Introducing…Hagar

Hagar was a woman that I learn more and more about each time I read her stories in Genesis.  I felt bad for her.  She was an Egyptian slave who was just doing what her mistress Sarai told her to do, but she always seemed to get the wrath of Sarai when exactly what Sarai wanted to happen DID happen.  Let me start at the beginning.

The first mention of Hagar is in Genesis 16.  We learn that Sarai, the wife of Abram, was unable to conceive a child.  She had an Egyptian slave named Hagar, and she told Abram since she could not conceive a child, that he should take Hagar as his wife, so that she could bear a child for him.   Abram did and Hagar became pregnant.   This is exactly what Sarai wanted, but when it actually happened, Hagar began to despise her.  Sarai complained to Abram, and he told her to deal with her own slave.  So she did.  She mistreated Hagar so much that Hagar ran away.  An angel of the Lord found her and asked her why she was running away.  She told the angel that her mistress Sarai mistreated her.  The angel told her to go back to Sarai and submit to her, and her descendants would be blessed.  Her baby son would be named Ishmael and his descendants would be increased in numbers too many to count.  So she returned to Sarai.

She isn’t mentioned again until after the birth of Sarah’s son, Isaac.   It is said that her son, Ishmael was mocking, so she told Abraham to send her and the boy away.  So the next day, Abraham sent away Hagar and Ishmael with a skin of water and some food.  She wandered with her son into the Desert of Beersheeba.   When they ran out of water, she put her son under a bush and went off crying.  She did not want to watch her son die.   God heard Ishmael crying, so he found Hagar and told her not to be afraid.  God intended to make him into a great nation.  She opened her eyes and saw a well of water.  She refilled the skin and gave her son a drink.  They lived in the desert, and Ishmael became an archer.  God was with them as he grew.

It’s not clear how she became a slave to Sarai.   Maybe she was purchased as a slave at some point since Abram had a lot of money and possessions.   At some point, Sarai must have had some confidence in Hagar to promote her to being her maidservant.  She trusted her enough to be a surrogate mother.  Maybe at times, she even loved her.  Hagar did come to believe in the God of her masters and followed and obeyed him.   She learned through her experiences from God that he always provides for his children.  Hagar’s story is a powerful life lesson.  In her times of greatest need, she found security and provision in the Lord.

Introducing… Jezebel

Jezebel… her name is synonymous with _____________.  Fill in the blank.  Wickedness.  Evil.   Many families love to choose Biblical names for their daughters… Ruth.  Mary.  Sarah.  Rachel.   But Jezebel?  I am sure you will not find one newborn baby given this name.

Jezebel was raised and trained to worship Baal.  We find her first in 1Kings 16.  She married Ahab, the son of Omri, who reigned from Samaria over Israel.  Ahab did more evil in the sight of the Lord than any king before him.  Together, Ahab and Jezebel built an altar in the temple of Baal to worship and sacrifice to him.

Jezebel made it a point to kill off as many of the prophets of the Lord as possible.   Obidiah, the palace administrator for King Ahab and a follower of the Lord, somehow still managed to hide 100 prophets in two caves from her and supplied them with food and water.   The prophet on Ahab’s most wanted list was Elijah.  The Lord sent Elijah to Ahab to show the Israelites once and for all that the Lord was their God. After making a fool out of all the prophets of Baal, the Israelites believed once again that the Lord was God, and took all 450 prophets of Baal and slaughtered them. (1Kings 18: 16-40)   In 1Kings 19, Jezebel sends out a messenger after hearing this from Ahab, telling Elijah “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (meaning as dead as the 450 prophets of Baal that were killed that day)  Jezebel was also instrumental in having Naboth stoned to death when he wouldn’t sell his vineyard to Ahab in 1Kings 21.

Unfortunately for Jezebel, the Lord sent newly anointed King Jehu to her in Jezreel (2Kings 9).   When he found her, he called out asking if there were anyone on his side, and 2 or 3 eunuchs peered out the window in which she was standing in.  He ordered the euchuchs to throw her from her window.  The did and she was trampled by horses.  When Jehu sent men to bury her since she was the daughter of a king, the men came back saying they only could find her skull, hands and feet, fulfilling Elijah’s prophesy  “On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh.  Jezebel’s body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, ‘This is Jezebel.’”

During her lifetime, it was Jezebel’s goal to lure as many people away from the Lord and get them to worship Baal.  In worship to Baal, incense and sacrifice were common, even killing innocent humans.  Baal’s main function was fertility, of the land, animals and people, so men and women attendants in the temple would perform sexual acts in order to induce Baal to lavish fertility on the land.   She encouraged so much sin, it is hard to wrap my mind around all the evil she was willing to participate in.

To read more about Jezebel, you will find her in 1Kings and 2Kings.

Introducing…Miriam

Miriam’s story is full of bravery, wisdom and obedience, but she also had a jealous side as well, where her brother Moses was concerned.

