RELIGIOUS LAS VEGAS XVIII. Of Sarah And Hagar: Scriptural Misreading and Misinterpretations

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Olumide Goodness Adeyinka

The deadly bickering and the infernal acrimony that has bedeviled the relationship of Christians and Moslems over the years can correctly be traced back to the very seeming reductive understanding of the issues bordering around the story of Abraham who fathered both Isaac and Ishmael through two mothers called Sarah (being the only legal wife of Abraham) and Hagar (who is a resident servant to Sarah in Abraham’s house). The invidious and often fatal encounters of presuming that one religion is superior or more acceptable to God is another error of judgment that has blighted two brethren from the same father and their descendants over the years.

I believe the most portent instrument of world divide now is the two religions of Christianity and Islam. It has pitched the world into two factional and ever-increasing rancorous purview of history.
What God, the eternal creator and ever-knowing deity intended for a display of His powers and influence had been turned into plowshares of war and acridity. Let me say this without any equivocation that God has NO RELIGION and has prescribed none to serve him. God never appended one as a means of accepted service outside His eternal intent to have humanity served with all godliness. Jesus summarized it all in the two laws of love and faith – Love your neighbors as yourself and love God with all your heart. That fully comprehended is the “religion” of God and His Christ.

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Very often than not, one sits to listen to how sermons or preachments are delivered within the enclave of the “Church” on the story of Sarah and Hagar, and my stomach turns in anger of how simple statements of biblical introductions of persons are general taken out of context just to satisfy the urge to prove a point of superiority. I have said it times without number within my realm of influence that the Church of Christ is not a CONDEMNING setting to prove anything. Christ was not condemning the world but RECONCILING the world to God (John 3:17), so the job of the followers of Christ is to reconcile and not judge to condemnation.

More disheartening is the mannerism with which two wonderful creatures of God became separated with one praised and the other condemned through generations. God never created Sarah superior to Hagar but the situation of life subjected Hagar to become a slave to Sarah at a time. That in itself, as we know through history, does not mean a servant is out of God’s eternal plan or destiny. Joseph was a slave at a time! Reading Hagar and her son in the Bible is sound wisdom enough to propel the understanding of how God evolve destinies and separate men all for His own glory altogether.

What preachers of the Bible had over the years transferred through generations to mean God’s rejection of Hagar and her son Ishmael is ridiculous and preposterous in the middle of the abundance of documented evidence to suggest otherwise. To insinuate or proffer that Hagar and Ishmael were abandoned or rejected is fraught with manipulative opinions to applaud an agenda of diminutive expression of the generations through that line. The attempt here is to justify the scriptures as inerrant and infallible in upholding the truth and correcting the errors of the past presently been heralded as facts.

Genesis 16:1-15

The first misreading and misinterpretation in the story is the general assumption that the intimacy between Abram and Hagar is ungodly. There is nowhere in the scripture to suggest that except an agenda to bring that understanding as scriptural in context. The practice at that time was for mistress or masters to obtain children by their maids or servants. Hagar was one maidservant out of many that Sarah wanted to have her children by. To now assume that the move by Sarah to give Hagar to Abram was not divine is to accept a shallow understanding of the total picture of God’s word in eternal purpose in creation. Why do we then apportion blame on Abram except to diminish the import of the big picture that became clearer later? Isaac, no doubt could not have been the first born-child of Abram if he will be the fore-bearer of the second Adam who is Christ (a life-giving spirit). I remember preaching a sermon on this topic in 1996 called the “Mystery of the Second Birth”.

That mystery was operating from the beginning through the first Adam and the second Adam, Cain and Abel, Moses and Joshua, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Manasseh and Ephraim etc. It was all about Christ and His prominence in birth. Allegorical exegesis of their birth is deeply spiritual than literal.

For as long as we preach the unknown and the predetermined assumptions of our desire to fault and judge we miss the divine insight that such rich stories provided us in the first place.

The second misreading and misinterpretation in the story is the literal description of Hagar as a bondservant or maidservant of Sarah by the Bible. The truth is that is what Hagar was to Sarah. That in itself does not interpret to mean that is the true state of Hagar to God. Hagar, as far as God is concerned is NOT a bonded woman, even though that was her situation or position as it were. God never created a bondservant; He created precious beings that carry His purpose to fulfillment. Until we realize that Ishmael and Isaac were all fulfilling the mandate of God in all humanity so that both the “free” and the “bond” will have their destiny in God ultimately.

When Sarah referred to Ishmael and his mother as Bondservant and her son, it was a statement of fact as it relates to their identity then at that time. God never called Hagar or Ishmael as bondservants. No!

The privilege Isaac had was by grace, and accentuated by the mystery of God’s choice in election.

Another misreading and misinterpretation is about Ishmael himself. He was a legitimate SON of Abram. The politics of survival and relevance played by both mothers not withstanding, God had a purpose in both Ishmael and Isaac. At birth, what Ishmael will be has been set aside before he was even given to Abram and Hagar.

In Genesis 16: 9-16, clearly was it stated in very noble choice of words what destiny awaits Ishmael. Two words came to mind in the expression “Multiply” and “Exceedingly”. The characterization of Ishmael and his generations as a “wildman” is as a result of the past and foreseen abuses he will face.

In Genesis 17:15-27, God had to visit Abram to change his name alongside Sarai. The past errors were erased and a new beginning was to start. Here was where God elucidate His intention to have a second son for Abraham through Sarah in the name of Isaac. However, the reference purpose of God was to make Isaac carry an eternal covenant through redemption will come to man. Even at that, Ishmael will be blessed, will be fruitful and will multiply exceedingly. He will actually become a great nation with 12 princes (as Isaac through Jacob). The eternal wisdom of God surpasses out short-circuited tale of condemnation.

The question then becomes, who among us will make God change what he has already written in purpose to make Ishmael become great? Why then do we ask and pray for a people blessed of God to diminish or be erased from the planet of existence? Are we praying the mind of God or wishing God will approve our agenda to make a religion superior to others when He has only asked that we understand His eternal purpose in diversity yet ONE world of God’s people.

The final misreading and misinterpretation is when we are more disposed to claim our space in religious piety all in the name of practicing Christianity. Islam has become a target of hate, and invariably the people of that religion have become a emblem of severe hatred.

It must be stated clearly here that Jesus Christ NEVER left us a religion. No! That was what He fought when he was alive on the earth. Remember, God gave Moses the commandment and instructions, but never gave them a religion of Judaism that they made to be exclusively theirs without incorporating any other people. They become proud and arrogant in it, thinking it is acceptable to God. Jesus came and demolished all their emblem of religious rites in order to set in motion the true worship of God. Christianity has gone into the same exclusivity where only ours is right and none other. Christ is right, none other, but the mistake has always been that since Christ is included in the nomenclature of “Christianity’ the assumption is heavy to play the game of divine acceptance.

My intent is not to approve any faith but to assuage a more profound understanding of what we read in the Bible, and know that Christ did not leave us a religion of condemnation but a faith of God where all men are linked back to God (not in our Churches) but in their hearts through the laws of love of God and our neighbors.

I will continue on this later.

Olumide Goodness Adeyinka can be reached at

  1. Pastor Yomi says:

    Herein the Scripture being fulfilled that we speak wisdom among the that are matured.

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