Ban Preacher Greed!

Sarah Hagar and the Golden Rule
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Cashing in on the Unpardonable Sin
Unholy Hell Vision
How Church USED to Be


Scripture commends Sarah for her godliness and trust in the Lord (I Pet.3:5:6; Heb.11:11).  Peter tells Christian women to follow her example in being obedient to their own husbands, and in doing good and living a courageous life. Through such conduct which becomes godly women we can demonstrate that we’re daughters of Sarah in imitating her example of faith in God. But we’re primarily to be followers of Christ. One of Jesus’ most important teachings is paraphrased as “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” (see Matt.7:12 and Luke 6:31).


It’s easy to focus only on the good righteous Bible characters did and neglect to learn from their failures.  Sarah made some terrible mistakes which hurt others, mistakes no godly woman should ever imitate.  Sarah was wealthy and very class-conscious. She and Abraham were slave-owners.  I hate slavery with all my soul.  Had I lived during the 1800’s I would have cheered on the abolitionists. I still seethe to recall how badly black people were treated in the deep South, back in the 50’s and early 60’s.  Dirty restrooms with broken fixtures were reserved for “colored” of both sexes at filling stations. All except the seediest restaurants had “White Only” signs in the window.  I remember watching news stories of cops hosing down demonstrators in civil rights marches and sicking their German shepherd attack dogs on them.  I was just a kid at the time and it left a lasting impression on me.


Funny how those poor black folks weren’t good enough to eat at the local lunch counter but they WERE good enough to risk their lives in World War 2 alongside the poor white guys who got drafted in a bloody fight rich politicians could keep their own sons out of.  Many black servicemen died to keep America free (at least it was free for whites). Even in the service there was racial discrimination. On naval ships black sailors would be kept discreetly out of view down in the hold of the ship, away from the fresh air and sunshine of the deck.  As for black army heroes, what thanks did they get when free donuts and coffee were passed out to the troops?  NO COLORED, PLEASE. 


During World War 2 blood donations were segregated by race.  White racists didn’t want any blood transfusions from black people, but they were more than happy for black folks to donate their blood on the battlefield. To add insult to injury, these brave soldiers returned to a wonderful world which valued them only as janitors, shoe shine boys and house maids. African Americans could act in films, mostly in roles as household servants or Civil War slaves. But it was hard for blacks to get any intelligent, serious role.  Blacks could perform jazz numbers, even sing and dance on stage. They could get roles as grinning goofy village idiots. It was okay to laugh.  But  blacks must never appear angry and frustrated at their plight.  The ruling White Establishment might get mad. 


Not to mention Native Americans,  who lived jobless and hopeless on  a few scraps of barren, arid land the white man didn’t want anyway.  They, like the disgruntled blacks, had to “stay in their place” as second-and-third-class citizens.


So long as Hagar “stayed in her place” (as a useful appliance instead of a real human being with feelings) she did her bit fetching water, sewing, washing, grinding grain, possibly  even minding little Isaac while Sarah rested her aging body.  But once Hagar (and her own son) showed any human feelings and flaws they got disposed of in a hurry.


Cast out the bondwoman and her son! Christian preachers have often quoted Sarah’s harsh order to Abraham without pausing to reflect that “cast out” means THROW OUT! Throw ‘em out like rubbish, and if they get waylaid by brigands, bit by a cobra, or die of thirst, well…tough beans! Hagar and Ishmael were the Bible’s first throwaway humans, devalued by men but cared for by God.


When you consider how nice Abraham and Sarah were to visiting strangers (see Gen.18:1-8), the way Sarah treats two fellow human beings who worked hard for her for years, well, that ain’t a very Christian attitude!   Hagar and Ishmael got shipped out on a nature hike through the burning desert, probably barefoot since slaves didn’t usually wear shoes (ouch!). At least Genesis chapter 21 indicates  that Abraham DID feel uneasy about sending his former concubine and firstborn son to die in the desert.  What a convenient cop out for Sarah. Every top executive looks out for number one when things go wrong by following this rule:  always third-party the blame.  Sarah didn’t kill Hagar, exactly…and if the desert did, she need never know about it and her conscience would be clear. Ignorance is bliss, and no one is so blind as he who will not see. TWICE Hagar would be driven into the hot desert by Sarah’s cruelty.  The first time during her pregnancy, after Sarah had afflicted (probably beaten) her, and the second time when Ishmael was a teenager and Sarah threw the mother and child out of the only home they’d ever known. Abraham and Sarah made Hagar and Ishmael homeless and turned them into vulnerable vagabonds!  How would Sarah have liked to be kicked out of her own home? Ever see homeless folks wandering around a park, pushing a shopping cart, looking for someplace to lay their weary head?  Well, Abraham, lover of hospitality, didn’t even give Hagar and Ishmael a shopping cart or a sleeping bag! They didn’t even have a shady green park to camp in! In a day when you had no homeless shelters, no government War on Poverty, no food stamps, no food bank, no free meals at the Salvation Army.


Imagine what it must have been like for Hagar and Ishmael when the food and water ran out and there was nothing in front of them but blowing dust, shrubbery and rocks baking in the hot sun. Their lips are blistered and cracked, their tongues swollen, they pant for water that isn’t there. Unless some miracle happens they’ll end up as dinner for buzzards circling overhead. Meanwhile, Sarah has plenty of other slaves to fetch her a refreshing drink from Abraham’s deep, cool wells. The two troublemakers are gone.  After seeing how she’d dealt with that rascally Egyptian and her own surrogate son, surely all the other slaves on the plantation will treat her with the respect she deserves.


Slaves were regarded as little more than livestock. If Sarah had a valuable cow which continued to provide her with refreshing milk, would she have been so eager to drive it into the desert like she did this poor, friendless mother? Hagar got treated as shabbily as an old brood mare who gets shipped to the glue factory when she’s no longer useful.


Once Hagar popped the kid out and nothing more was needed from her exhausted, exploited body, there was no incentive to show her the least respect as a fellow human being. Based on the scriptural record, the ONLY time Sarah regarded her slave as human was when Sarah needed a surrogate child-bearer, and it would be in HER interests to allow Hagar to have a sex life (with her own husband). Otherwise, Hagar was viewed strictly as a nonentity, there to serve others, without any right to acknowledge needs of her own.


Notice in Gen.16:3 Sarah tells Abraham to go hop in the sack with her slave girl so SHE can obtain (GET) something out of Hagar. Sarah didn’t just use Hagar’s body to fulfill her own desires, she used Abraham’s as well.  Even if Abraham had no feelings for Sarah’s human household appliance, he had to stir up enough lust in his heart toward Hagar to do his duty and GET Sarah’s desired product.


As in the case of all slaves and masters, there was a wall of separation between Hagar and her owners. Hagar was not free to interact with them as  fellow human beings, just powerful people she dared not cross.  Hagar must never forget their vast superiority on the social ladder, or there would be consequences to pay. Just like a black person paying for groceries would formerly have to set the money on the counter, to avoid contaminating the white cashier’s hand with his touch, lest he rouse the wrath of community racists.  But the black man’s hands were perfectly clean under certain circumstances.  Respectable Southern plantation owners hated manual labor even more than accepting something from the hand of a black person.  The worst of them might recoil with horror at the thought of kissing a black child.  But they had no compunctions about eating food prepared and served by the hands of black slaves, or wearing garments these slaves laundered and pressed. 


Sometime after 13-year-old Ishmael was circumcised to show he was included in the covenant (only to be banished later), Abraham lamented to God how much he wished Ishmael would walk in fellowship with the Lord.  I’ve always said, what you do speaks louder than what you say.  Abraham was faithful to teach his household the righteous ways of the Lord (Gen.18:19).  Godly Abraham is to be commended for that.  So few homes are like that anymore.  But one question keeps nagging at the back of my mind: What if Ishmael’s mother had been treated with more human dignity, instead of like an appliance to be used?  What if Hagar hadn’t labored every day under veiled threat that Sarah might beat her for failure to do a good job?  The essence of slavery isn’t working for wages, but working to avoid pain inflicted by the ruling oppressor. Ishmael certainly saw his mother lugging water jars around every day and running to do Sarah’s bidding. Perhaps Ishmael had even heard how his poor mom got beaten and chased into the desert by Sarah while he was still in the womb. Abraham turned a blind eye, but God saw Hagar’s affliction from high up in heaven. Perhaps Hagar’s misery was even sensed by baby Ishmael in the womb. Nowadays even scientists speculate whether emotional trauma suffered by mothers during pregnancy can affect the fetus. The character of a child is shaped not in his/her teen years, but in their formative years, the first two or three years of life. Despite all the negative impressions that shaped him in his youth, a lot of preachers heap all the blame on Ishmael for not being a paragon of saintliness. Don’t just tell me about God.  Show me about God through keeping the Golden Rule.