Miriam was the sister mentioned in Exodus 2.  When her mother took her baby brother and put him among the reeds near where Pharoah’s daughter bathed, she watched him carefully from a distance.   When Pharoah’s daughter found the baby and realized he was a Hebrew baby, she ran right up to her and asked if she could go find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her.    When the permission was given, she ran to get her mother.

Miriam lived through all the harshness of Pharoah.  She saw the 10 plagues that were brought on Egypt.  She was a part of the very first Passover.  She followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  She was a witness to the parting of the Red Sea and Pharoah’s army being swallowed back up by the sea when they pursued the Israelites.   She rejoiced in song and dance with the Israelite women in Exodus 15.   She witnessed God providing for their every need in the desert, bringing them water, quail and manna.

In the book of Numbers though, we see another side of Miriam.  Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.  “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”  The Lord was not pleased with them talking badly about Moses, so he struck Miriam with leprosy.  She was sent outside of the camp for 7 days until she was healed by the Lord.  We are told in Numbers 20:1 that Miriam died in the Desert of Zin in Kadesh.

You can read more about Miriam and the Exodus of Israel in Exodus 2 and Exodus 15, and also in Numbers 12 and 20.

Introducing … Deborah

The book of Judges, Chapter 4, is where we find Deborah. While women leaders were uncommon in Israelite society, they were not unheard of.  Deborah is a story of a strong woman of God who listens to God and trusted in the Lord enough to have the courage to follow his commands.  She is the only woman judge, but not by any means the only prophetess in the Bible.

Deborah was a prophetess, but she was also a judge.  She would listen to disputes among her people and make a decision based on the facts.   She got a word from the Lord and called for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali.  She told him that the LORD was going to give over their enemy to them; all he had to do was take 10,000 men  of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.  Barak would not go unless Deborah went, so because of his unbelief, the honor would not be his, but the LORD would deliver the enemy into the hands of a woman.  Barak got the men together as the LORD commanded.

Barak led the men up Mt. Tabor, and there Siscera, commander of the enemy army found out he was there and sent out all his men and 900 chariots.  Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.  At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.  Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left.  Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. He asked for a drink, and she gave him some milk.  He asked her to stand guard and to tell anyone that came by that he was not there.  As he slept, she took a tent peg and a hammer, and drove it through his temple, killing him.  Thus, the LORD’s prophesy came true.  The enemy was slain at the hand of a woman.

The Bible describes Deborah as “a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth”, but in Judges 5:7, she calls herself “a mother in Israel”.  She was not only the mother of her own children, but the “mother” to all in Israel who had forgotten who they were and who they served.   (The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)


Introducing … Leah and Rachel

Leah and Rachel were the daughters of Laban , who was Jacob’s uncle (Rebekkah’s brother)  Isaac was told  by his father to marry of his own family line and not to marry any of the Canaanite women.  Upon arrival at a well in Harran, he inquired about his uncle and it was pointed out that his daughter, Rachel, was coming with her sheep.  She was a shepherdess. Word got to Laban that his nephew had arrived and he greeted him and asked him to stay with them.  Jacob stayed with them and worked for his uncle for a month, when his uncle offered to pay him for what he had done.  Jacob asked for Rachel’s hand in marriage in exchange for working 7 more years.  The time seemed to fly since he loved her, but when the time came for him to receive Rachel as his wife, Laban deceived him and gave him Leah instead.  It was not custom to marry the younger daughter before the older.  The book of Genesis tells us that Rachel was very beautiful, but Leah had “weak eyes”.  In agreement to work 7 more years, Jacob finished Leah’s bridal week, then took Rachel as his wife.

This started the years of feuds between these two sisters.   Rachel was barren for the longest time, while her sister Leah bore 4 sons to Jacob right away, since the Lord saw that she was unloved by her husband.   Rachel gave Jacob her maid, Bilhah, as a wife to bear children through her.  Bilhah conceived and gave birth to 2 sons.  Leah wasn’t bearing more children, so she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob to conceive children for her.  Zilpah bore Jacob 2 sons.  Jealousy continued, and Leah bore a 5th and 6th son and a daughter, Dinah.  Finally God opened up Rachel’s womb and she bore a son, Joseph.  Later, Rachel died during the birth of her final son, Benjamin.

To learn more about Rachel and Leah, you can find them in the book of Genesis 29-35; also Genesis 46 and 49.

Introducing … Bathsheba

Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  While he was away at war, King David caught a glimpse of Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her home.  He found her beautiful and sent for her.  He slept with her and she became pregnant.  In order to try to cover his sin, he brought Uriah home from war to sleep with his wife, but he did not, citing the fact that no one else was allowed the luxury of returning to their home, so he wished to stay with his men.   This was very troubling to David, who was hoping that Uriah could claim the pregnant Bathsheba as carrying HIS child.  When this plan didn’t work, David had Uriah sent to the front lines of the war where he would no doubt be killed.   When Bathsheba got word that her husband had died, she grieved for him.  When her mourning period was over, David brought her into his household as his wife.

Nathan the prophet was sent to David to express the Lord’s displeasure in what he had done, and Bathsheba’s son was stricken ill and died.   Soon after the baby’s death, Bathsheba bore another son, and they named him Solomon.

