What place should Hagar have in Christian theology? On one hand, she is the first person in Scripture to whom an angel of the Lord appears; she even names the “God of Seeing” who meets her (Gen 16:13). On the other hand, Hagar is a symbol of the law that leads to slavery, and those who live in the freedom of Christ should cast her out (Gal 4:29). I argue that Christians should conceive of Hagar's place in theology in relation to Christ and through spiritual reading of the Hagar narratives in Genesis. Literary correspondence between the narratives in Gen 16:1–16 and 21:8–21 and accounts of the exodus suggests that God's heeding of Hagar in the midst of her affliction anticipates God's deliverance of the Israelites and of the world in Christ. As Paul describes the Israelites as having drunk from Christ in the wilderness, and receiving baptism in crossing the sea (1 Cor 10:1–4), so Hagar also experienced Christ in the wilderness. Thus, Christian spiritual reading may cast Hagar out of the church, insofar as she represents merely human effort devoid of the Holy Spirit, but it may also view her as a positive example of transformation in Christ by the Spirit.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.