Summary: God is sensitive to the plight of the outcast... to those who are marginalized or living on the fringes. God sees, hears, and helps.
Title: What about the Second Wife?
Text: Genesis 21:8-21
The Big Idea: God is sensitive to the plight of the outcast… God sees, hears, and helps.
Let me begin by saying that this is a rather convoluted story. It is intricate and involved. To convolve something is to roll it together into a coil... to create a writhing, twisted mass. Perhaps an image we can wrap our minds around is that of the twining of the vines of plants growing together.
Our story is about a woman named Hagar. Her circumstances are complicated… Was she a slave / servant / handmaiden to Abraham’s wife, Sarah? And / or was she a wife to Abraham? It is a legitimate question. The long history of slavery in our own country resulted in the births of children by slave women fathered by their masters. One such master / slave relationship is that of the storied Thomas Jefferson and his alleged slave mistress, Sally Hemings.
As the story of Abraham unfolds in the book of Genesis, God promised Abrahamm that he would be the father of a great nation in Genesis 12. Years later, when Abraham was concerned that he would die without an heir meaning, all that was his would pass on to his servant Eliezer, God reaffirmed his promise, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own to inherit everything I am giving you…” Genesis 15:4-7
A few weeks ago I misplaced my debit card so Bonnie and I decided the better part of wisdom was to cancel the card… we did. The next morning I found the card slipped under the door of my study. It was inconvenient but a new card was issued in about a week.
Meanwhile, I had an online transaction set up for an automatic payment from the original, now cancelled card. This week I received an e-mail from the online service under the heading, “Houston, we have a problem” which went on to explain that the account numbers they were submitting no longer worked.
Abraham and Sarah had a problem but Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was a problem solver. God made Abrahamm a promise and in that she was incapable of bearing a child, she thought it would be helpful to offer a workable solution.
Genesis 16:3 states, “Sarah, Abraham’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant, and gave her to Abraham as a wife.”
Hagar was not a surrogate mother in this case… she was not to have a baby that would then be raised by Abraham and Sarah as their own. Sarah’s intention was that Abraham father an heir through Hagar, who is described as a wife. In Genesis 21:11, God spoke to Abraham referring to Hagar as his “servant wife.”
The recent interest stirred by a polygamist sect in Eldorado, Texas and sheriff’s surveillance of similar sects in Delta and Montezuma Counties here in Colorado, have raised significant concern for the well-being of children being raised in a polygamist environment. Specifically there is legitimate concern regarding the arranged marriages of underage young women to older men. Though a quite different set of circumstances, this is a story about a polygamist marriage in the bible that raises the issue of the care and well-being of a second-wife and her son. Does God care about her and her son?
We pick up the story in progress in Genesis 16 where we are reminded:
1. If you move ahead of God, you will likely make a big mess!
“So Abraham slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant . When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress Sarah with contempt.” Genesis 16:4
There is an old idiom that states, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” In other words, it is really hard to take something that is ugly and course and transform it into something delicate and beautiful. If something is not good to begin with, it is really hard to make something good of it.
What Abraham had on his hands was a sow’s ear of their own making. The offering of Hagar as a wife and Abraham’s taking of Hagar as his wife was not a good beginning of a healthy family. It was the beginning of what turned out to be the making of a family as dysfunctional as dysfunctional gets.
In verses 5-6, we see the impact this bad decision had on their family.
“Sarah said to Abraham, ‘It’s your fault! Now this servant of mine is pregnant, and she despises me., though I myself gave her the privilege of sleeping with you. The Lord will make you pay for doing this to me!’ Abraham replied, ‘Since she is your servant, you may deal with her as you see fit.’ So Sarah treated her harshly, and Hagar ran away.” Genesis 16:6