There she was, in the blazing desert sun, exiled by leader-of-the pack Abraham, whose wife, Sarah, had decided she just couldn’t stand to have Hagar (Genesis 16 and following) around anymore. Some of it might have been Hagar’s fault. She probably did act a bit prideful or conceited. Sarah, believing she was unable to bear children (she gave it a good shot, finally succeeding at age 90) but in the meantime, had sent husband Abe into maid-servant Hagar’s tent so as to conceive a son, which, by rights, would have belonged to Sarah. Complicated, but that’s the way it was back then. And Hagar’s attitude ticked Sarah off, thus the expulsion into the desert.
But who would have guessed what was to happen next? Hagar is of the few women with whom God actually talks. And she did something that no other woman did, something that no other men did, except for Jesus. She named God. She refers to God as “El-roi,” the all-seeing God. She is recognizing that God has seen her and will save her from certain death.
Such naming of God reminds us of Jesus referring to God as “Abba” — Daddy — in the Garden of Gethsemene on the night before his death. Surely Hagar was feeling her death was rapidly approaching as well. Such moments of intimacy are compelling.
Hagar and Abraham’s son, Ishmael, is the ancestor of Muhammed, and thus the traditional mother of Islam. Hagar is indeed a significant figure who has been overlooked throughout the ages.