And how did it happen to even get recorded in Scripture that God saw Hagar’s affliction? Hagar must have told Abraham about her angelic visitation.  Unless Abraham was informed about this miraculous event, there’s no way he could have passed this story down to succeeding generations.  And surely if Abraham knew what the angel said to Hagar about God hearing about her affliction, then Sarah must have also known about it. Despite the apparent injustice of such an order, the angel instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and submit herself “under her hand”; that is, go back to the mistreatment that drove her away in the first place.


It’s unclear why God didn’t just save poor Hagar a lot of future heartache and allow her to go find some friendly Bedouin tribe to live with after she first fled Sarah’s abuse, particularly in view of a later law He gave in Deut. 23:15-16 which forbids Israelites to force fugitive slaves to return to bondage. Perhaps God wanted to see whether  Sarah might mend her ways once she heard that God cared about what Hagar had endured under her hand. Seems like Sarah would have thought twice about being mean to Hagar if she realized her husband’s God regarded her as a valuable human being. If so, Sarah might have feared divine retribution for continuing her cruelty.  But good intentions are short-lived. Just a few years down the road Sarah would demand that Abraham exile both Hagar and her boy into the hot burning desert with  minimal survival rations.


Sarah USED Hagar to “build her own house” (compare Ruth 4:11), while throwing Hagar and Ishmael out of their own home and tearing them down.  That’s repaying good with evil. And when they were expelled, Sarah probably didn’t pray for them to have a safe journey.


The Law of Sowing and Reaping


Abraham and Sarah were spared punishment for their mistreatment of Hagar, but their descendants paid a terrible price for it. One chapter before Abraham took Hagar to bed, God warned Abraham that his descendants would become slaves in a foreign land where they would be afflicted for four hundred years (Gen. 15:13). Twice Sarah drove Hagar and her son into the wilderness to face possible death. In keeping with “you reap what you sow”, Sarah probably worked Hagar hard, threatening to punish her if she dawdled. Untold thousands of Sarah’s descendants, the children of Israel, would, in turn, be oppressed under cruel Egyptian pharaohs who would work them mercilessly and threaten the lives of their male children.


Just as Hagar and Ishmael suffered hunger and thirst in the wilderness, Abraham and Sarah’s descendants would suffer privations in the desert after they left Egypt (Num.21:5). They would even grumble about getting manna from heaven. They would wander around with no place to call their own.  They would be weakened by hunger and thirst (Psalms 107:4-5). 


That might seem unfair, to punish so many for crimes committed against just two people.  But Sarah and Abraham enjoyed a special closeness to God no one else in their generation knew. And their descendants claimed superiority as God’s Chosen People who held a monopoly on God’s truth (Psalms 147:20; Rom.3:2). Jesus said  the greater your privileges the more is expected of you (Luke 12:48). The servant who knew better got punished the worst for his crimes (Luke 12:47). God holds His people responsible for LIVING what they learn about His ways.


The simple law of sowing and reaping was at work in this sorry situation.  It takes time for the seed to mature, the plant to develop, the fruit to form, and the fruit to ripen for reaping. Picture a single corn kernel planted in the earth. It’s not much, but under the right conditions that single seed can produce a stalk as tall as a man, which in turn produces dozens of full ears containing hundreds of kernels apiece.


Sarah had a grace period where she might have considered her ways and done an about-face (Hag.1:5; (I Cor.11:31). If she had lived by the Golden Rule she could have prevented a lot of resentment and heartache which has continued down to this present day between Arab and Jew. But for the most part she blew it. Even when the angel (for reasons known only to God) ordered Hagar to return to  Sarah, He gave no reassurance that fences would be mended between them, only that Hagar could expect further ill treatment.  Because Sarah and Abraham did not foresee the future consequences of their treatment of their foreign slave girl and her son, they took no personal warning from God’s statement that He had seen Hagar’s affliction.  Quite possibly Abraham and Sarah did not suffer the consequences themselves because of their great faith.  But judgment ripened for the harvest when the Israelites were afflicted in Hagar’s native Egypt.


As human property, Hagar was treated little better than livestock. Being forced to sleep with Abraham was disrespect for her humanity on a very basic level.  Love between a man and a woman, like friendship or forgiveness, is a gift of the human soul which can never be forced out of anyone.  Unless there was genuine love between Abraham and Hagar, it was basically just cold, clinical sex, just like a rancher breeding a heifer. If that’s all it was, it must have felt dehumanizing for Abraham as well. No wonder no love was lost between Hagar and Sarah. No evidence whatsoever that Sarah ever even once said, “Thank you, Hagar, for all you’ve done for us.  Thank you for risking your life to help me provide a son for my lord Abraham.”  For an aristocratic lady to express thanks to a dirty scullery maid would be beneath her. Just like when officers in the Roman army maintained a hard, standoffish attitude toward soldiers of lower rank, lest any friendliness on their part be taken for weakness and there be an uprising against them.  I wonder if Sarah was afraid to show her tender side to the slaves of the camp.




Love Which Never Happened


Preachers excoriate Hagar and Ishmael for being hopeless reprobates.  One writer even referred to Hagar as the mother of Hamas, regardless of the fact not one act of physical violence is ever attributed to Hagar, just verbal sarcasm which most everybody is guilty of at one time or another in their life. Just imagine the chagrin of your typical prejudiced preacher if someday up in heaven, God revealed to him that Hagar was one of his forbears!


As a slave, Hagar had no right to choose her own destiny. A chaotic no-win situation was forced on her which shaped her character development and left her emotions in tatters. Yet Hagar, and the son born because of her exploitation by powerful people, are painted as the bad guys who are to blame for their own glaring human faults.  But I’m just curious.  What would have been Hagar and Ishmael’s response if they had even once heard Sarah thank God for the two of them and praise Him for the blessings they were to her life? Quite possibly, such a prayer would have accomplished what no amount of threats or beatings could have done.  After a prayer like that, perhaps one or both of those “ancestors of Hamas” would have counted it a privilege to serve Sarah and would even have loved her so much they’d even have been willing to die for her.   How might such a loving attitude have transformed Ishmael into a man zealous for the God of Abraham and Sarah!  Thousands of long years of enmity might have been avoided if Hagar and Ishmael had been touched by the love of God through Sarah. The measure of a man’s greatness is not how hard he can crack the whip to create an atmosphere of fear to force little people to work harder.  The measure of a great man (or woman) is how they relate to people low on the totem pole, and their ability to lead through love, not drive through fear.


Hagar: Victim of SEXploitation and Capricious Cruelty


Contrast the shabby treatment faithful Hagar gets to the red carpet treatment New Kid on the Block Rebekah gets from Abraham & co.  When Abraham seeks a bride for his son, the local girls won’t do.  Isaac must take a bride from far-off Mesopotamia.  Abraham doesn’t e-mail Rebecca and tell her to hitchhike to Hebron  to rendezvous with his son Isaac.  No, Abraham really splashes out for this girl.  He sends his Cadillac camel caravan up north  to escort her back to her bridegroom in style. Unlike poor Hagar, Rebecca has  trained bodyguards to fend off possible attacks from banditos and mountain lions lurking in the hillsides. Hagar could have been raped by desert marauders if God hadn’t looked after her.


Rebecca is just the type of girl Isaac needs: well-bred, considerate, courteous and  hardworking.  She showed hospitality not only to Abraham’s servant, but she went the extra mile and watered his ten huge, thirsty camels. I read that those beasts can drink umpteen gallons of H2O apiece.  Rebecca must have felt exhausted when she finished.  Abraham’s servant rewarded her with some nice gold jewelry and chose her to be the bride of Isaac. 


