Hagar and the God Who Sees

Verlyn Verbrugge

READ : Genesis 16; 21:8-21

So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God?” (16:13 NRSV)

I don’t envy Hagar. Because her mistress had never become pregnant, Sarah added a new
feature to Hagar’s job description: sleep with Abraham and provide her with a son. While
such sexual relations were culturally permissible, there certainly was no romance and love
between Abraham and Hagar.

Hagar did become pregnant, but things got worse rather than better. Hagar looked on her
mistress with contempt, and Sarah’s jealousy got the best of her. Abraham finally threw
his hands up and said to Sarah, “Do whatever!”

Sarah made Hagar’s life miserable, and eventually Hagar ran away. She was alone,
penniless, and frightened, but at an oasis the Lord God of Abraham revealed himself to
Hagar. He spoke words of comfort and promise to her, and then told her to return to Sarah.

And Hagar “named the Lord . . . El-roi” (“the God who sees”). This is the only time in
the Bible where a human being gives God a new name. And it comes from the lips of a woman,
and a slave at that! In a patriarchal society this would not go unnoticed. Hagar teaches
us a vital truth: that in our struggles, pain, and suffering, God sees us. And we are not


Lord, you are a God who sees me wherever I am. Help me to feel your abiding presence. Amen.