This is the question I'm pondering this week for my Hebrew Bible class. Any insight is welcome:
The story of Hagar and Sarai is a haunting one. Clearly, it is a story about power, status, gender, and ethnicity. In the story, two women turn on each other for self-preservation. But the story is not really about either of them. The writer uses these two characters only as a part of a larger drama about God’s promise to Abram. Each character makes decisions based upon his or her social status. Explicate each character’s actions based on what you know about that character’s status (slave/free, wealthy/poor property/person), gender, and ethnicity. Pay close attention to the rape of Hagar and what happens to Ishmael. Before judging any of the characters, remember that the author is a free, Israelite man and that the story is written from his perspective.