What about poor Hagar?  As a slave, Hagar must have watered her master’s camels hundreds, if not thousands of times.  Not to mention the other endless daily chores.  Or the time SARAH decided to USE Hagar as a baby oven to bake an heir for Abraham.  Hagar had no say in whether she wanted to endure a nine-month pregnancy under primitive conditions  and risk her life in agonizing childbirth, only to lose her motherhood rights after  the baby popped out.  After all she put poor Hagar through, it ended up that Sarah didn’t want to keep the kid anyway. Sort of like when a spoiled little girl whines for a puppy then decides keeping the little critter is way more trouble than it’s worth.


After the puppy wets on her doll the little girl realizes it’s not just a cute fuzzy  toy which exists for her personal enjoyment but a living creature which sometimes makes a mess just from the business of BEING a living creature.

Furious, the little girl scolds her daddy for giving her such a rotten present and yells for him to take Fluffy back to the store.


“But honey,” her dad protests.  “It’s a USED puppy now, and they won’t give us a refund!”

 So the little girl says: “Then take it to the dog pound! I don’t want it no more! He’s too dirty to keep in our clean, pretty home!”

“But precious, they’ll put the puppy to sleep if they can’t find him a home in three days!”

“I don’t CARE!”

“Don’t you LOVE Fluffy?”



“Cause YOU picked the wrong puppy out and that’s why he made such a mess!”


Poor Abraham.  He does what Sarah wants and gets her a cute little baby, but only lands in a big mess when the litter box hits the fan.  Sarah gets her way but she’s still unhappy. Once Ishmael’s cuteness wears off and he does what most brothers do: tease his younger sibling, Sarah wants to send him back to Babies-R-Us.  Might as well kill two birds with one stone and send the mother packing too.  So Hagar and her son are banished with NO pay bonus. No retirement fund.  No severance pay.  No bodyguard, no red carpet to soothe the  heat of the burning sands under their bare, blistered feet.


The Uncontrollable Consequences of Bad Decisions


Rich people tend to be control freaks who use their wealth and power to intimidate poorer people so they’ll get what they want.  Not only that, they think they can control their fate by doing something crazy and assuming that the outcome will have to be favorable because they’re the ones in control. Heady with power, the Rich and Powerful think they can choose the CONSEQUENCES of the words and actions they choose.  Then when things don’t pan out for the rich speculator on Wall Street, he gets mad as a hornet and gets grumpy with the shoeshine boy.


How can you blame the can of gasoline for blowing up if you were the one who struck a match to it and started the chemical chain reaction which upset the normal, predictable course of life? Sarah, mistress of all her eye could see, had set in motion some powerful dynamics she couldn’t control.  No earthly human relationship is more intimate than sex. How could Sarah have expected Hagar to be the same, or even act the same, after shoving her into Abraham’s bed?  Hagar would have had to be a polished actress to come out of that bed the same person she was before. Not to mention she may have been a virgin but that changed too.


Did Sarah think the girl had no more feelings than a block of wood? God stated in His Word that when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship  they become “one flesh” (Gen.2:24).  This was made clear long before Abraham was born. Hagar probably felt her status somewhat elevated after Sarah gave her to Abraham “to be his wife” (see Gen.16:3). Something happened in that girl’s soul when Abraham merged his body with hers.  Whereas Abraham had, up to that time, merely been an exalted master who shouted orders from a distance, now Hagar felt a new soul connection with him that hadn’t existed before. When Sarah forced Hagar to bed down with Abraham she was messing with another person’s soul and trespassing on sacred territory which belongs to God alone (Ezek.18:4), much in the same way Potiphar’s wife wasn’t content with Joseph’s manual labor and demanded sexual favors from her slave as well.


God made man a three-part being, spirit, soul and body.  While a slave owner may boast that he “owns” another human being because he keeps that other, socially inferior, person under control with the lash, he cannot erase the image of God in the unseen part of that person, nor can he claim ownership to that eternal part of a human being fashioned after God himself. Jesus said that since Caesar’s image was stamped on a coin, to give him back what was his own (Matt.22:19-21). Sarah could not claim ownership of another person’s soul.


Slavery: Spiritually Destructive to Both Sides


Sarah soured toward Hagar after the girl gloated over her pregnancy. After a lifetime of owning nothing and being at the beck and call of other people, Hagar gave in to the temptation to be proud. Hagar was no perfect saint, but then, who is?  Hagar just couldn’t hide the fact that at last she felt like a PERSON instead of being a thing for others to use. But Hagar was no good at handling success in such a way as to be considerate of other people’s feelings.  Hagar probably hadn’t been schooled in the social graces like her mistress.  Slaves don’t usually go to charm school to learn how to behave tactfully in interpersonal relationships and how to act humble when they win first prize in the Make-a-Baby Race. Instead, Hagar grew up in a hardscrabble world of downtrodden underlings who fought and clawed their way through life, struggling to get their foot on the first rung of the social ladder. Hagar’s gloating might have been a psychological defense against feeling victimized.  Instead of feeling (and looking) downcast because she was being USED and dehumanized, Hagar made it appear that she wholeheartedly approved of what happened to her, and this forced pregnancy  was something to be proud of after all. Maybe Hagar didn’t love Sarah as the petty humiliations of slavery took their toll on her psyche.  Slavery doesn’t usually make a person holier in their conduct, or build healthy self-esteem.  God did order Hagar back into servitude to Sarah after she was driven away the first time.  But only to fulfill His own purposes.  Had it not been for God’s promises to Hagar, she could never have found the courage to go back to that degrading situation.


Respect wasn’t handed to Hagar on a silver platter like it was to her aristocratic mistress.  Evidently Hagar was in  SURVIVAL mode and  saw Sarah only as a competitor she must triumph over.  The Bible records that Sarah complains to Abraham that she was “despised in Hagar’s eyes”.  Nothing is written about what form it took, probably barbed, catty remarks about Sarah’s continued barrenness and the loss of status that might bring.  Hagar acted foolishly. She should have realized how touchy Sarah was after so many years of suffering the social stigma of barrenness. You just don’t kick someone when they’re down and feeling like a failure.  Hagar was only sowing negative seeds of enmity in Sarah, whose own self-esteem was threatened.


Instead of GENTLY admonishing Hagar and remembering that she too was vulnerable to the pitfalls of fallen humanity (see Gal.6:1) Sarah cracked the whip to show the saucy girl who was boss.  If Sarah didn’t assert her authority, a big rash of anarchy might spread among the other slaves and  the whole plantation would go under.   


Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt.5:7). Many Christian parents forget to be merciful when disciplining their own children.  They expect absolute perfection from immature children ALL the time, and get the switch out as soon as the child whines a little, spills milk, etc.  Such parents forget that their own Father in heaven sees their hardheartedness and will dole out to them the same measly share of mercy they show their own children.  In her eagerness to protect her own power and position, Sarah forgot she too had a Master in heaven (Col.4:1). Those who refuse to show mercy will find mercy in short supply when they need it themselves.  Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant illustrates this (Matt.:18:21-35). 


Rich Folks are NEVER Rich Enough


Despite her childlessness Sarah had much to be thankful for. Unlike poor Hagar, Sarah was above and not beneath, the head and not the tail in society (Deut.28:13). In a world of brutal hardship and gross spiritual darkness Sarah enjoyed a privileged position as the wife of a man with whom God communicated personally, as a friend (2 Chron.20:7; Isa.41:8; James 2:23). Few men in Old Testament history besides Abraham ever attained to that degree of intimacy with God.  Sarah herself would later be blessed with a miracle unheard of in history, at least before modern science invented egg transplants: An elderly woman past childbearing years would give birth to a healthy son.


Sarah lost sight of all God had done for her because her picture of happiness was not yet complete. Sarah saw her cup as partially empty instead of mostly full. Instead of passing on God’s love and compassion to a lonely Egyptian girl trapped in a foreign culture, Sarah went to Abraham to gripe about how it was HIS fault “that slave girl” (Sarah never spoke Hagar’s name) had been disrespectful and forgotten her place.  After the way she’d nagged Abraham to hop into the sack with Hagar, bewildered Abraham wonders why Sarah is angry now that she’s gotten the desired product: a surrogate son. 



