Hagar the Egyptian: Study Guide
Women and the Old Testament: Jesus’ heart for those who’ve suffered abuse
Week 1: Mon. Feb. 22nd- Sun. Feb. 28th
Important note for the group leader:
If you decide to use this guide as a jumping off point for group discussion, it may be a good idea to first ask the participants to commit to a confidentiality agreement that makes sense for your group. It may also benefit the group to set up some ground rules about listening, respect and affirmation of experiences and feelings. This content can be incredibly personal and potentially re-traumatizing for some. A warning about the potential for traumatic topics should be given and discernment and reflection should be encouraged for each group member to be certain they are ready to process this kind of information in a group setting. My prayer is that you grow greatly and feel deeply encouraged by the material in this study. And that each person who participates feels more seen, known and loved by God in the process!
Hagar the Egyptian
Thank you for giving us a perspective of your love through women like Hagar. Thank you that you have drawn us together in this challenging work of wrestling with your Holy Scripture in a safe and life-affirming way. We know your news for us is good. We know your heart for us is to heal, thrive and prosper. We pray you would lift each one of us up right now as we prepare our hearts for this time discussing your word, the story of Hagar and what her life experiences have to teach us for our time and in our situations. Would you please increase our sensitivity to your voice, and our sensitivity to each other. Bless this time and make it fulfilling, uplifting and full of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This week we learned about Hagar, an Egyptian slave who was sold or given to the family of Abram and Sarai when she was likely just a girl. She spent many years as Sarai’s handmaid before Sarai required that she be used as Abram’s 2nd wife to conceive a child for him (and for herself). Sarai and Hagar’s relationship was tumultuous at the best times and deeply manipulative and abusive at the worst times. Hagar is a woman who has endured things that most of us can only imagine, yet too many of us recognize all too well.
Here are seven takeaways from the study this week:
- Hagar was Abram’s (2nd) wife, not a concubine as is often believed. Legally, Hagar’s offspring would have had rights to inheritance equal to Sarai’s children.
- Hagar is the first woman to receive a theophany (visit from the divine). God gave her a calling and a mission when he told her to return to Abram and Sarai. She knew God saw her and that she would be the mother of a great nation.
- Churches have used the story of God telling Hagar to return to her abusive master as an example of God’s approval for women to return to domestic abusers. This was NOT what God was doing here. God gave Hagar a specific mission and had a specific redemptive purpose for her life.
- Hagar is the only person to ever name God in the Bible. She was one of the first theologians ever! Hagar named God “El Roi” meaning “God who sees me” and she pushed theology forward by making God personal for the first time in history.
- In this narrative, Hagar was brave and courageous, Sarai was dominating and controlling and Abram was disturbingly passive.
- Hagar is a great matriarch of all three Abrahamic faiths. She is a bridge to help us understand God’s love for all nations.
- Hagar is not her real name. It was changed to subordinate her from the start.
Questions for reflection:
- Hagar was Abram’s (2nd) wife, not a concubine. In what way did Abram and Sarai sin when they rejected and devalued Hagar?
- Were you aware that churches have used this narrative to encourage women to return to domestic abuse situations? Have you been a part of churches where this happened or where abuse wasn’t addressed correctly?
- What does it mean that Hagar named God “the God who sees”? What does this mean to you?
- What does Hagar’s experience with God in the wilderness reveal about the character of God?
- What does Hagar’s story help us to see about our relationships with those of Jewish and the Muslim faith?
- How is Hagar’s story an encouragement or challenge to you?