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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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—Biblical Data:

Egyptian handmaid of Sarah, and mother of Ishmael. According to one narrative, Sarah, having no children, requested Abraham to take Hagar as concubine, so that she might adopt her children (comp. Genesis 30:3, where Rachel makes a similar request). When Hagar had conceived she became domineering, and Sarah, with the consent of Abraham, drove her into the wilderness. There, as she sat by a fountain, an angel of the Lord appeared and commanded her to return to her mistress and submit to her. He promised that she should bear a son who would be called "Ishmael" (= "he whom the Lord will hear"), and that he would be a strong fighter ("a wild ass among men"), and would be respected by his brethren (Genesis 16). Another narrative tells that when Isaac had been weaned Ishmael "played" with him or "mocked" him ( is ambiguous), and that Sarah demanded of Abraham that he cast out Hagar and her son, that the latter might not inherit with Isaac. Abraham was unwilling to do so, but upon God's command he yielded. Hagar fled again into the wilderness, where Ishmael came near dying of thirst. In the moment of her greatest despair an angel of God appeared to her and showed her a well, promising her that Ishmael would found a great nation. She dwelt with her son in the wilderness of Paran, where he became an archer, and she took a wife for him from Egypt (Genesis 21:9-21).

Only one other mention of Hagar is found in the Bible (Genesis 25:12), where she is merely referred to as the mother of Ishmael. There are in various passages in Chronicles, however, references to the tribe of Hagarites, who were neighbors of the transJordanic tribes of Israel and were driven from their homes by them (1 Chronicles 5:10,18-22; 11:38; 27:31). The Hagarites have been identified with the Agraioi mentioned by Strabo (16:4,2), and though Arabians, they do not belong to the Ishmaelites.

  • Dillmann, Die Genesis, 6th ed., p. 315, Leipsic, 1892;
  • Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. s.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

According to the Midrash (Gen. R. ), Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh, who, seeing what great miracles God had done for Sarah's sake (Genesis 12:17), said: "It is better for Hagar to be a slave in Sarah's house than mistress in her own." In this sense Hagar's name is interpreted as "reward" ("Ha-Agar" = "this is reward"). She was at first reluctant when Sarah desired her to marry Abraham, and although Sarah had full authority over her as her handmaid, she persuaded her, saying. "Consider thyself happy to be united with this saint." Hagar is held up as an example of the high degree of godliness prevalent in Abraham's time, for while Manoah was afraid that he would die because he had seen an angel of God (Judges 13:22), Hagar was not frightened by the sight of the divine messenger (Gen. R. c.). Her fidelity is praised, for even after Abraham sent her away she kept her marriage vow, and therefore she was identified with Keturah (Genesis 25:1), with allusion to (Aramaic, "to tie"; Gen. R. ). Another explanation of the same name is "to adorn," because she was adorned with piety and good deeds (c.). It was Isaac who, after the death of Sarah, went to bring back Hagar to the house of his father; the Rabbis infer this from the report that Isaac came from Beer-lahai-roi, the place which Hagar had named (Genesis 16:14, 24:62; Gen. R.; see commentaries ad loc.).

Other homilies, however, take an unfavorable view of Hagar's character. Referring to the report that when she had conceived she began to despise her mistress, the Rabbis say that she gossiped about Sarah, saying: "She is certainly not as godly as she pretends to be, for in all the years of her married life she has had no children, while I conceived at once" (Gen. R.; Sefer ha-Yashar, Lek Leka). Sarah took revenge (Genesis 16) by preventing her intercourse with Abraham, by whipping her with her slipper, and by exacting humiliating services, such as carrying her bathing-materials to the bath (c.);she further caused Hagar by an evil eye to miscarry, and Ishmael, therefore, was her second child, as is inferred from the fact that the angel prophesied that she would bear a child (Genesis 16:11), while it had been narrated before that she was pregnant (Genesis 16:4). It is further inferred, from the words "she went astray" (Genesis 21:14, Hebr.), that as soon as she had reached the wilderness she relapsed into idolatry, and that she murmured against God's providence, saying: "Yesterday thou saidest: 'I will multiply thy seed exceedingly' [Genesis 16:10]; and now my son is dying of thirst." The fact that she selected an Egyptian woman as her son's wife is also counted against her as a proof that her conversion to Judaism was not sincere, for "throw the stick into the air, it will return to its root" (Gen. R. , end). This Egyptian wife is explained in the Targum of pseudo-Jonathan to refer to Khadijaand Fatima, the widow and the daughter of Mohammed (see Zunz, "G. V." 2d ed., p. 288, note a).

  • Yalḳuá¹­, Genesis, 79, 80, 95.
S. S.

—Critical View:

While the two narratives, Genesis 16 and 21:9-21, are not directly contradictory, the critical school, pointing to the fact that in both instances Hagar is expelled upon Sarah's request and with the reluctant assent of Abraham, and that in both instances she receives, while sitting by a fountain, a divine message foretelling the great destiny of her son, finds in these narratives two parallel accounts of the origin of the Bedouins, whose racial affinity with the Israelites the latter had to admit, while degrading them by tracing their origin to a concubine of their common ancestor. Accordingly the name "Hagar" is explained as "the fugitive," from the Arabic "hajar" (to flee). Her native country was not Egypt, but Muá¹£ri in northern Arabia, according to Winckler ("Altorientalische Forschungen," pp. 29 et seq., as cited by Holzinger, "Genesis," in "Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament," p. 151). As regards sources, the account in Genesis 16 is assumed to be Jahvistic, with the exception of verse three, which, apparently repeating verse two, is ascribed to the Priestly Code; the account in Genesis 21 is put down as Elohistic.

  • The commentaries on Genesis by Dillmann, Delitzsch, and Holzinger: Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc.
E. C.

—In Arabic Literature:

According to the Midrash (Gen. R. ), Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh, who presented her to Abraham. The same story is told in Mohammedan tradition. When she bore Ishmael, from whose countenance the light of Mohammed shone forth, Sarah demanded her expulsion. Abraham desired to spare her, but Sarah swore to bathe her hands in her rival's blood. Abraham thereupon pierced Hagar's car and caused the blood to run over Sarah's hand, that her vow might be fulfilled without sacrificing Hagar's life. When Isaac was born Sarah's jealousy awoke afresh, and she insisted that Hagar should go. Conducted by the archangel Gabriel, Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael into the Arabian desert, and left them at the place where the Kaaba of Mecca was built later on. As soon as Hagar's scant provisions were exhausted she sought water, running and praying, between the hills Safa and Marwah. This she repeated seven times. At last the archangel Gabriel reappeared, and, stamping his foot on the ground, brought forth a spring. This is the holy fountain of Zamzam, near the Kaaba. In commemoration of Hagar's example, running seven times between the two hills mentioned above has been made an important ceremony in the pilgrimage to Mecca. As the spring provided Hagar and Ishmael with water, they remained there, and Abraham visited them every month. When Ishmael was thirteen years old Abraham was told in a dream to sacrifice him. Satan, however, appeared to Hagar and asked her: "Dost thou know whither Abraham went with thy son?" "Yes," she replied; "he went into the forest to cut wood." "No," said Satan; "he went to slaughter thy son." "How can that be," asked Hagar, "since he loves him as much as I do?" "He believes," Satan answered, "that God has commanded him to do so." "If this be so," said Hagar, "let him do the will of God."

E. G. H.
H. Hir.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Hagar'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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