Always Dump the Blame on the Little Guy


It’s very unfair when a slave or work subordinate takes the rap for mistakes their boss made. Little guys can’t afford to fail. The weatherman on TV who gets his predictions wrong 99 times out of a hundred is always forgiven.  The pimply teenager who puts onions on the wrong burger gets yelled at as if he’d bungled a heart operation.  It seems like the higher up the ladder you are, the less accountable you’re held for your actions. We hear of corporate execs getting billion-dollar bonuses while their companies go belly-up and shareholders get wiped out.  When the dog dung hits the fan, the  “little people” who do the actual  work get screwed with pay cuts to “tighten their belts” while their rich bosses go on cruises in the Bahamas.  The bigger the failure and the fancier the suit you wear, the greater your chance of getting off the hook. Big banks get billion-dollar bailouts and endless second chances. But you owe the IRS two cents and the men in black suits turn up at your door.  My, what an unjust world this is!


I watched one of my favorite shows: Upstairs, Downstairs, a British serial about relationships between household servants and their aristocratic employers. Edward the chauffeur, asleep with his wife in their room, is awoken at 3.a.m. by Miss Georgina and her intoxicated high society pals, who barge into the bedroom in high party spirits.  Miss Georgina asks the chauffeur for the keys to her uncle’s car.  Edward protests that only he is allowed to drive the master’s car and he can’t hand her the keys.  There are two dilemmas here: Miss Georgina outranks Edward in the household and he’s afraid of crossing her.  Plus, Miss Georgina’s little crowd of party animals overpowers Edward and forces him to hand over the car keys.


The young society lady takes her partying friends out on a joyride.  She runs over a man on a bicycle. The master is furious with Edward for letting Miss Georgina have the keys. Edward knows he was in a no-win situation and it wasn’t his fault.  Edward tells Daisy, his wife, that in all the years he’s faithfully served in this household he’s never been treated with respect and this is the last straw.  Edward packs his clothes to leave.  Until the master calls him into the morning room to apologize for judging him too harshly.  Feeling vindicated, Edward stays.


God Holds Those in Authority Responsible


Hagar, favorite scapegoat of Zionist preachers and rapture authors, was overpowered by Sarah’s will. Hagar was trapped in one of the biggest No-Win situations in scripture.  When Christians take off their rose-tinted glasses and look objectively at what happened to Hagar, it was a kissing cousin of rape, for the simple reason Hagar couldn’t refuse her consent.   None of the fine Christians who sit in judgment on Hagar ever put themselves in her shoes (or bare feet) and wonder if THEY could have done better in that sorry situation. Hagar didn’t seduce Abraham.  She was FORCED to hand over the keys to her own body. The only alternative would have been to run away before Abraham visited her tent that fateful night.


This decision brought conflict and bitterness into Sarah’s life, even though it had all been Sarah’s idea.  What woman wouldn’t be jealous if someone else, even a slave, slept with her husband?  Sarah’s feelings of failure and inadequacy as a woman were exacerbated by Hagar’s proud boasting after she got pregnant.  While even today it’s important to keep the birthrate up to prevent the extinction of the human race, back in Sarah’s day childbearing was THE main reason for a woman’s existence, and her ONLY claim to fame.  Sarah may never have felt she had the right to question whether the LORD agreed with her culture’s limited valuation of the worth of womanhood.


Have you ever wondered why of the few women who appear prominently in the Old Testament, most of them were honored for bearing famous sons (daughters didn’t count much back then)? In that patriarchal society Sarah couldn’t make her mark in history by any other achievement or skill.  She couldn’t be a doctor or lawyer or even an author. She probably couldn’t even read or write.  She couldn’t run for political office.   Unless she bore at least one son she felt like nothing, despite being the beautiful wife of a rich, powerful chieftain.


That’s why Sarah went ballistic when Hagar acted uppity and rubbed salt in an old wound.  But it doesn’t occur to many Christians that it takes two to tango.  If Abraham had stayed out of Hagar’s tent, no pregnancy would have happened to make Hagar proud.  In their eagerness to exonerate righteous Abraham of any blame, they pin all the blame on Hagar, as if she held the authority and Abraham wasn’t responsible for ruling over his own house and deciding what went on in his camp, or even in his own bed. Why is it that the widget welder on the assembly line always takes the rap for decisions made in the corporate boardroom?


Scripture does say Sarah submitted to Abraham, and she did, in a very dangerous, scary situation. Abraham asked Sarah to lie to the Egyptian monarch and claim she was his sister instead of his wife, for fear the Egyptians would kill him and then take her into Pharaoh’s harem.  Abraham saved his own skin, but Sarah risked being raped by the King of Egypt in order to obey her own husband.  God intervened to supernaturally protect Sarah. This sad incident repeated itself when once again Abraham had Sarah lie to King Abimelech about being Abraham’s sister in order to protect him.


But Abraham also knows how to submit. Abraham, lord of all the eye can see, relinquishes his authority to a strong-willed woman.  Instead of firmly insisting that God must be consulted about how to obtain a baby, he gives his meek, weak consent when Sarah demands that he sleep with her slave girl.  Not one word of argument from Abraham against this arrangement is recorded in Scripture. Some Christians deny that Abraham took Hagar as a wife when he slept with her.  But far from sanitizing the situation, denying the surrogate mother marital status only makes Abraham look worse.  Sex without marriage is a sin which conscientious Christians still rail against. In Old Testament times God tolerated polygamy (multiple wives) even if He didn’t exactly approve.  If Abraham had sex with Hagar without making her a secondary wife, what he did wouldn’t be much different from Sarah putting one of their best bulls out to stud with a dairy cow, or ordering Abraham to commit forcible rape (similar to the way many Southern plantation owners “enjoyed the comforts of slave row”).  But Genesis 16:3 clearly states that Sarah GAVE Hagar to Abraham to be his wife, rather than Abraham seizing her by force. But it was still a disgusting situation. Hagar was forbidden to protect the sanctity of her own body.  Sarah could force Hagar to become one flesh with Abraham, even if she ended up getting hurt.


Exploitation Leads to Dehumanization and Cruelty


When Hagar got proud of conceiving her son Sarah vented her rage on her.  Most likely it took the form of beating or other physical abuse, such as hard labor.  This was irresponsible on Sarah’s part because it could have caused Hagar to miscarry. Hagar didn’t even get the gentle, considerate treatment all expectant mothers deserve.  I wonder if even once Sarah showed any concern for Hagar’s health and well-being, or worried that Hagar might die in childbirth (it happened frequently back in those germ-ridden, primitive days). Not to mention the lack of painkillers and professional postnatal care. I wonder if Sarah even once patted Hagar’s hand and expressed sympathy for her morning sickness.


Or did Sarah only happily anticipate the day  HER bun would pop out of her Egyptian baby oven, Hagar? When I bake a pie, I don’t hug my stove or even thank it for doing a great job.  Why?  Because it would look downright nutty to communicate with a metal contraption, and it would be weird to call it by name.  Hagar, viewed by Sarah as a nameless nonentity, was treated similarly, the only difference being I don’t beat my stove when it burns something. It is a serious sin in the sight of God to deny that a person of lower social status is an eternal soul made in His own image.  Hagar’s soul didn’t belong to Sarah.  All the souls of humanity belong to God only (Ezek.18:4).


The cruelest of Southern slave owners worked their slaves hard like machines, denying them decent food and bedding.  These inconsiderate masters treated their slaves worse than their hunting dogs. Cruel masters didn’t bother to waste doctor money on sick slaves, just let them die, then picked up another  one at the human meat market. Did Sarah feel that since she had plenty of other slaves to take Hagar’s place, it wasn’t such a big deal to banish her into the desert to die? The more slaves in the cotton patch, the less value placed on each individual.


Terrified of Sarah’s wrath, Hagar ran for her life, preferring to take her chances out in the hot desert, where she might have died of heat, thirst or other dangers.  I lived in Phoenix awhile and being unused to the heat, I could barely walk across the road without feeling faint. Hagar braved heat, scorpions, snakes and desert bandits to make her way back toward Egypt. She had gone a long way and was resting beside a spring when an angel of the Lord appeared and ordered her to go back and submit to Sarah once again.  The angel  let  Hagar know God had heard her cries of affliction.  Hagar would give birth to Ishmael, who would sire a mighty nation. “Ishmael” means “the God who sees me”.  Those who deny that Hagar had any relationship with God had better read their Bible more carefully. Hagar didn’t do like most of us and tell the angel “No way, Jose,  I’d rather take my chances in the desert than take Sarah’s cruelty anymore.”  Instead, Hagar had enough faith in God’s promise to make a U-turn in the desert and go back to the lion’s den. One article I read on the internet states that there were NO fruits of the Spirit in evidence in Hagar’s life.  What about longsuffering?  In going back Hagar risked further abuse and hostility from jealous Sarah.


