I just want to set the record straight. I’ve heard stories about me being an ungrateful slave girl who was disrespectful to my master and mistress. I hear folks saying I went in and slept with my mistress’ husband, as if I had a choice. I didn’t. My body was not my own.
Now, I am a free woman, but not without a price. I was an Egyptian hand maid to the Pharaoh. He gave me as a gift to a wealthy Hebrew couple, Sarai and Abram. Prior to this, I was respected amongst the other hand maids. I was still a virgin and that was worth something. As a servant, I already had no rights, nor control over my life. But at least I had my pride.
I thought my new mistress would keep me safe from losing my virginity until I found a husband. Instead, out of impatience, she sent me in to her husband to have a baby. You see, Abram and Sarai had been trying to have children for many years. God had already promised Abram that he would be a father of many nations. Sarai, being barren, was no proof of this.
They called me “slave-girl.” I was nameless – meant only to serve her and later to produce a child – something she couldn’t do. Why was it my fault that Sarai was barren? After I was forced to have sex with her husband, it was clear I was nothing but property.
My mistress accused me of acting high and mighty once I got pregnant. She didn’t understand. I was proud to be able to do as asked, although my virginity had been taken from me. Then the mistress began to abuse me.
When I could stand it no longer, I fled. But I ran into an angel, who I’m sure was God. I called the angel “El Roi.” I listened to the angel who told me to return to my mistress, since I wanted to be obedient and I was still alive in this wilderness.
Upon returning and having my son, Ishmael, I was cast to the wilderness because Sarai had her own son and no need for me. I was accepting of it to gain my freedom.
This was my self-initiated liberation, combined with “woman’s alienation and isolation, economic deprivation, pregnancy and a radical encounter with God, which empowered me, a female slave of African descent to hope and to act.”
I didn’t mind that my son might not inherit Abram’s fortune. I just wanted to be safe. But I was already a victim as an Egyptian, slave, female, poor and with no property. I had so many strikes against me that I just wanted to go somewhere and pray for deliverance from God.
It may sound like I’m whining. It is not my intention. I just want you and your readers to understand that all I wanted was an equal opportunity. To be expelled from the home not only meant I had no economic resources, but I had no protection. This was a nomadic culture. The men ruled the families, tribes and clans. This was no place for a woman and child to be alone. But I knew God was with us, as my son’s name means “God has heard.”
I know I won’t be the last to face this oppression. I pray for my sisters in the future. I just want my voice to be heard, for once.
In God’s Service,
Marilyn A. Batchelor is a 20+ year veteran of the entertainment and media industry. After 20 years working in major corporate environments, Ms. Batchelor joined the team of GPE Records as senior vice president of marketing and brand partnerships. A consummate academician and writer, she is a native of Detroit, MI. She is a resident of Los Angeles; a graduate of Syracuse University (Journalism, English Literature & African American Studies); Harvard Business School’s PMD program (Exec MBA equivalent); Fuller Theological Seminary (M.A.Theology & Ministry) and a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University (Religion & Gender Studies) class of 2019.
8 thoughts on “A Letter to the Editor: Hagar Has Her Say by Marilyn Batchelor”
Though I have known the womanist and feminist critiques of this story for many years, it is extremely touching to hear Hagar speak in her own words. Thanks a bunch!
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I love re-framing familiar stories. Thank you!
Thanks for this. Just letting folks know that the same story is in Quran, but Hagar was Abrahams wife, not slave or concubine. And in fact our hajj ritual we are supposed to run/walk briskly back and forth across the hills in mecca 7 times looking for water following in the steps of Hagar, an African woman, and she discovered the well of zam-zam which each pilgrim drinks from. I love that she was Ethiopian, and her relationship was consensual (an interracial relationship, although back then Abraham was likely a brown person as well.) Not that Muslims cant be racist, but this African woman holds a high position in our faith.
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Another telling instance of: it’s all about who owns the narrative.
I love the speculative nature of this letter — Hagar owning her own story. And the author, Marilyn A. Batchelor, in the honorable role of speaker for the dead. I love it that the author has experience in corporate marketing and branding; she knows her way around the skill set of rebranding. Sometimes I think of the Bible, Qu’ran, Ramayana, and all the rest, as advertisements or propaganda. Sometimes I think the FAR women are engaged in a great feminist reclamation project and — to paraphrase Maxine Waters — we are reclaiming THEIR time. For example: When we think of Bathsheba many questions arise. Did David spy on her while she was taking a sacred ritual bath? Was she the wanton of legend or a the victim of rape? And I wonder what if the Virgin Mary stories are glorified rape stories patterned after the Greek stories of Gods raping Earth girls. The implication being that if it’s a god, or a king, or an important lineage, or god-approved, then it isn’t rape, it’s an honor.
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Love that “Hagar has her say” and here too, all of us also…
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Thank you for giving Hagar her voice back and sharing it here with us.
I loved it! The story of Hagar is one of my favorites in the Bible. When I read about Hagar, it makes me cry because is the story of so many women who are desolate, who are immigrants in this country and no one wants to help them on the contrary, they take their little children away or their children die.