HAGAR (Heb. הָגָר), Egyptian maidservant of *Sarah (Sarai). The tradition involving Hagar is preserved in two narrative cycles. The passage in Genesis 16:1–16 records how Hagar was given to Sarai's husband Abram as a concubine (1–13). When Hagar conceived, she became contemptuous of Sarai, who, in turn, abused her until she fled into the desert (4–6). There, by a spring, Hagar encountered an angel, who exhorted her to return (7–9) and gave her a favorable oracle concerning her future son to be named *Ishmael (10–12). Hagar named the place in honor of the event (13–14). Finally, she bore Ishmael (15). The second tradition (Gen. 21:8–21) records that after Sarai – now Sarah – had borne Isaac, she demanded the expulsion of Hagar and her son. According to the Septuagint, she was distressed to see Ishmael playing "with her son Isaac." Upon receiving divine reassurance (12–13), Abraham reluctantly banished Hagar (14ff.) to the desert, where she and Ishmael were saved from death by divine intervention (17ff.).
The problem of surrogate motherhood arises elsewhere in the Bible (Gen. 30:3) as well as in Hammurapi's code and in legal documents from the ancient Near East and Egypt spanning over a millennium. While there is as yet no exact parallel to the Hagar stories, these documents attest to the possibility of a slave's son becoming an heir, the slave woman's lack of deference to her mistress after bearing children (Hammurapi, 146), and the mistreatment of the slave by the mistress.
Contemporary critical scholarship regards the first tradition about Hagar as predominantly j (Jahwist), with p (Priestly) inserts comprising verses 1a, 3, 15–16; the second is agreed to be entirely e (Elohist). As a whole, however, the literary transmission of these narratives has long presented difficulties. The problems are both literary and chronological. The literary problems arise from the fact that both accounts involve the banishment of Hagar (16:6; 21:14), the encountering of an angel who provided an oracle (16:7–12; 21:17–18), and the presence of a well (16:14; 21:19). It has been suggested that two independent versions of Hagar's banishment originally existed, the first referring to her pregnancy and the second to the time after Isaac's birth. Consequently, some scholars resolve the assumed conflation by judging 16:9 to be a late redaction whose purpose was to give sequence to the narratives; others assume that the naming of Ishmael was deleted in the second tradition. These difficulties are lessened if the narratives are considered separate crystallizations of the Hagar-Ishmael saga, each one limited and both integrated by the root šmʿ (שמע4; 16:2, 11; 21:12, 17). Each would serve both as an independent version of the etiology of the Ishmaelite-Hagarite tribes and a literary foil for the Isaac theme interwoven through it. However, the combination has introduced a chronological problem which did not exist when these traditions stood alone. According to Genesis 16:16, Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born and 100 when Isaac was born (21:5), which would make Ishmael more than 14 years old at the time of his banishment (21:10ff.). This difficulty has resulted in various attempts to account for the conflation, as, e.g., the view that an account of the banishment of Hagar and her young son was combined with an account of the birth of Isaac in Abraham's old age.
As a female name Hagar is well attested in ancient Arabia in Palmyrene and Safaitic. There is probably no connection between Hagar and the Hagrites (Knauf), an ethnic group named in Chronicles (i Chr. 5:10, 19, 20; ii Chr. 5:20). The etymology of Hagar is obscure, but some scholars have connected it with an Old South Arabic word meaning "city, area."
[Maurice Friedberg /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
In the Aggadah
Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh. When "Pharaoh saw the deeds performed on Sarah's behalf in his house, he gave Hagar to Sarah, saying; 'Better let my daughter be a handmaid in this house than a mistress in another's'" (Gen. R. 45:1). According to Philo (Abr., 251), Sarah testified about Hagar her handmaid, not only that she was a free woman of noble disposition, but also that she was a Hebrew in her way of life. Hagar was given to Abraham after he had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan (Gen. 16:3) since a man having no children from his wife for ten years may not abstain any longer from the duty of propagation (Yev. 6:6). As soon as Hagar was with child she began to slander Sarah, saying to the ladies who came to visit her mistress, "My mistress Sarah is not inwardly as she appears outwardly. She pretends to be a woman of piety, but she is not, as she has prevented conception in order to preserve her beauty" (Gen. R. 45:4). When this came to the notice of Sarah she took Abraham to task for remaining silent at these taunts and she also made Hagar do servile work despite the fact that Abraham objected to any burden being added to that of childbearing (Gen. R. 45:6). Four or five angels visited her after she fled from Sarah but Hagar, who was quite accustomed to the appearance of these celestial beings in Abraham's household, was not at all startled (Gen. R. 45:7). When Hagar came to the wilderness, she took up the idol-worship of the house of her father Pharaoh (ibid.; pdre. 30). However, she gave it up when it proved worthless (Targ. Yer. Gen. 21:16). Hagar is identical with Keturah, whom Abraham married after the death of Sarah (Gen. 25:1). She was so called, because after having gone astray after idols, she again attached herself to a life of virtue (keturah, lit. "attached"; Zohar, Gen. 133b; Gen. R. 61:4).
