When God Tells a Woman to Return to Her Abuser

I was invited by Sojourners to contribute to their series “Troubling Texts: Domestic Violence in the Bible.” This is my take on Hagar, Sarai, and Abram, inspired by upcoming book Women, Rise Up! on biblical women resisting oppression. 

Slavery. Forced marriage. Surrogacy without consent. It’s no wonder I never heard the story of Hagar growing up in church! Now it’s one I often turn to in my advocacy work for gender justice, because it speaks to the experiences of countless women and girls today whose lives are ravaged by domestic violence, labor trafficking, child marriage, sexual slavery, and other abuses.

When the story begins in Genesis 16, Sarai and Abram have been struggling with infertility for a decade. But Sarai sees a solution: she will have Abram take her slave Hagar “as a wife” (16:3), and she will become Sarai’s surrogate. When Hagar becomes pregnant, however, Sarai does not feel relieved; she feels threatened. The scripture says that Hagar looked upon her mistress “with contempt” (16:5), but I’ve often thought that this verse reflects Sarai’s insecurities about her infertility and her status as Abram’s wife. I imagine Sarai finds Hagar’s very being offensive.

Read the rest of the piece over at Sojourners here.

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