it’s your fault


Genesis 16


When [Hagar] knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
***

INITIALLY, Sarai’s plan seems successful – at least, it achieves the aim of Hagar getting pregnant. Alas, it also has a result Sarai does not expect. Hagar now looks at Sarai with contempt, despising her mistress. Has her pregnancy given her a superiority complex, because she could conceive where Sarai couldn’t?  Does she dislike Sarai for using her as a vessel for childbearing (although as noted previously, this was not uncommon practice)? The former seems more likely in the cultural context.  (The understanding was that the male seed was inside the woman, who acted as an incubator for it.  Fertilisation was not a known concept!)

Typically human, typically flawed, Sarai goes to Abram and says: this is your fault. You are responsible for what I’m going through. She calls on Yahweh himself to underline her point: may Yahweh judge between you and me.  Yahweh, the judge, the one who knows.

In reality Sarai and Abram cannot individualise the blame for the situation – Sarai suggested it, Abram agreed and then acted upon it.  Hagar’s attitude is also her own.

Abram reacts in a not dissimilar way, giving full responsibility to Sarai to deal with Hagar. He gives her complete power over Hagar, offering Hagar no protection from Sarai’s treatment.

An awkward triangle instead of fulfilled hope.

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