COLLATERAL DAMAGE: A Study of Hagar, Part 1

Have you ever suffered collateral damage as the result of someone else taking things into their own hands instead of waiting on the Lord? Or maybe just the results of the fleshly behavior of someone else, or resentment or lack of forgiveness?  Or have you suffered because of a loved one's addiction or some other sin?  Maybe your own resentments and unwillingness to forgive have caused collateral damage in someone else life.  Sometimes in studying forgiveness, when people are encouraged to forgive, we hear things like, "You only hurt yourself when you don't forgive."  Or, "You are the one in chains when you hold on to unforgiveness and resentment."  But that's not really accurate.  Being at the receiving end of resentment and bitterness due to lack of forgiveness can be excruciating.  Sometimes it can feel as if a two ton boulder is suffocating the life out of you.  In a sense, a loved one's lack of forgiveness can place chains that can only be removed by the act of forgiving.  So what are we suppose to do when we suffer collateral damage?


Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines collateral damage as this: injury inflicted on something other than the intended target; specifically: civilian casualties of a military operation.

Hagar was the collateral damage of Sarai and Abram's decision to take matters into their own hands instead of waiting on the Lord for what He had promised them. We will study her story in Genesis 16.

I will be using the New King James Bible and the Blue Letter Bible Outline for Biblical Use and Strong's for the meanings of words in this study.

For context of this study, in Genesis 12, God told Abram to get out of his country and from his kindred to a land that God would show him.  This is the beginning of the initiation of the Covenant that God would make with Abram.  The passage says that Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.  It goes on to say that Abram took his wife Sarai and Lot, his brother's son and all their possessions and the people who they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Genesis 12:6-9: "Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh.  And the Canaanites were then in the land.  Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'  And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.  So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South."

If we continue on in the chapter, we learn there was a severe famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there.  It's noticeable that there is no record that the Lord told Abram to do this.  We also see this is when Abram first tells Sarai to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister. Verses 11-13: "And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai, his wife, 'Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.  Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, "This is his wife": and they will kill me, but they will let you live.  Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that  I may live because of you.'"

So, they went to a place where there is no indication that the Lord told them to go and were not being truthful about their situation.  Definitely trust issues going on there.  This is most likely where they picked up Hagar.  Chapter 13 starts with Abram going up from Egypt with his wife and Lot and all their richness of livestock, silver and gold.  They went back up to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, and again, Abram called on the name of the LORD.  The passage goes on to tell how the land was not able to support all that Abram and Lot had.  Their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.  This is the well known passage where Lot separates from Abram and is a study all on it's own.

For this study, we will pick up with verses 14-18: "And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: 'Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are––northward, southward, eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.'  Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD." (Emphasis mine.)

Mamre means "fatness" or "strength."

The result of fellowship is fatness and strength in the sense of fullness and fulfillment.

As a side note, the theme of wilderness has been prevalent throughout these studies.  So I looked up to see where the first mention of wilderness is.  It is in the next chapter of Genesis, chapter 14.  There was war going on among the kings of the land, among which were the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The first mention in the Bible of wilderness is in verse 6: "and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is in the wilderness."  At first this doesn't seem all that significant, but everything that occurs in this chapter is significant. This is where Abram is first referred to as the Hebrew ibriy which means "one from beyond."  It's also when Abram has to go rescue Lot, so that in itself is significant. In this same passage, after Abram rescued Lot, Melchizedek, king of Salem and the priest of God Most High brought bread and wine and blessed Abram.  Abram was swift to take his forces and go rescue Lot and wanted nothing in return for himself.  All this is background for what occurs in chapter 15 where God promises children to Abram.  I believe this first mention is a hint or the introduction of the wilderness to come.

Genesis 15:1-5: "After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.'  But Abram said, 'Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'  Then Abram said, 'Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!'  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.'  Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.'  And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.'"  God is reminding Abram that his descendants will be flesh and blood from his own body, not spiritual descendants such as Eliezer. Verse 6: "And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."  It is very significant to note that this is the first mention of that word believed.

Then God made a unilateral covenant with Abram.  This is a study unto itself.  For this study we will notice that this covenant is based on who God is, not on what Abram does.  We also see that it cannot fail, because God cannot fail. I imagine that Abram thought this promise would take place very soon, but it would be many years before the promise actually came to fruition.  It's during this wait time that the collateral damage occurred.

Now let's look at the meaning of the names of Sarai, Abram and Hagar and Egypt, because as always, there is much to learn just by looking at the meaning.

Sarai or Saray means "princess."

Abram means "exalted father."

Hagar  means "flight."

Egypt or Mitsriy  means "double straits."

