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Hagar

HAGAR

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 16.116; Elohist source in 21.921), 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. 25.1226; 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 4.2131 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), 2:508509. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 4041. j. gabriel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Frieburg 195765) 4:1314. g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 1:5556. c. h. gordon, "Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets," The Biblical Archaeologist 3 (1940) 112. r. t. o'callahan, "Historical Parallels to Patriarchal Social Custom," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 6 (1944) 391405. j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959).

[e. martin]

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