HAGAR’S LAMENT

This story is taken from the Book of Genesis (16:1-15) from the Old Testament in Bible. This is a retelling of a story from the point of view of Hagar who was an Egyptian slave woman of Sarah, wife of Abraham. This chapter deals with the religious beliefs of Abraham and Sarah. It does not focus on their treatment towards their slave Hagar. In the story, Hagar is a subordinate character and hence subaltern. It is rewritten from the point of view of Hagar.

I was born a slave. There had been no liberation for my whole generation. In olden days, like the barter system, there was a custom which involved exchange of humans instead of goods. There was a rich Israelite who ‘purchased’ my grandmother as a slave. From then on, her heirs follow the tradition in slavery. In one such instance, I was also made to stand among the slaves. The guard in charge of us was calling out my name Hagar! Hagar! . . . in order to be sold out. I saw an old man and woman approaching me. They looked kind and it seemed to me that they were in need of someone who could take care of them. They were Abraham and Sarah. Both decided to buy me as their slave. And they bought me for some shillings. Days passed and I became one among their family. They did not have any children and desired to have one. Though they were happy, there was a sense of longing in their day- to – day life. Unlike others they treated me well. My mistress Sarah knew that she will not be able to bear a child. She was sad since nobody would be there to call her name after her. So, she recommended Abraham to sleep with me and beget a child. Sarah sent me to be his concubine. Within few months I was conceived. This was happy news for them and me. I was happy that one day my child will gain all the due respect of being Abraham’s son. This made me feel proud and I started to despise Sarah for her inability to bear a child. Abraham showed equal respect and honor for me. This extra affection from him made Sarah dislike me. Eventually, she started treating me cruelly. In those days if a slave disrespects her mistress, she will be treated cruelly or put to death immediately. There will not be any soul to question the injustice done to slaves. I was afraid that I and the child in my womb would be killed. I was forced into an unfortunate situation. In order to save both of our lives I had to run away from my mistress. The next day before dawn I escaped from the house. I was looking for a place of safety. As I was walking in the forest all alone, the thoughts of the past filled me with distress. Sarah was the one who decided to send me as a concubine to Abraham; she did not even think to ask my opinion in that. It was them who wished to have a baby through me. They did not care for my future. Abraham was an old man, and he listened to his wife in order to satisfy their needs. The need for a child made them go to such an extent of even spoiling the life of a young girl like me. Not even for a fraction of a second they thought of me as a human — but as a mere object which could give birth to a child when it’s needed. My feelings were never heard at any point of time. Even when I expressed my unwillingness to be a concubine to Abraham, it was not heard. People in the society thought that Sarah was generous enough to give a slave to her husband. The word slave was depressing in itself. None of them knew me by my name Hagar, but as the slave girl of Sarah. Even when Sarah asked Abraham’s opinions about me being sent away, his instant reply was, “She is your slave and it is your wish to decide what to do with her.” I was shocked by his response. I thought — how could a man be so carefree when he has spoilt my life? If this was to happen to any other girl who was not a slave, the treatment, way of dealing the situation, and the reaction of the society would have been much different compared to my situation. I am now concerned only about my life and the child in my womb. I had faced difficulties and crisis all my life. I hated myself for who I was. I was in a helpless situation. The very thought of rejection made me feel more sad. I was yearning for love. At that time, I was seeking God’s guidance which gave me peace and relaxation. From then on, I could feel his presence in my every action. I trusted Abraham and Sarah, but they did not have any concern for me. Everybody respected them for being religious, but none of them considered this treatment to me as a hindrance. The life of a slave is destroyed easily by facile and complicated reasons. My life is an example of such a situation. The problems of slaves are overlooked, but no one actually delves into the problem. I realised that human love should not be trusted. My sufferings and thirst for love was not noticed by anybody. God chose me as his special child and lifted me high in his throne. I thought my cry was never heard by anyone. But God listened and watched every suffering I underwent. It was he who gave me liberation from all my distress and confusion. He made me realise that human love is temporary, and it is God’s love which will give eternal happiness. This transformation in the forest made me realise what to do and what not to do. God gave me the power of wisdom to take the right decision. And, accordingly, I went back to Sarah and gave birth to my son, which was God’s will.

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