A strait is a narrow passage of water connecting 2 seas or 2 large areas of water.  It can be used in reference to a situation characterized by a specific degree of trouble or difficulty.

Genesis 16:1-6 : "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children.  And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children.  Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.'  And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.  Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten year in the land of Canaan.  So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived.  And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.  Then Sarai said to Abram, 'My wrong be upon you!  I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes.  The LORD judge between you and me.'  So Abram said to Sarai, 'Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.'  And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence." (Emphasis mine.)

How significant when Sarai says, "the LORD has restrained me." It's the age-old story. We can become discouraged after long times of waiting on the Lord. We grow impatient. So we take matters into our own hands.  We decide to help the Lord out.  We work from our flesh to try to make our world work for us. Instead of walking in the Spirit in surrender to the Lord, dying to ourselves and our will, we use our own resources and devise a quicker way for the results we are looking for.  And we take collateral damage along the way.

Notice, Abram listened to Sarai, but did not seek the Lord in this matter.  He had dwelt in Canaan for ten years.  The Hebrew word is Kena'an and means "lowland" "humiliated."  We can often sink low when waiting on the Lord.  We have to be diligent to keep our eyes on Him.

Hagar began to despise Sarai.  The word there is qalal and means "to be slight, be abated (of water), to be swift, to be trifling, be of little account."  "Abate, to make bright, bring into contempt, curse, despise."

Perhaps from Hagar's point of view, she had always been at someone's disposal.  No regard had been given to her.  She was someone's property.  Perhaps she longed for freedom.  She hadn't asked for any of this. Perhaps she wanted things for the child she would bring into the world, also in bondage.  Sarai was the one standing in her way.  Sarai had dealt harshly with her.  Hagar was in affliction. So what did Hagar do?  She fled to the wilderness.

Genesis 16:7-11: "Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  And He said, 'Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?'  She said, 'A am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.'  The Angel of the LORD said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.'  Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, 'I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.'  And the Angel of the LORD said to her, 'Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son.  You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction.'"

Remember Egypt means "double straits."  Notice the Angel of the LORD found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness. We can assume the Angel of the LORD is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.  He meets her at the spring or fountain as in some translations.  The Hebrew word is 'ayin and means "eye" and "spring, fountain."  "An eye, (literally or figuratively); by analogy, a fountain (as the eye of the landscape): ––affliction, outward appearance...)  Wow, such imagery.  Sarah has dealt harshly with her and she is afflicted. The Egyptian slave girl is met in the wilderness at a spring by the Living Water.  Double straits. 

The Angel of the LORD gives Hagar a promise, but first He tells her to return to her mistress and submit.  Hagar was fleeing from her affliction, but the Angel of the LORD tells her to go back and submit.  Dear Ones, if you are in affliction, if you are in the midst of suffering, as hard as it is, don't fight it.  Submit to it.  The Lord has much to give you through it.  Many times the Lord uses our loved ones, our friends, other Christians, even our husbands to lovingly afflict us in order to crucify our flesh.  He uses our afflictions to conform us into His image.  If you find yourself in that situation, I would encourage you to submit and allow Him to do what He wants to do.

Then we see the promise in Genesis 16:12-16: "'He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him.  And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.'  Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'  Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.  So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram."

Often times our mindset tends to be that of fairy tales.  We want everyone to live happily ever after.  The promise that Hagar received is not really what you want to hear about your child.  In our walk with the Lord, more important than living happily ever after, is knowing, seeing and walking with the Lord.  You've heard it before, but the journey is what is important.  This was where Hagar met the Lord...where He spoke to her...where she knew that He saw her and she had seen Him.  Notice the well was between Kadesh Qadesh "holy" and Bered "hail." When we meet the Lord it is on holy ground, but more times than not, it is also on stormy ground.  Hagar would return to Abram and Sarai and live there for many more years.  We will continue her story in Part 2.  We can learn from her story to recognize that the Lord sees and the Lord has a plan for us, even and especially in times where we suffer damage due to those around us.  Let's keep our eyes on Him and trust Him.

We know from Jesus' own words that if we desire to come after Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  An entire book could be written on these few words, but for this application, that means we must die to ourselves, even when—especially when—we suffer mistreatment, we must take up our cross, which was the instrument of extreme cruelty and death, and follow Him.  The Lord can and will use those most painful afflictions so we can experience the cross. Remember, if the Lord had to learn obedience by the things He suffered, then surely we will, too.  We must always remember that He only does things in love, because He is love.  Trust yourself to your Creator who has a wonderful plan for you.  It will not be your fairy tale, but so much more than you could ever imagine. 

For those of you interested on reading more on the subject of experiencing the cross, I would suggest the book Exquisite Agony by Gene Edwards.

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