In David’s old age, Bathsheba next appears to plead to the king that her son Solomon should be the next king, not Adonijah.  David proclaimed that Solomon would be his successor and had him anointed king.

In 1Kings 2, Bathsheba was also asked to be a messenger from Adonijah to his brother, King Solomon.  Bathsheba is mentioned as the mother of Solomon in 1 Chronicles and also in Psalm 51:1

You can read the full story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:1- 12:25, 1 Kings 1:1- 2:22, 1 Chronicles 3 and Psalm 51.

Introducing … Sarai/Sarah

Sarai was the wife of Abram.   Sarai was unable to conceive a child and was barren for a very long time.  Sarai faithfully followed her husband to many new lands, both traveling by faith.  Several times, Sarai was asked to lie for her husband.  He told her twice to tell the ruler of a land they entered that she was Abram’s sister, so that he would not be killed for her beauty.  The Lord inflicted bad illnesses on the households of the rulers who took her as his wife, so she was returned to her husband and they were told to leave the land.  Sarai’s barrenness caused her to lose faith that God would provide, so she gave her slave, Hagar, to her husband in hopes that Hagar would conceive a child for her.  Hagar did conceive and gave birth to a son, Ishmael.  Sarai mistreated Hagar and she ran away, but the Lord promised to increase the descendants of Ishmael, so she returned to Sarai.  For Abram’s faithfulness, God changed his name to Abraham (when he was in his 90’s) and changed Sarai’s name to Sarah.  The Lord told him at that point that Sarah would conceive him a son and they would call him Isaac, and the Lord would bless the descendants of this son.  Abraham and Sarah laughed, since she was such an elderly lady, but the Lord kept his promise.  Sarah conceived a son when she was in her elderly years and named him Isaac.  Sarah lived to be 127 years old.

 

You can read more about Sarai/Sarah in the book of Genesis (Genesis 12 – Genesis 23)

Introducing … Mary Magdalene

We are first introduced to Mary Magdalene in Luke 8.  She is described as a grateful follower of Jesus.  Luke 8:2 tells us that Jesus had expelled 7 demons from her, and she followed him, listening to the Good News and helping to support his ministry out of her own means with several other women.  Mary was also a devoted follower of Christ and a witness to Jesus’ death on the cross. When all the other apostles were denying Christ and leaving the scene of the cross, she remained until his death and followed to find where he was to be buried.  This is recorded in each of the Gospels (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; John 19:25)    She was one of the women who went to the tomb and found only an angel where Jesus was buried (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-9; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2)  There are also biblical reports in John 20:11-18 that Mary Magdalene was one of the first witnesses of the risen Christ.

For more information about Mary Magdalene, you can read further the chapters and verses I have mentioned in the article above.

Introducing … Esther

We are introduced to Esther in the book of Esther. Haddassah (also called Esther) was being cared for by her cousin Mordecai when her parents died.   After the king had banished his queen, Vashti, he ordered that all virgin girls be taken to his palace.  From them, a new queen would be chosen.  After 12 months of beauty treatments, Esther was brought before the king and he was attracted to her, and he made her queen.

Little did the king know, but his new queen was a Jew.  A man named Haman was elevated to a high seat of honor with the king.  All men bowed down before Haman…all men, that is, but Mordecai.  When Mordecai wouldn’t bow before him, he set forth a plan to kill all of Mordecai’s people. (Jews) The king set forth a decree that on a certain day of the year, all Jews were to be killed and to plunder all their goods.   This pleased Haman to no end. Esther found out about the decree and was deeply troubled.  Esther asked Mordecai to get all the Jews together to pray and fast for her, for she had a plan.

The next day, Esther put on her best robes and went to the king.  No one was to enter the king’s presence with out being asked for by him, but he was so pleased to see her, that he allowed her to enter.  She invited him and Haman to a banquet she would prepare in their honor.   At the banquet, she pleaded for her life.  As Esther exposed Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews, her included, the king was enraged.  The king had Haman killed.  Esther had saved her people.

 

To learn more about Esther, you can find her in the Old Testament book of Esther.

Introducing …. Ruth

We are introduced to Ruth in the book of Ruth.  She was a Moabite woman who married one of the son’s of Elimelek and Naomi.    In the first chapter of Ruth, we find out that Naomi’s husband died, and she was left with her 2 sons.   Ten years later, both of Naomi’s son’s died, and she was left with her two daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth.  She encouraged both of her daughters in law to return to their homes.  Orpah did so, but Ruth was determined to remain with Naomi.

While with Naomi, she met a family relative of Elimelek’s named Boaz.  She worked in his fields, gleaning wheat behind the other harvesters that went before her.  Boaz treated her kindly, and Naomi was determined to find a home for her daughter in law for her kindness to her.   Boaz became Ruth’s  guardian- redeemer.  Boaz took her as his wife, and she conceived a son, Obed, who is the grandfather of King David.

 

To learn more about Ruth, you can find her in the Old Testament book of Ruth.

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