Were Abraham and Sarah Spiritually Superior to Hagar?


Abraham and Sarah worshipped God and were counted as righteous through faith. They were preserved in hope of eternal redemption through the FUTURE Cross of Christ, whereas we look back to the Cross. They were counted among the righteous.  But the mystery is that God enabled them to have faith at all in those days before the spiritual rebirth through Christ was possible. Having GOD’s Spirit actually dwell inside of you to shine forth the glorious image of Christ in you is a New Testament doctrine.  The prophet Jeremiah refers to this blessing coming IN THE FUTURE to impart God’s holiness from within, instead of people struggling outwardly to make it happen (Jer.31:33). So not even virtuous Sarah could have developed the Fruits of the Spirit in her innermost being without the Spirit dwelling in her heart through the New Birth experience.   The indwelling of the Holy Ghost  simply wasn’t available before Christ finished His atonement on Calvary (one very rare exception was John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb).


Any growth in holiness Sarah experienced came from her love toward God and her own diligence to observe what she knew to be proper conduct. That internet author was incorrect in implying that Sarah developed Fruits of the Spirit and Hagar didn’t.  Neither of them could, not in the same sense that the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost happens within the regenerated spirits of Church Age Christians. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22). The mystery is this: Even without the New Birth, God did enable both Hagar and Sarah to trust in the Lord when they were in danger, and Sarah eventually rested in confidence that God would give her a son.  God honored Sarah’s trust in Him. Yet the fact remains neither she nor Hagar were born again spiritually as we can be today.  So Sarah wasn’t spiritually superior to  Hagar.  ALL have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Rom.3:23). The best of human righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa.64:6).  If God hadn’t accounted Sarah as righteous through faith and made future atonement for her sins, she would have gone to hell just like the worst sinner who ever lived. We are all equally in need of God’s grace.


Old Testament saints, though dear to God, had not yet been raised to Newness of Life in the same way we are today. It was first necessary for Jesus Himself to make atonement for our sins on the Cross and be resurrected back to life before we could reap the benefit of His resurrection by being resurrected to new spiritual life (Rom.6:4). Before Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, people could not be born again spiritually through the transforming power of the Holy Ghost.  Although God greatly loved and blessed  Abraham and Sarah, Christ did not dwell in their hearts through faith (Eph.3:17). During Old Testament times the Holy Spirit did COME UPON a few individuals TEMPORARILY to  empower them for a special mission (see Num.24:2; I Sam.10:10).  These two examples are Balaam and King Saul, who ended up as enemies of God! These men’s  hearts were NOT regenerated by their temporary visitation from the Spirit of God.  Only in the Church Age has the Holy Spirit come to dwell PERMANENTLY in His people’s hearts to develop the sweet fruits of His character within them. Neither Abraham, Sarah, nor Hagar had this experience of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (see Col.1:27).  Sins could only be put away from the sight of God through temporary animal sacrifices until the coming of Christ made animal sacrifices unnecessary (see Hebrews chapter 10). I compare the temporary covering of sins to COVERING cat mess with litter instead of taking it out of the house .  Cat droppings covered by litter can’t be seen.  But then you carry it completely out of the house and the garbage collector takes it away.  When Christ saved us, He took our sins away completely.


Inadequate Provision and Economic Injustice


The day came Sarah bore a son of her own, Isaac, through God’s miraculous intervention.  If Sarah already disliked and mistrusted Hagar, she must have hated her even more when she saw the two boys horsing around one day (some translations render “playing with” as “mocking” or teasing”). Sarah demanded that Abraham get rid of “that slave woman” (no mention of Hagar’s name) once and for all. And he was to get NO PART of Abraham’s inheritance. Despite the fact Ishmael probably worked for his father as soon as he was old enough to do so, tending livestock, shearing sheep, digging wells, etc. If so, Ishmael had helped to CREATE Abraham’s wealth.  On that basis alone Ishmael should have received at least a token bequest on the basis of his economic contribution to Abraham’s household. Even if Ishmael didn’t always act like an angel, it was extremely mean-spirited of Sarah to deny her stepson a gesture of appreciation for his years of backbreaking labor in Abraham’s camp. The poor are very vulnerable. Their earnings often mean the difference between life and death! But Sarah, lounging in the scented softness of her downy cushions, hardened her heart against the child SHE ordered created to save her from the social stigma of barrenness. Stinginess toward  a poor person, especially if that person is your own flesh and blood,  runs contrary to God’s Word (Deut.15:11; Prov.28:27; I Tim.5:8 ).


When Abraham and Sarah left Egypt (the land of Hagar’s birth), Abraham took away Pharaoh’s generous tax-deductible donation of thousands of camels, sheep, oxen, jackasses and slaves (Gen.12:16,20). More goodies came from yet another king in Gen.20:14) Abraham had more gold and silver than he knew what to do with (Gen.24:35).But Abraham didn’t pop for one penny of child support for this child he and Sarah created, then banished into the desert. Ishmael and his mother didn’t get even one measly donkey to help them move out of camp into the bleak wilderness.  No beast to carry them across the hot sands. You’re far less likely to get snakebit if you’re riding way up on a camel than if you’re walking. Abraham did what Sarah wanted and gave those two disposable peons nothing of the vast wealth they’d helped to create.  Not even out of consideration for the health and safety of two vulnerable, economically exploited souls who had outlived their usefulness to him and his petulant wife.


Essentially being a slave means they aren’t paid to work, just punished if they don’t. But in Col.4:1 (KJV) masters are admonished to “give unto their servants what is just and equal”, knowing they also had a Master in heaven. Even if Hagar was a slave without legal right to a paycheck, it was an insult to basic justice and decency for Sarah to order Abraham to throw Hagar and Ishmael out empty-handed.  Sarah had never had to work her buns off to pay the landlord, gas and electric. Princess Sarah had little idea how the hard sweaty labor of others made her pampered life possible. So what if Hagar and Ishmael ran out of bread in the desert? Let them eat cactus!


Economic injustice is just one of many evils of slavery. Slavery is destructive to the soul of both master and slave. Arrogance and greed motivate slavemasters who don’t want to share the pie. Bitter resentment is buried in the heart of  slaves dehumanized through slavery. Many black slaves of the Old South were exploited for economic gain, only to be left to die untreated when they got sick and old, because it was cheaper to go get another slave than pay the doctor.  Slavery denies the image of God in another human being. Categorizing part of humanity as slaves justifies wringing the last bit of use out of them and then disposing of them so their existence won’t be an inconvenience to you. True, God did agree with Sarah who insisted that Ishmael had to go his own way, and Abraham submitted.  But the way their expulsion was done speaks volumes.  There is NOT ONE parting word of thanks to Hagar and Ishmael from Sarah about how much she appreciated their  long years of toil in that hot climate, to make her privileged life possible.  If Sarah had been there to see them off, would she have begrudged the bit of bread and water Hagar and Ishmael took with them?


Sarah salved her own conscience by denying the humanity of the disposable humans she banished (which is evident by her refusal to use Hagar’s and Ishmael’s names). Soldiers are trained to dehumanize their enemy by seeing their target as an “it” rather than a real live person created in God’s own image.  That way it doesn’t bother their conscience so much to pull the trigger. But Abraham felt disturbed enough by Sarah’s suggestion that he sought God’s opinion on the matter.  God knew the two women could never peacefully coexist.  So He told Abraham to do as Sarah said, and to have no fear for Ishmael, because He would make him into a great nation.


Early next morning Hagar and Ishmael were led to the edge of the encampment. Abraham handed Hagar a bag of bread and a skin of water.  Poor pickings for a man of Abraham’s vast wealth.  After all Hagar’s faithful years of service and risking death to bring HIS child into the world, not one tangible acknowledgment of gratitude. Abraham, widely reputed for his great hospitality, couldn’t spare more than a sack lunch for two fellow humans who’d worked their guts out for him over the years.


