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One of the most interesting women in the Bible is Hagar, Abraham's second wife, and the mother of Ishmael. The Arab and Bedouin tribes claim to be descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar.

According to the Midrash, Hagar was the daughter of King Pharaoh of Egypt. When she saw the miracle which G‑d performed for the sake of Sarah, to save her from the hands of the Egyptian king during Abraham's visit there, she said: "It is better to be a slave in Sarah's house than a princess in my own."

Her name "Hagar," according to the Midrash, stems from this beginning of her association with Abraham's house. It comes from "Ha-Agar," meaning this is the reward.

Hagar became Sarah's Maid, but when Sarah was not blessed with children, she persuaded Abraham to take Hagar as his second wife. Sarah hoped that she could bring up Hagar's children and merit G‑d's blessing that way, so that she, too, perhaps might be blessed with a child.

Abraham took Sarah's advice and married Hagar.

When Sarah's hopes began to be fulfilled, it brought her unexpected suffering. For, as soon as Hagar realized she was to have a child, she began to look down upon her mistress who apparently could not have one.

Sarah reminded Hagar that she, Sarah, was the mistress, and Hagar was but her maid, and she made Hagar work harder than ever. Hagar then ran away into the wilderness. There, an angel of G‑d appeared to her and ordered her to return to Sarah and treat her with the respect due to a mistress. He told her that for this she 'would merit giving birth to a son whose voice G‑d would hear (Yishma-El), who would be strong fierce, a man of the wilds and respected among her people.

Our Sages give Hagar much credit for not being frightened at having seen the divine angel, while even Manoah, as the T'nach tells us, feared that he would die because he had seen an angel of G‑d. This, say our Sages, shows how pious Hagar was, and how she had become adjusted to the saintly life of Abraham's house, where angels came and went as constant guests.

Later on, after Hagar's return and Ishmael's birth, things went well for all concerned. Sarah, too, was blessed with a son, Isaac. Ishmael was then already thirteen years old and he seemed to have inherited a wild nature through his mother's ancestors, for he was a bad influence on Isaac. According to one view of our Sages, Hagar was a true believer in the G‑d of Abraham. The Torah tells us that Ishmael mocked Isaac and often tried to frighten him. Again Sarah insisted that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away if Isaac were to be prevented from following Ishmael's evil ways.

Abraham was very reluctant to send Hagar away, and especially his son. But G‑d told him to do as Sarah wished and Ishmael would yet become the father of a great nation.

Hagar and Ishmael lost their way in the wilderness near Beer-Sheba and ran out of water. A terrible death from thirst threatened them, but they were saved by a Divine miracle. Hagar had put her son in the shade of a bush and moved away some distance, not bearing to watch him suffer, when an angel appeared again to her, assuring her that G‑d had seen her son's suffering and would save him. He would live, and become the father of a mighty nation. As the angel spoke, Hagar immediately noticed a well nearby.

Our Sages say that Hagar showed then her faith in G‑d was not genuine. For when her son suffered she doubted G‑d's promise.

Many of our ancient Sages speak favorably of Hagar who never remarried. She lived together with her son who had built his home on the edge of the wilderness and became a famous hunter. The Sages say that he possessed Adam's coat which he had taken from King Nimrod. (This coat gave the wearer power over animals).

Despite living with Ishmael so far from Abraham's influence, Hagar remained faithful to him. Therefore, after Sarah's death, Isaac himself went to her and took her back to his father to be again his father's wife. The Torah now calls her "Keturah," meaning "tied" to Abraham, for she had kept her faithful bond to Abraham; and it also means an adornment," for her good deeds. As the Torah tells us, she bore more children to Abraham. None, however, was as important as Ishmael.

The Midrash tells us that not only was Hagar reunited with Abraham, but her son, too, became a penitent and returned to the G‑d whom he had served in his father's house, and whom he had forsaken during his wild life as a hunter and ruler of nations. Abraham thus lived to see Ishmael become his true son.

Later on in the Bible, we find Hagar indirectly mentioned once more as the mother of several tribes of Hagarites, neighbors of the tribes of Israel. They lived in Trans-Jordan ("Ever HaYarden") and were driven away by the Israelites.

Interesting are also the legends which the Mohammedans tell about Hagar and which, in general, agree with the reports of our own tradition. To them Hagar was the ancestor of their prophet Mohammed, and naturally they attribute all kinds of miracles to her, of which neither the Torah nor the Midrashim tell us.

Hagar, as our Sages picture her, was a woman of humility and piety. Indeed, few others were privileged to have an angel of G‑d speak to them twice, and produce miracles for them.

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Discussion (17)
January 22, 2017
Was Hagar "ha Ger"?
I'm wondering if there is any credibility to the contention that Hagar's name was derived from 'ha ger', which accurately reflects her subordinate to Sarah, outlander status in Avraham's household. Then, after Sarah's death when she receives the name Keturah, it reflects her true status as a princess and a noble soul, no longer a 'stranger' or convert. Do chazal make any comment in this regard? Thanks for your response.
Yehudit Katz
October 26, 2016
I agree that love is the link that connects all the incidents in Hagar's life. Love of God, her, husband, Sarah, her son. Sacrifice is another. She always put other's needs above her own.
Margret Brady
October 17, 2016
Thank you for this informative article .. I'am really proud to hold this name Hagar or Heger , even if I'm neither Arabic nor jewish ^^
June 1, 2016
So it is assumed Hagar and Keturah are one and the same. It is not actually stated that way in the Book of Genesis. It sounds like an attempt to explain where she came from, because her sudden appearance in Genesis is somewhat mystifying. I think she was a different person, how and why Abraham took another wife we may never know. It is said in Genesis when Abraham died Ishmael along with Isaac buried him. So now I understand Judaism interprets this to mean Ishmael once again lived in Abraham's household? What about his twelve son's atleast one of which could be identified with an Arab or Middle Eastern nation: Kedar. Evidently Abraham & Ishmael had some type of contact later in life, or people of Abraham's house knew how to locate Ishmael for the funeral. I think the claim Ishmael resided with his father at a later date is an attempt to explain the son's later burial of the father. There's really no evidence. Scripture is largely silent on these issues.
New York
February 10, 2016
Kushites and Jews
I am a Kushite ( Nubian ) and would like to know a bit about the relation between Jews and Nubian as there are many similarities of names.
February 7, 2016
Margaret Brady, may I use your comment in promotion for my screenplay, Your Name Must Be Love Love, in which Hagar is what you say here?
Cathryn Kelley Smith
October 20, 2015
Why is Hagar not Identified as African, or biblically as Mizraim, connecting her to Ham? Egypt is a name given to that region millenia after, and it is european in origin, at a time when Europe didn't exist. Although, the name Africa is also debatable, but if we are to choose any quasi european terms, than African or Mizraim is more appropriate! The term Egyptian, is more proof of the Eurpeanizing of biblical characters! Let's ask some real questions...why is this?
October 19, 2015
Is Hagar Jewish?
Is Hagar Jewish? If Abraham & Sarah are considered the first Jews, might Hagar be considered the third Jewish person?
March 18, 2015
More education is needed among faiths
Wouldn't these accounts of history be a perfect reason for peace among Jews and Arabs~?
After all we are cousins~!
Havre de Grace
June 26, 2014
My inquisitive mind led me to your site. How wonderful to compare and be informed. The information is as accurate as can be.
To some who do not Read the Bible and the Chabad and Midrash will remain in a fantasy state of mind. History is well recorded . Thank you for this awesome insight on history, which is still unfolding.
Esther Rivera Delgado
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