Sarah and Hagar, Mothers Delivering on God’s Promise: A Narrative Study of Genesis 21:8-21

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in Theological Studies



First Advisor

Fr. Felipe Fruto Ll. Ramirez, S.J., STD


The expulsion of Hagar and her son Ishmael from the household of Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 21:8-21) has often been perceived as a result of the rivalry between a privileged mistress, Sarah, and her lowly slave, Hagar. Sarah claims however that it is about the inheritance of her son Isaac, which is not to be shared with Ishmael. In a surprising gesture, God supported Sarah’s demand. Why would God support the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael? What is Genesis 21:8-21 about? If God supported Sarah but also added a promise to Ishmael, how did Sarah and Hagar contribute to the fulfillment of God’s promise? How did Sarah and Hagar play their respective roles as mothers ensuring their sons’ destinies? Through a narrative study of the text, particularly an analysis of its structure and of its plot, we find that its central theme is God who works in and through the complexities and limitations of human persons in order to ensure the fulfillment of the promise. The text also demonstrates the tension between the elect and the non-elect, but that all are nevertheless favored by God. We also find that the strong and resourceful mothers each played their part by ensuring that their sons achieve their individual destinies consistent with God’s promise. What God supported in Sarah’s demand for the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, was for the parting of the ways for the two brothers, a necessary move in order for them to attain their distinct destinies.

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