I wonder if Sarah was snoozing in bed while all this was going on, blissfully oblivious to the fact that HER decision to exploit someone else’s body had caused so much heartache to others, even affecting hundreds of future generations.  To this day the old grudge of Sarah’s rejection of Hagar and her son is the root of the ancient conflict between Arabs and Jews. The Middle East is a seething hotbed of hatred.  Reconciliation can only come through the power of Christ, who has torn down the wall dividing Jews from Gentiles (Eph.2:14). Thank God for Sarah’s greatest Descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Should Christians Call Ishmael a Mistake?


Many Zionist Christians insist that Ishmael was the biggest mistake of Abraham’s life (I personally think his sojourn in Egypt was his worst mistake).  Christians are correct in saying that if Abraham had sought God about it first, he (probably) wouldn’t have slept with Hagar and Ishmael’s descendants wouldn’t be quarreling with Israelis in the Middle East today.


You should never call anyone else’s birth a mistake (Acts 10:28).  God loves the Arabs just as much as He loves any other nation of people on earth, including those who claim to be genetic Jews. Abraham didn’t assert his authority and tell Sarah they must wait longer for God’s  miraculous solution to his problem of childlessness. So Ishmael was the result.  But not everyone is born under ideal circumstances.  I wasn’t, for two different reasons.  My dad’s first wife cheated on him and had a child by another man while he was shipped overseas during World War II.  When Dad got back, it crushed him to learn what happened.  He divorced his first wife and married my mom. If Dad’s first wife had remained faithful to him, no problem.  But the fact remains she DID cheat on him. A lot of Christians say forgive and forget, no matter how bad someone hurts you.  But what if Dad had been able to forgive this woman? What if he’d stayed with her? He most likely would never have divorced and remarried and I would never have existed.


Even more surprising, I found out my dad’s mother had been engaged to a young Irishman (probably a steerage passenger) who went down on the Titanic.  Grandma met my grandpa a few years later. Their family existed because some other family Grandma would have had with her first love was denied her by a tragic shipwreck many experts now believe was very preventable.


Fictitious Characters vs. Real Ones


I kept one paperback novel entitled Road to Sodom, in my personal library, obtained from a thrift shop and well-worn.  Impressed by its recurring theme of the deep faith and love Abraham and Sarah had for their God, I  treasured that book. Until I wised up to the fact that it was deeply biased in the way it glorified Sarah as a gentle, sweet, golden-haired princess who never lost her temper with anyone.  Ever notice how in novels and movies virtuous heroines are given golden hair (suggestive of an angel’s halo)? When Hagar gets uppity with Sarah, instead of grumbling to Abraham that it was HIS fault for sleeping with the girl and making her disrespectful (see Gen.16:5), and calling down God’s judgment on him after SARAH insisted he do the deed, Road to Sodom shows a tender-hearted, tactful Sarah reluctantly telling her husband that Hagar hurt her feelings (with no angry accusation). In the novel, Abraham says he trusts Sarah to take control of the situation, although there is no need to be cruel.  The Bible simply shows Abraham handing Sarah a blank check to do anything she wished to the slave girl (Gen.16:6). 


How irresponsible and heartless!  Abraham has already humiliated poor Hagar by forcing her to be his concubine, and now that the result of this doesn’t please Sarah, he withholds his protection from her.  He forgets the fact that because of him, Hagar is pregnant with his unborn child! Hagar doesn’t even get the same tender care and protection Abraham would have given his thoroughbred camels.


Prov.12:10: A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.


Even righteous people can do some very cruel things.  Both Sarah and Hagar had a bit of a mean streak in them.  But Sarah was the one who held the power of life and death over Hagar. And only because Abraham gave her that power.


In Genesis 16:5-6 Sarah complains to Abraham that her servant girl is acting uppity toward her.  “Behold, thy maid is in thy hand,” Abraham tells Sarah. “Do to her as it pleaseth thee.” The sky’s the limit, Sarah, the gloves are off.”


Think of it. While Sarah is still steaming mad, Abraham gives her permission to do what she likes with the girl who is now pregnant with his own son, the woman the Bible claims Abraham made his own wife.  Most likely, Hagar hadn’t gotten sold into slavery as punishment for committing some crime.  She’d become a slave because she was poor and vulnerable, and life isn’t fair to the underdogs of society.   Slavery strips people of all human dignity and reduces them to the level of a beast of burden dodging the owner’s stick. After all the humiliation she’s already suffered, not only does Abraham rob Hagar of the only valuable thing she has left, her virginity, he leaves her unprotected and exposed to the fury of a powerful woman bent on revenge.


Sarah is the bully but Abraham himself is the BULLY ENABLER, the head honcho who authorizes the abuse.  Now, let’s say there were no Amnesty International laws against torture back then.  What if Sarah had felt like chopping off Hagar’s nose or slicing off her ears?  What if Sarah had felt like throwing Hagar in a pit full of red ants to teach her a lesson? What if Sarah had kicked Hagar in the belly and caused a miscarriage? If that had happened, well, Sarah would only have been carrying out Abraham’s orders to “do unto her as it pleaseth thee”.


Better to land in a hot frying pan than in somebody else’s hand.  To be in someone else’s hand is to be in their power, unable to escape whatever they decide to do to you.  Even the Psalmist David thought that being at the mercy of another human being’s capricious moods was worth worrying about. After David committed a sin, the prophet Gad offered him a choice of three punishments, one of which meant David would have to run away from his enemies. 


I Chron.21:13: And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait (dilemma): let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.


David knew how cruel human beings could be. Where the Love of God is absent from the human heart, it is capable of great evil. If someone is in a position to hurt you and holds a deep enough grudge against you, the Golden Rule of DO UNTO OTHERS ONLY WHAT YOU WANT OTHERS TO DO TO YOU goes out the window. How many rash killings have been reported in the news just because some disgruntled employee FELT LIKE blowing away the big bad boss?  How many parents have crippled their tiny children in a fit of raw rage, in the heat of the moment, just because they’d had a rotten day and they just FELT LIKE IT!


Various laws given to Moses centuries later would have offered Hagar some protection had they been in force in Abraham’s day. Leviticus 19:34 commands Israelites to love the stranger (foreigner in the land) as themselves. Hagar was a foreigner, an Egyptian, and slave or free, this would have applied to her as well. If you love somebody else the same as yourself, you won’t do anything to them you wouldn’t want others to do to you. Would Sarah have sent herself out into the desert to die, with little food and water?  Would she have whipped her own body if she thought she’d sinned, or asked her own husband to send her away into the wilderness?  Sarah’s inability (refusal) to feel the pain of “socially inferior” entities would have broken God’s law given through Moses.


Ex.22:21:  Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.


Ex.23:9: Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.* * * *Abraham and Sarah did sojourn in the Land of Egypt in order to obtain food in time of famine. Now they were back in their own land while a lonely Egyptian girl was made to feel unwelcome now that she was no longer of any use to Sarah.


Deut.10:17: For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which REGARDETH NOT PERSONS, nor taketh reward:
18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. ****God plainly states here that He is no respecter of persons, and He LOVES the foreigner. He expects the Israelites to also love the foreigner.  Sarah failed to do this when she exploited and oppressed Hagar.


Deut.15:12: And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14 Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.* * * * Even if the case is made that since Hagar was not a Hebrew so this law would not have benefited her even if it had been in force in Abraham’s day, her son was a Hebrew by birth because of descent from Abraham.  Technically, Ishmael was a free man, since he had originally been adopted by Sarah, Abraham’s free wife (Gen.16:2), even if his biological mother was a foreign slave. And, Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son.  When Hagar and Ishmael left Abraham’s camp, they should have gone with at least one hee-hawing donkey loaded down with the finest produce of the land, even if Abraham was too cheap to contribute a camel.


