gotten to understand that in most cases these women were misunderstood, and would probably would’ve done the same had they had kids of their own, as evidenced by the fact that a particular teacher I used to know continued to be strict even after having a kid of her own.
Sarai must have known about YAHWEH’s promises, especially as regards Abram having his own son from her womb, though no record of it is made in The Bible at this time, but she decided to “AID” the promise. Something that’s not alien to many of us today as we pursue many of our heart’s desires, even when we have the conviction that we will get them, or perchance have prophecy that those things “shall come to pass” in our lives, eventually.
Her attempt to help or assist YAHWEH caused her much hurt, as well as altered the cause of history in ways she couldn’t have ever imagined. The Israeli-Arab situation is one case in point, which I’d rather not go into for now. Interestingly, while all this was happening there was quiet from heaven, no message to Abram or even to Sarai to desist from taking that route in looking to bring the will of YAHWEH concerning Abram to come to pass.
Hagar is forced to flee, into the wilderness where she’s visited by an Angel beside a fountain of water. The Angel admonishes her to return to her mistress and to “submit thyself under her hands”, then makes prophetic pronouncements concerning her unborn child:
“…I will multiply thy seed exceedingly (the Arabs who claim descent from Ishmael, and the religion that shot off from that branch, remain a significant population in today’s world), that it shall not be numbered for multitude.”
She’s further instructed by the Angel to name her unborn child “ISHMAEL”, because “YAHWEH hath heard thy affliction”, then follows this up with another set of intriguing prophesies viz:
“And he will be a wild man (didn’t quite set the Arab in good light); his hand will be against every man (many will point to terrorism in and from the middle east as fulfillment of this piece of prophecy), and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell away from his brethren.”
Hagar named the place, the well or fountain of water where she had the encounter with the Angel, “BEERLAHAIROI”, which from many translations inferred that she had seen (had an encounter), with the one that sees her (sees all and knows all), and lived to tell the tale.
She went back home, bore Abram a son: “…and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.” If Abram was privy to the Angel’s message to Hagar, in coming to this conclusion, we are not told.
Abram was Eighty-Six when Ishmael was born.
To the Muslims, Ishmael is Abram’s promised seed, and I’ve done a post detailing how the birth of Ishmael laid the foundation for the split in the Abrahamic religions in: EID AL-ADHA AND THE SPLIT BETWEEN THE ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS | madukovich’s cogitations – https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/eid-al-adha-and-the-split-between-the-abrahamic-religions/
Sometimes, it could prove a tad difficult to wait for the fulfillment of prophesies, especially when it’s beginning to look like it’s taking forever to come to pass. Same goes for our goals, aims and aspirations.
We must however resist the temptation to aid our prophesies or dreams via means that are off the path we’ve chosen to actualize them, once we’ve conviction of the authenticity of the prophesies, dreams or just the mere goals we pursue.
I may have preempted the next installment, but I guess we must still wait for it, to know if Ishmael is the seed or not, according to the Bible.
Genesis Chapter 16 verses 1 – 16, THE WORD OF YAHWEH, (2000).