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Genesis Chapters 16 and 21 give an account of Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid who was given in marriage to Abraham, bore him a son, Ishmael, and was later turned away so as not to stake claim of inheritance. Gen 16:8 and 21:7 show that God was in touch with Hagar through his angel, and had compassion for her.

Some Jewish writings claim that the woman named Keturah whom Abraham married at the age of 100 plus after the death of Sarai, was in fact Hagar with a new name.

At Galatians 4:22-25, St. Paul also mentions the name of Hagar, albeit in an allegory.

In retrospect, one feels that Hagar (who, judging by modern standards, could have won a legal suit against Abraham) did not get what was due to her and was made to suffer for no fault of hers. She in deed deserves some reverence for her meek suffering. My question therefore is: Is there a place of reverence for Hagar in Christianity? Do the teachings of Catholic Church mention the meekness of Hagar as something worth emulating?

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    For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. Galatians 4:25. Do 'bondage' and 'reverence' go together ? – Nigel J Nov 5 '20 at 10:34
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    She was a woman who, by a natural reading of the text, appeared to have at least some faith in God. I don't think there's anything wrong with this question. – curiousdannii Nov 5 '20 at 12:05
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    I believe the question remains a valid one. – Ken Graham Nov 5 '20 at 16:41
  • Thanks Ken Graham for the informative answer. I was really taken up with the gesture of Abraham when he saw Hagar and his child off to the desert : "Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy (Gen 21:14) ." Clearly, Abraham had strong feelings for Hagar in that he set the provisions on her shoulder , a job he could have very well got done through a servant . – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Nov 6 '20 at 4:47
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According to Catholicism, is there a place of reverence for Hagar in Christianity?

Do the teachings of Catholic Church mention the meekness of Hagar as something worth emulating?

The short answer is no.

Hagár, the Egyptian servant of Sarah, who gave birth Abraham’s firstborn Ishmael, the progenitor of the Ishmaelites holds no particular honour or reverence within the Catholic Church or even in Christianity in general for that matter.

St. Augustine of Hippo referred to Hagar as symbolizing an "earthly city", or the sinful condition of humanity.

Later on both St. Thomas Aquinas and John Wycliff expounded on the same point of view of St. Augustine about Hagár.

Hagar is a biblical person in the Book of Genesis. She was an Ancient Egyptian servant of Sarah, who gave her to Abraham to bear a child. The product of the union was Abraham's firstborn, Ishmael, the progenitor of the Ishmaelites, generally taken to be the Arabians. Various commentators have connected her to the Hagrites (sons of Agar), perhaps claiming her as their eponymous ancestor.

The name of the Egyptian servant Hagar is documented in the Book of Genesis; she is acknowledged in all Abrahamic religions. Hagar is alluded to in the Quran, and Islam acknowledges her as Abraham's second wife. According to Islamic tradition, Hagar the Egyptian is named as the "Grand Mother of Arabians" and her husband Abraham the Mesopotamian as the "Grand Father of Arabians".

Christianity

In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle made Hagar's experience an allegory of the difference between law and grace in his Epistle to the Galatians chapter 4 (Galatians 4:21–31). Paul links the laws of the Torah, given on Mount Sinai, to the bondage of the Israelite people, implying that it was signified by Hagar's condition as a bondswoman, while the "free" heavenly Jerusalem is signified by Sarah and her child. The Biblical Mount Sinai has been referred to as "Agar", possibly named after Hagar.

Augustine of Hippo referred to Hagar as symbolizing an "earthly city", or sinful condition of humanity: "In the earthly city (symbolised by Hagar) ... we find two things, its own obvious presence and the symbolic presence of the heavenly city. New citizens are begotten to the earthly city by nature vitiated by sin but to the heavenly city by grace freeing nature from sin." (The City of God 15:2) This view was expounded on by medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and John Wycliffe. The latter compared the children of Sarah to the redeemed, and those of Hagar to the unredeemed, who are "carnal by nature and mere exiles".

The story of Hagar demonstrates that survival is possible even under harshest conditions.

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  • Actually Augustine was referring to and expounding upon Paul. – Mike Borden Nov 5 '20 at 21:23
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Egypt raises it's ugly head again in this account. Egypt nearly always represents the bondage of sin in the Scripture and that bondage is linked strongly to flesh and contrary to promise.

Think of Esau trading what was promised for immediate satisfaction and Jacob employing deceit to obtain now what God could deliver to him if it was His will.

Think of Israel in the wilderness longing for immediate security represented by the "fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. - Numbers 11:5" when, indeed the cost was slavery and all the promises of God.

Think of Abram "going down to Egypt" to escape famine in the land. There he virtually pimped his wife for fear and material gain. He left Egypt with possessions (ill-gained) so great it forced separation between he and Lot. It is likely that Sarai acquired her handmaid Hagar while in the land of bondage.

Now Abram and Sarai are aging and the promise of God for offspring is waning fast. Hagar is put forth as the means (fleshly, immediate) of actuating God's promise. As soon as Hagar conceives the Scripture reports:

And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. - Genesis 16:4

This does not indicate a spirit of meek obedience but, rather, the haughty pride of the flesh which exalts itself above and looks with contempt upon the promises of God. This is why Paul allegorically contrasts the two in Galatians. Paul is deeply concerned because the Galatians are being coerced to go back under the law...to go back into bondage...to grasp with the flesh that which is obtained by promise. Contempt always follows because it is borne of disappointment.

The law exposes and magnifies sin when righteousness and peace are sought there. Righteousness and peace are of promise. Seeking freedom through slavery produces contempt for those who are truly free by promise. And so, Hagar, producing by flesh what was to be of promise and knowing that flesh had actually circumvented promise rather than wait for it in faith (for Ishmael was no true heir of promise):

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son. - Romans 9:6-9

This Hagar looks with contempt upon the means of promise and, by extension, the promise giver. This blog post from Catholic Exchange looks, in part, at Hagar's return to captivity as a prefiguring of Israel's yet future slavery in Egypt:

Hagar, the slave from Egypt, foreshadows Israel, the future slaves in Egypt.

but it does not say anything in regards to Hagar prefiguring Israel's refusal to come out from under the bondage of the law when her Messiah arrived. However the account in Genesis 21 indicates that the contempt of Hagar has been passed along to her son:

And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” - Genesis 21:8-13

And so Hagar looks to be a picture of God's faithful providence through Abraham as well as judgement for contempt toward the promise.

This is handled somewhat in Augustine's exposition of Galatians which Ken Graham referenced ably in his answer above.

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  • The Bible tells us to revere God (Psalm 22:23) and Christ Jesus (Ephesians 5:21), not any man or any woman (+1). – Lesley Nov 5 '20 at 14:49
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    This actually says nothing about Catholic thought on the subject of Hagar. – Ken Graham Nov 5 '20 at 16:19
  • It needs to be stressed that Hagar did not learn humility until after her pride and contempt for Sarah and her miracle child, Isaac, got her into such difficulties that only God could deliver her and Ishmael; which he graciously did. This encourages us all to be swift to repent when we become arrogant, so Christians gladly accept that Hagar learned that lesson, and respect her for the place she occupies in scripture. But respect does not go as far as reverence. (+1) – Anne Nov 5 '20 at 18:45
  • @Ken Graham I thought the question sounded open enough for a non-Catholic answer. I will take it down if you wish. – Mike Borden Nov 5 '20 at 21:29
  • No need. Would be nice if you could add a Catholic source, if possible. – Ken Graham Nov 5 '20 at 21:32

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