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3 Important Lessons We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible

3 Important Lessons We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible

When we first meet Hagar in the Bible, she is an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai (later called Sarah), the wife of Abram (later called Abraham). Sarai was infertile and desperately wanted a child. God had told Abram that he would have an heir, a son, and yet as time passed the aging couple still didn’t have a baby (Gen. 15:2-5).

Mistakenly, Sarai thought the Lord had kept her from having a baby so she came up with her own plan to give Abram a family. (Gen. 16:2)

In those days, a maidservant had no rights and was required to comply with whatever her owners told her to do. When her barren and desperate mistress Sarai decides to use Hagar as a surrogate to provide her husband Abram with a child, Hagar has no option but to obey. Abram agreed and slept with Hagar and she became pregnant.

This seems like an odd practice to us today, but it was actually an ancient custom in biblical times to ensure the birth of a male heir.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez 

What Happened to Hagar in the Bible?

When Hagar learned she was carrying Abram’s child, she felt superior to Sarai and the Bible says she “began to despise her mistress” (Gen. 16:4). Maybe Hagar was upset that her mistress forced her husband on her, or she felt rejected that Abram didn’t treat her as a wife, and she took her frustration out on Sarai. Whatever the reason, she wrongly thought that her pregnancy empowered her to treat Sarai with contempt.

When the relationship between the two women deteriorated and became hostile, Sarai complained to her husband. Abram told her that Hagar was hers to do with what she wanted; he wasn’t going to get involved with their dispute. Sarai took that as permission to mistreat Hagar, so pregnant Hagar ran away into the desert. But what she didn’t expect was an encounter with God.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Gen. 16:7-9

The angel of the Lord also told her she would have a son and name him, “Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Gen. 16:11)

So obediently, Hagar returned, gave birth to her son, and stayed on as Sarai’s maidservant. Sixteen years later, Sarai, now renamed by God Sarah, finally had her own miracle son as God had promised, but like any older brother, Ishmael started teasing his little toddler half-brother Isaac. Sarah was having none of this and demanded that her husband, now called Abraham, send Hagar and her son away . . . this time permanently.

The child [Isaac] grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Gen. 21:8-10)

Abraham, now the father of both sons, protested but to his surprise, God intervened and incredulously told him to let them go.

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[a] will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Gen. 21:11-13)

Reluctantly, Abraham agreed and sent Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert with food and water.

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. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Gen. 21:14)

God has lessons for us to learn from every biblical story and He tells us the story of Hagar in the Bible so we can apply what she learned to our own lives. Here are three important life application lessons.

Lesson #1 We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible: God Never Rejects Us

Lesson #1 We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible: God Never Rejects Us

Hagar must have lamented her painful mistreatment and abandonment. Why was all this happening to her? When her hurt and despair caused her to flee into the desert the first time, she was surprised but also very relieved and blessed that God met her there. She realized that even in her lowly position in life, she was important to God and he hadn’t rejected or forgotten her.

It was hard to hear that God wanted her to go back to Sarai and endure her abuse, but then God gave her a name for her son, Ishmael. God said that he would even multiply Ishmael’s descendants. Wow, that was quite a promise, which God did fulfill in later years.

Hagar agreed to God’s plan and called the Lord, “The God who sees me, for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Gen. 16:13)

He heard her cries of affliction. Amazingly, she, a slave girl, was the first recorded appearance of God face to face in the Scriptures. Others had heard his voice or seen visions, but here was God in person.

Remember, when it seems like others are rejecting you God sees and hears you. He always accepts you. Don’t let rejection by others define you, but allow it to refine you. Hagar had the confidence and security in God to humbly return to Sarai and Abram and fulfill her role in biblical history.

Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Ps. 66:20)

The Lord will not reject his people; he will not abandon his special possession. (Ps. 94:14 NLT)

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Motoki Tonn

Lesson #2 We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible: God Is Near to the Brokenhearted

When Abraham sent Hagar and her son Ismael into the desert, it looked like they would surely die when the supplies Abraham had given them were exhausted. Now her precious son who God had given her and even named would starve to death. It was too much for her to bear. She couldn’t watch as he curled up in a fetal positon under a tree, but she couldn’t block out his starving moans and wails.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. (Gen. 21:15-16)

But, what was she hearing now? Could it be a second encounter with God?! Yes, he had heard the cries of her son and asked her what was wrong? The Angel of the Lord spoke to this distressed mother yet again and reassured her not to be full of fear or sadness. Just as he had promised, God reaffirmed that her son’s legacy would be a great nation.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” (Gen. 21:17-18)

When we’re in deep despair, our tendency often is to try to shut out the world, and sometimes that includes shutting out God. But God is the one who understands our distress like no human can. Sometimes he will put people in our life and speak through them to comfort us, but what he longs for us to do is to bend our ear towards him and listen. Let his presence comfort us with the hope that he’s going through this with us and he always has a plan if we open our eyes to see our opportunities and listen to the wisdom he whispers in our prayer time.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)

Lesson #3 We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible: God’s Plan Is Always the Best Plan to Follow

Lesson #3 We Can Learn from Hagar in the Bible: God’s Plan Is Always the Best Plan to Follow

When Hagar opened her crying eyes, to her astonishment there was a well of water in the middle of the desert. Only God! She ran to fill her wineskin and gave her thirsty son a refreshing drink.

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Gen. 21:19)

Bravely, Hagar believed God and trusted that even as a single mom rejected and stranded in the middle of nowhere, if God said it was so, then she would trust him and obey again. And God was faithful to his promise.

God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. (Gen 21:20-21)

God has a powerful lesson in the story of Hagar in the Bible. Through no fault of her own, she became entrenched in Sarah and Abraham’s contrived plan to fulfill God’s promise themselves instead of waiting for God’s perfect timing and plan. We can’t outsmart or out due God. His plans always are for good and will prevail, but we’ll pay a price when we’re impetuous and prideful thinking we know best.

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. (Gal. 4:22-23)

Just as God promised, Ishmael became a great nation but to this day, his descendants continue to be in conflict with the nation founded by his half-brother Isaac.


I include Hagar in Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith because she didn’t let the hard life she encountered defeat her. She had a personal experience with God and he protected and provided for her. She understood that God was the one she could depend on and trust and he would make a way when circumstances seemed impossible.

Even when we don’t see God face-to-face like Hagar did, or maybe have trouble feeling his presence, our faith assures us of the truth that we are never alone. God has promised to never leave or forsake us even when others disappoint us or even abandon us. God is always just a prayer away.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5b)

Further Reading

Hagar in the Bible

How God Met Hagar in Her Deepest Need

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/ipopba 

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books. Her passion is to mentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet’s new release is Everyday Brave: Living Courageously As a Woman of Faith available at AmazonChristianbook.comBarnes and Noble, and signed at author’s website. She is also the author of Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s FaithfulnessForsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has ForgottenDear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!Praying for Your Prodigal DaughterFace-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at Join Janet on FacebookLinkedInPinterestTwitter, and Instagram.

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