Deuteronomy 21:15-17 commands any man with more than one wife to always give the firstborn son a double share of the inheritance, even if his firstborn son is the child of the wife he loves less. Abraham took Hagar as his wife, according to the Bible, so God was standing by as witness to this marriage (Gen.16:3). And no, it’s not a valid excuse to say Abraham and Sarah could treat Ishmael and Hagar like dirt because Hagar was a foreigner. God commanded Israelites to LOVE the stranger in the land. Boaz married Ruth, a Moabitess.  King David was part Moabite through Ruth, and part Canaanite through another ancestress, Rahab the harlot. God also recognized their marriages as valid. Abraham humiliated Hagar by forcing marriage and pregnancy on her.  Would Abraham have enjoyed going through similar treatment? Instead of dealing bountifully with Ishmael, his own firstborn son, Abraham caved in to pressure from his first wife Sarah to completely disinherit the lad  who had been confirmed in their faith through circumcision, same as Isaac. Merciless, vindictive Sarah forbids Abraham to give his firstborn anything.  Ishmael isn’t even allowed a pack mule to carry away the few provisions Abraham gives them to stave off thirst and starvation! After all Hagar’s hard years carrying things and fetching water for wealthy Abraham and Sarah, she must carry her drinking water and bread many miles until it runs out.


Some might argue that God ordered Abraham to give in to Sarah’s demands that he disinherit Ishmael and send the two of them away empty-handed. So that’s why it’s no big deal that all Hagar and Ishmael got was bread and water.  But Abraham had other sons besides Isaac, the son of promise.  After Sarah died, he took another wife, Keturah, and other concubines as well (see Gen.25:1-6). When their sons grew up, Abraham sent them away like he did Ishmael.  Abraham left his entire estate to Isaac.  But before he died, he sent these concubines’ sons away with gifts, presumably to help them make their start in life.  That’s more than Abraham did for his firstborn son.  Ishmael survived through his wits and his hunting skills in the wilderness, not because his dad provided richly for his future.


Just like divorce usually impoverishes a modern woman while making the husband wealthier, when Abraham divorced Hagar he gained and she lost.  Never again would Abraham have to feed her or her son or put clothes on their backs. Never again would the sight of this wronged, wounded woman be a pinprick in his conscience. Out of sight, out of mind.


 If Hagar was poor and unloved while she lived in Abraham’s camp, now she was utterly destitute. When God gave those aforementioned  laws to Moses, was He thinking of the crappy treatment Hagar and Ishmael got from the righteous couple who exploited them, then refused to make a charitable donation to ease some of the poverty and homelessness they’d just created? Once again I’ll sing the sad old  refrain, I can’t believe they couldn’t spare even one damned donkey!


Road to Sodom sanitizes away the cruelty of Gen.16:6, and lays the blame on Hagar, the powerless, oppressed slave who doesn’t even own the rights to her own body.  Instead of afflicting (probably beating) the pregnant Hagar so badly she ran away into the desert, Sarah (very reluctantly, and only after further outbursts from Hagar) gives her two light taps on the shoulder with a willow switch.  Hagar runs away not because Sarah hurt and scared her, but because Hagar is angry and rebellious after being chastised by the gentle Sarah, who had allegedly never struck anyone in her life. But the Bible indicates much harsher treatment because in Gen.16:11 God tells Hagar that He has heard about her suffering. If you barely feel two gentle taps on your shoulder, reluctantly administered by a mild-mannered disciplinarian with a tiny twig, surely that doesn’t hit the headlines in heaven. I’m more inclined to believe Hagar was whipped out of the camp by a roaring lioness of a woman, much like an unwanted dog is chased away with flying rocks. No record of any concern or intervention by Abraham, one of the most hospitable people in the Bible. Abraham, whose very name means “exalted father”,  washed his hands of all obligation to protect his own unborn child from Sarah’s rage.  More than likely, Hagar wasn’t just worried about her own safety.  She was worried that Sarah, who’d forced this pregnancy on her to begin with, might hurt the child by hurting her. The REAL truth is stranger than fiction!


Out in the desert Hagar experiences the first of her two encounters with God, Who saves her life by providing water.  God tells Hagar to return to her mistress and submit herself under her hand (in other words, go back to suffering more of the same from Sarah) because God would reward Hagar with many descendants through her son Ishmael. The desert was an extremely dangerous, inhospitable place.  Hagar would only have fled Abraham’s camp, her only source of food and shelter, to escape a serious threat to her well-being.  And when God ordered her back, only real faith in Him would have given her the courage to return to her hostile mistress.  Yet the novel depicts Sarah as being a very gentle, soft-spoken   angelic figure who bent over backwards to get along with everybody.  The book leaves the reader wondering why Hagar didn’t realize she had it made, working for such a sweet soul as Sarah.


In the novel Hagar’s character of “Egyptian arrogance” and ill-concealed hatred is contrasted with Sarah’s saintly, gracious, kindly temperament.  Hagar is demonized as a lusty exotic dancer who gets Lot’s hormones raging. She is murderous, ungrateful, cunning and spiteful.  Ever notice how Bible characters are often romanticized as the good guy and the bad guy, either extremely good or extremely evil?  I believe the real truth is all people on earth are a mixed bag. NOBODY’S  the “good guy” because ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory  and are in need of redemption (Rom.3:23).  Even the Virgin Mary needed a Savior (Luke 1:47).


In the book, Abraham reassures Sarah that even if he sleeps with Hagar to create a son, “she will in no sense be my wife”, contrary to Gen. 16:3 which clearly states otherwise. What really made red flags go up was a statement in the closing part of the book when Abraham is relieved that God doesn’t require him to sacrifice Isaac and he is so happy that God has made everything turn out okay.  Abraham realizes that Isaac is his ONLY son because “in God’s eyes Ishmael didn’t even exist.”  If that’s so, why would God appear TWICE to his mother to give a special message to express his concern for this non-existent offspring of Abraham (Gen.16:7-12; 21:17-18)? In Genesis 21:13 God promises to bless Ishmael BECAUSE HE IS ABRAHAM’S SEED. How could Ishmael be non-existent in the eyes of the God Who created him, then appeared twice to him and his mother, as well as telling Abraham he intended to bless Ishmael because he is Abraham’s seed? Do I sense any contradictions?


God doesn’t drop in on every Tom Dick and Harry on the planet. TWICE God miraculously provided  water to refresh Hagar’s thirst, once when Ishmael was already born and by her side.  God don’t do that for nobodies who don’t exist! Whereas before, they had depended on the limited water supply and provisions of an earthly master, now they had a Father in heaven Who could sustain them with Living Water.  Hagar now had a relationship with “The One Who Seeth Me.” Now she could relate to God as a person, rather than as Sarah’s slave, second-hand through her master Abraham.  In her second desert encounter with the Lord, He no longer refers to her as “slave of Sarah”, but simply asks “What’s troubling you, Hagar”?


True, Ishmael wasn’t the most spiritual egg in the carton, but TWICE God speaks to Hagar audibly about his destiny and speaks words of comfort to her.  If anything, Hagar seems to have been more open to hearing God’s voice than Sarah, who laughed in disbelief when God brought a message for her, too (Gen.18:13-15).


Road to Sodom’s allegation of Ishmael’s insignificance to God is based on Gen.22:2, where God commands Abraham to take his ONLY son Isaac to the altar of sacrifice.  This incident happened after Hagar and Ishmael’s banishment, and Abraham seemed to have lost all contact with Ishmael.  Before Ishmael was sent away God affirmed that Abraham’s Promised Seed would spring from Isaac.  In the sense of being THE Seed of Promise, Isaac WAS Abraham’s only son. But nowhere does God state that He ignores the existence of Hagar and Ishmael. I sensed the novel was strongly biased.


In return for sweet Sarah’s alleged kindness, Road to Sodom’s Hagar allegedly harbors murderous, malicious hatred in her heart, which Scripture never once ascribes to this socially disadvantaged, exploited,  downtrodden woman.   This fictitious warped character plots little Isaac’s death.  She tempts the boy to eat poison berries. She urges Ishmael to be cruel to little Isaac, and to walk away when Isaac cries for help after she lures him into a too-deep swimming hole on a hot summer’s day. Seems to me if Hagar really had been guilty of such vile crimes, God never would have appeared to her after her second expulsion into the desert, to save her life and reaffirm His promise to her.  Instead of being treated favorably by the Lord, Hagar would have incurred His wrath for attacking Abraham’s family.  Instead of getting a blessing she would have fallen under a curse (Gen.12:3). Funny how Road to Sodom has Hagar exit Abraham’s camp (and the book) on a sour note, with no mention of God’s second appearance to her in the desert!


