Hagar and Her Many Sisters
The first angel of the Bible was sent to comfort a slave-mother, Hagar, who was chased away by her mistress. Having realised her infertility and the crisis of the Promise, Sarai looks for a solution of her own, and invites Abram to sleep with her slave Hagar, and Ishmael was born. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Something did not work in this solution that had seemed simple: that baby will not be ‘Sarai’s son’, but will always be only Hagar’s. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. Hagar runs away into the desert and it is there, in the place that is always loaded with symbols, that an announcement is made to her. The message of this chapter is very important: the whole Bible is filled with the tension between law and prophecy, obligations and freedom, institution and charisma. The laws-and-institutions of primogeniture and patriarchy are recognised and it is on these foundations that the people and the Law are constituted. At the same time, they are re-dimensioned, blurred and sometimes even rejected by preference given to non-firstborns (Abel, Jacob, Joseph, David…), to slave women who talk to God or a patriarch who is obeying his wife.