[Elimelech Epstein Halevy]
D.H. Mueller, Die Gesetze Hammurabis (1903), 139–41; J. Skinner, Genesis (icc, 1910); F. Dornseiff, in: zaw, 52 (1934), 67; R. de Vaux, in: rb, 56 (1949), 26ff.; E.A. Speiser, Genesis (1964); N.M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (1966), 127–9; Ginzberg, Legends, 1 (1909), 223, 231–2, 237–9. add. bibliography: J. van Seters, in: jbl, 87 (1968), 401–8; T. Frymer-Kensky, in: ba, 44 (1981), 209–17; N. Sarna, in: jps Torah Commentary Genesis (1989), 119; E. Knauf, in: abd, 3:18–19; D. Graf, ibid., 24.
Egyptian slave girl of Abraham's wife Sarah. When Sarah gave up hope of providing Abraham with an heir, she offered Hagar to her husband, a procedure which, according to marriage contracts found at Nuzi, was expected of a barren wife (see Gordon, 3). In both of the Genesis accounts (Yahwist source in 16.1–16; Elohist source in 21.9–21), Hagar, after incurring Sarah's jealousy, is driven out of the household with her young son, Ishmael. In the desert she is visited by an angel of the lord, who, besides saving her from perishing, promises that Ishmael will grow into a powerful nation. Thus, as mother of the 12 tribes of Ishmael (Gn. 25.12–26; cf. Bar 3.23), Hagar is the first in a series of non-Israelite women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth) singled out for a special role in salvation history.
In Galatians 4.21–31 St. Paul utilizes the Hagar story "by way of allegory" to illustrate the contrast between the Old Law and the New. Just as the offspring of Hagar are slaves, since they are born of a slave, so, too, they who are offspring of the Old Law are slaves. The New Law, however, like Sarah, gives birth to free offspring. In contrast, Hagar's offspring was "born according to the flesh," i.e., as a purely natural phenomenon, whereas the birth of Sarah's son Isaac was in fulfillment of a divine promise; so, the Jews are but the natural descendants of Abraham, whereas Christians are "the children of the promise." Finally, St. Paul contrasts the Old Covenant given on Sinai, which is "a mountain in Arabia," the land of Ishmael, with the New Covenant, which is bestowed from the New Jerusalem above. These contrasts are climaxed by the Pauline conclusion: "cast out the slave girl and her son."
Bibliography: m. newman, g. a. buttrick, ed., The Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, 4 v. (Nashville 1962), 2:508–509. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 40–41. j. gabriel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Frieburg 1957–65) 4:1314. g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935–) 1:55–56. c. h. gordon, "Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets," The Biblical Archaeologist 3 (1940) 1–12. r. t. o'callahan, "Historical Parallels to Patriarchal Social Custom," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 6 (1944) 391–405. j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959).
In Islam, Hagar is the wife of Ibrāhīm (Abraham), who was sent out by him, with their son Ismāʿīl (Ishmael), into the desert. Hagar's running between two small hills, in search of water, is said to be the origin of the rite of saʿy, ‘running’ between Ṣafā and Marwa, which is part of the ritual of ʿumra.
Hagar (hā´gər) or Agar (ā´gər), according to the Book of Genesis, servant of Abraham's wife Sarah and mother of his eldest son, Ishmael. She and her son were sent out into the wilderness because of Sarah's jealousy. An angel aided her there. Islamic tradition associates various sites in and near Mecca with events in the lives of Hagar and Ishmael as recorded in Genesis. A site adjacent to the Kaaba is identified as the burial place of Hagar and Ishmael. St. Paul uses Hagar as a symbol for the bondage of the Old Law.