The novel whitewashes the true Biblical record of how a furious Sarah drives Hagar out into the hostile wilderness a second time. Instead of laying the blame squarely where it belongs, on Sarah for being jealous, the second expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael happens as a sentence of banishment for attempted murder!  This makes for sensational reading, but it is not recorded in scripture.  The fictional Sarah expresses concern that Hagar and Ishmael be punished as mercifully as possible for their dirty dealings with baby Isaac. Sarah magnanimously  insists that Ishmael must have his portion too because he is Abraham’s son. Contrast this with the cold-hearted record of scripture where Sarah demands that Abraham cast out the bondwoman (no name used) and her son (again, unnamed) and not let HER (Hagar’s) kid inherit ANY of his father’s wealth because it’s all Isaac’s (Gen.21:10). In that verse you can almost hear the shrill voice of meek, gentle Sarah ORDERING Abraham: “Cast out the bondwoman and HER son, for he shall not be heir with MY son, Isaac!”


Contrary to Road to Sodom’s airbrushed, sanitized version of Hagar and Ishmael’s expulsion, Sarah wasn’t in any mood to give those disposable people anything but the air they breathed and a boot up the backside. The Sarah of Biblical record contrasts sharply with the one in the novel in her attitude toward Hagar and Ishmael.


Hagar and Ishmael’s final scene in the novel happens when they’re banished out of Abraham’s camp, with no mention of God’s second appearance to save their lives in the desert. Hagar and Ishmael leave sullenly, but fully aware that it’s their own fault for plotting Isaac’s death.  They’re relieved to escape with their lives because they expected to be executed for their alleged threat on Isaac’s life.  Much of the writer’s material came from LEGENDS, not from the Word of God.  Legends are of doubtful value.  Legends are like Chinese whispers where someone says something, then it’s repeated a thousand times, till the original statement is so embellished that the truth becomes a lie.


Abraham asks Ishmael if he ever intended to kill his baby brother.  Ishmael confesses to jealousy and other bad attitudes, but said it never was in his heart to do such a thing.  With that assurance, Abraham pronounces a parting blessing on  Ishmael. Ishmael and his furious, unrepentant partner in crime, Hagar, leave Abraham’s camp so Ishmael can go make his way in the world as a proper son of Abraham, contradicting the book’s claim that not only does God count Isaac as Abraham’s ONLY son, God doesn’t even recognize Ishmael’s existence!


The book laments the unreasonable, murderous hatred the Arab would always have for the Jew.  Nothing is said about the hatred various Israelis have shown toward Gazans trapped on a tiny patch of land with nowhere to run. Nothing was written about the malice of helicopter pilots who dropped tons of burning phosphorous on people running for shelter. Nothing about Israeli soldiers using Palestinian children as human shields. Not to mention the Israeli gunships targeting poor hungry Palestinians wading in shallow beach water looking for a few fish to stave off starvation. Or the hospital ship forced to turn back by Israelis who threatened to blow it out of the water.  Or, more recent accounts of humanitarian aid ships being intercepted by ISRAELIS (alleged sons of Abraham who can’t even PROVE their personal genealogical lineage from  him!) who want to play God and decide who lives and who dies. It’s taken TWO sides to fight this ancient feud, and like the Hatfields and the McCoys it will take a miracle to end it.


Shocked by viewing the suffering of Palestinians on TV, I threw that tattered old book away, determined never to be brainwashed again by Christian Zionist preachers and biased authors.


Paul Taught Salvation by Grace, Not Race


In Romans 9 Paul tells us that the children of the promise, not the natural children, are counted as Abraham’s seed. This can be understood from two different perspectives.  Preachers point out that Hagar could NATURALLY bear Abraham a son while Sarah conceived hers by believing God’s promise.  That’s true.  But the flip side of the coin is this: ANYONE, of whatever nation, can become a spiritual child of Abraham and a child of the promise through FAITH, regardless of racial origin.  Christians are biased by Zionist teachers who imply that Jews are more special to God on account of their alleged racial origin (funny how nobody is ever asks professing Jews for documented proof of their descent)! So to stay on God’s good side duped Christians send money to fuel Israel’s war machine, allegedly to bless “God’s Chosen People”.  But these same Christians who profess faith in the Christ Who said “Love thy enemy” turn a blind eye to genocide committed by Israelis against Palestinians, even CHRISTIAN Palestinians.


The Golden Rule is NOT Being Kept in Israel Today


Did you know that some Israelis stood on a hillside and cheered while poor starving Gazans got bombed repeatedly with white phosphorous, which causes permanent burns that re-ignite over and over and over again in human bodies? What bravery, just like shooting a caged rabbit! This mean-spirited attitude violates Proverbs 24:17-18 which warns us not to rejoice when our enemy falls, or else God will be displeased. Why isn’t there more of an outcry among Christians about the malice these Israelis have shown toward besieged, hungry, sick Gazans?  WHICH JESUS DO WAR-MONGERING, ZIONIST CHRISTIANS SERVE?  Surely not the Christ Who healed a Roman centurion’s servant, and ministered to the Samaritan woman and her fellow villagers (representatives of traditional enemies of Israel).  Surely not the same Jesus Who taught people to give food and water even to their enemies, and never once ordered Christians to “support Israel” by funding supersonic murder machines for their military through their generous donations and tax dollars!


People have short memories, and the murderous Establishment counts on that. It’s been many months since the Israelis bombarded poor Gaza with illegal phosphorous fumes and killed innocent civilians while continuing to cut off food and medical aid to Gazans.  But you hardly hear a peep of protest out of Christians.  You’d think that little baby in Gaza PLOTTED to be born on that tiny patch of dirt which is the most crowded place on earth, a hell hole denied access to clean water, adequate sanitation and nutrition. That evil little terrorist has sinned against “God’s chosen people” by being born in THEIR land and his very existence is an offense to the God Who made him.  While Christians continue to pour money into a Zionist apartheid, ANTICHRIST (against Christ) state which blasphemes Christ and calls His mother a whore, Israelis waste water on swimming pools and lush landscaping while Gazans must line up at tanker trucks to collect contaminated drinking water.


Many Christians have a rose-colored romantic view of the Holy Land, blissfully oblivious to the very unholy human rights violations going on there.  They aren’t aware that it’s against the law to preach Christ in Israel and you can be deported for doing so.  No one seems to notice all those Christian Israelis being persecuted and harassed every day.  Any Arab who puts his/her trust in Christ as Savior is infinitely more righteous in the sight of God than a natural Jew who rejects Christ. The body of a Christian Arab is just as much the temple of the Living God as is the body of a white American believer. It’s bad enough to target a non-Christian noncombatant, and God will judge anyone who does this. But anyone who kills a Christian Arab through illegal blockades and bombing will face the wrath of Almighty God for destroying a temple of the Holy Ghost (see I Cor.3:17).


In the Old Testament racial origin counted for a lot!  In Joshua’s time whole ethnic groups were wiped out on the basis of race.  But this is the New Testament and things have dramatically changed, though some Christians try to mix the best of both covenants and keep those elements of the Old Testament which pander to their own prejudices.  Whereas you once had to be a genetic Israelite or at least a proselyte to their religion in order to have hope of salvation, now children of FAITH IN CHRIST are the children of the promise. Hagar’s descendants are just as eligible to hear the gospel, receive Christ and enter into the blessings of our New Covenant as any natural Jew. In I Cor.16:22 Paul disregards race and pronounces the strongest curse on ANYONE who doesn’t love Jesus (Gk. anathema).  So why do Christians think God still runs His program on the basis of race, not grace?


Put the shoe on the other foot before you judge someone else as being unworthy of eternal life. How would YOU feel if you were imprisoned in a grotty ghetto blockaded by a mighty military power, unable to even earn a decent living for your family, and unable to go elsewhere to find a better life?  What if YOUR child died of preventable illnesses or malnutrition, or simply lost the will to live because there was no way up out of their dungeon of despair?  It’s stretching it to expect a Spirit-filled Christian to forgive such atrocities committed against their own family.  How much more difficult must it be for people who don’t even know Christ as Savior!


If I EVER again hear any preacher exalt all Jews as holy and demonize all Arabs on the basis of race, or if I hear them preach that “heathen” Hagar and Abraham’s son Ishmael and all the Arabs were a big mistake and never should have been born, I’m gonna get up and walk out in protest!