Did you know the first person in the Bible to give God a name was a woman? Not just any woman but an Egyptian slave?
Hagar was the “servant” of Sarai. Sarai instructed her husband Abram to “go in to” Hagar. Frustrated by her inability to conceive a child for Abram Sarai makes Hagar become her surrogate only to deal harshly with her once Hagar conceives. Things get so bad that Hagar while pregnant decides flee into the wilderness. A pregnant woman alone roaming the wilderness of the ancient near eastern world was akin to suicide. Yet something happened that Hagar did not expect out in the wilderness. She had an encounter with the divine.
We are told that an angel of the Lord found her by a well and delivered her a message from God. I find it amazing that Hagar who had previously resigned herself to quite possibly dying in the wilderness or falling into the hands of another who would enslave her decides to heed the message and go back to Sarai. Keep in mind, Hagar is Egyptian. She has no context for Abram’s God. Heck at that time Abram had very little context of who God was, which is evidenced by the fact that Hagar is the first one in the scriptures to give God a name. Even before Abram.
And she calls God, “You are a God of seeing.”
She goes on to explain, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
Think about that for a moment. Being seen, being heard, was enough for Hagar to go back to a terrible situation with no promise of her interaction with Sarai or Abram improving. That wouldn’t have been my recommendation.
Abram is what Bible scholars refer to as one of the “patriarchs” of the nation of Israel. You can’t have patriarchs without being in a society that is defined by patriarchy or male dominance. In a very odd and surprising way this story in the Bible is undoing patriarchy in a very small and subtle way. A female foreign slave is the first person mentioned to give the God of Israel a name in the Hebrew scriptures.
Hagar named her son Ishmael, which means “God hears”
Why do I share this story from scripture?
The Kavanaugh Ford hearings have dominated the headlines the last few weeks. In the meanwhile.
Bill Cosby got sentenced 3 years for drugging and raping a woman. It only took thirty plus years for one of the dozens of women who accused him of rape to be heard.
Some guy in Alaska after pleading guilty to kidnapping a woman sexually assaulting her was sentenced to zero days in prison. The judge explained, “I doubt he’ll do it again.”
The former longtime Michigan State gymnastics coach is going to trial for lying that no gymnasts had informed her team doctor Larry Nassar was sexually abusing them and others twenty years ago.
My Facebook feed has been filled with stories from women. Stories of how they have been raped or sexually assaulted. Stories of how their parents or husbands shamed and silenced them though they were the victim.
While the story of Hagar certainly elicits the question, “Well if God sees, then why doesn’t God intervene?” perhaps that is not the most pressing question. I’m a Christian. I am part of the Body of Christ. Therefore any question or challenge I’m willing to issue God regarding what he is or isn’t doing in the world I need to be willing to submit myself to the same question.
Do I see?
Do I hear?
Will I intervene?
I will likely never cross paths with any of the major players in this Supreme Court Judge confirmation saga. But daily I cross paths with women who are tired of being seen as objects. Daily I cross paths with women who are tired of only being heard as a nag. Daily I have an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to intervene and guide me in all truth and see women not as the world sees them but as Jesus sees them. To undo the dredges of patriarchy and toxic masculinity I’ve been infected with.
What did Jesus see that he broke protocol and talked to the Samaritan woman at the well?
What did Jesus see that he refused to stone the woman caught in adultery?
What did Jesus see that he invited Martha to join Mary in sitting in the place and posture reserved for his disciples?
It’s ironic that Jesus in his life saw woman in a way that men of his time and place did not. Perhaps he knew that women would be the first to see the empty tomb and that the men would not believe them.