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The Earth Trembles: When a Maidservant Displaces her Mistress

displaces her mistressProverbs and the earth trembling

Proverbs  tells us that there are three, yes, four things that cause the earth to tremble. The first one is a slave who becomes king. The second one is a fool when he is filled with food. The third one is  unloved woman when she gets a husband.

Last but not least, Proverbs lists a maidservant when she displaces her mistress. It does not work for two women to want the love of one man. This causes conflict among the women and thus dissension with them and the husband. We see that with Jacob, his two wives, and their maidservants. It affected the twelve sons born by these four women,who were the mothers of the Children of Israel. That conflict passed through their families and continues today.

We also see this with Abram, Sarai and Hagar. God promised Abram and Sarai a son in their old age. He assured them that nothing was too hard for Him. Sarai took matters into her own hands, and Abram went along with her plan. Hagar became a surrogate mother for them. Only things didn’t pan out the way Sarai intended. That’s where their story comes into this play.

Thousands of years ago, the older woman Sarai “gave” her Egyptian servant to her husband Abraham. Because she was not able to conceive, Sarai wanted to have a child through her maidservant. Abraham consented. Hagar became pregnant and had a child.

That is when trouble started, at least for Hagar. The problem was not what happened to her, but her response when she was wronged. This maidservant displaced her mistress.

displaces her mistressHagar displaces her mistress

This story gets me every time. Sarai connived to have the promised son through her maidservant. God specifically told Abram he would have a son in his old age, and Sarai apparently thought God needed help to complete the plan. She decided that her maidservant would bear a child for her. Sarai made a human attempt to implement the promise of God. She was out of her league and out of line.

Sarai’s reasoning was, “The Lord has prevented me from bearing children.” She had her reasons, but they were wrong.  Instead of doing the right thing, Abram consented. He was just as wrong. He was the leader in the relationship, but he allowed Sarah’s influence and badgering to get to him; he cavesd, had sex with the maidservant, and a child was conceived. The trouble really started with this couple, not with Hagar. The real conflict developed with Hagar’s response.

Scripture says when Hagar realized she had conceived, she looked with contempt on Sarai. I understand Hagar’s feelings and the temptation. She was used and abused. The conception of her child was done with no respect to her or her body. The child was not even going to be “hers” because it was going to be Sarai’s child. She was merely a surrogate mother without her consent. How fair is that?!

Sarai saw Hagar’s disdain and talked accusingly to Abram. He gave Sarai permission to do whatever she wanted to do with this person of property. Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and the pregnant slave woman fled from her mistress. I can’t say that I blame her.

The rest of the story

God met Hagar and told her to go back to her mistress and be submissive. He promised that her son would father a great nation. She did not have a choice in the naming of her baby. Abram named him Ishmael. It has been said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Many are the times I failed in the response department, and this was a time Hagar failed as well. Ishmael became the father of an Arab tribe, the Ishmaelites. Abraham always considered Ishmael his son, even though he was not the promised son.

It is apparent that Ishmael and Isaac did not have a close relationship. Their descendants are not in harmony with each other today. The conflict started when Sarai stepped out of line with her maidservant. Then Hagar displaced her mistress, which caused more problems. The boys did not have a good sibling relationship, and it started with their mothers.

How different things could be today had the events in this story not happened as they did. When we can trace the heartache and discord from thousands of years ago, we cannot deny that the earth trembles when a maidservant displaces her mistress.

maidservant despises her mistress


Photo credits: Andrea Rau/FreeBibleimages; Hans Braxmeier



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