Denison Journal of Religion


Hiller argues that by approaching the often neglected or negatively interpreted biblical story of Hagar through a particular context, one can conclude that God is encountered at Hagar’s location: the outskirts and the margins. Hiller’s analysis is rooted in this “literary and culturally contextual” reading of Genesis 16, asking the reader more deeply examine Hagar’s experience of oppression to see the radical nature of her encounter with God. The first part of this essay describes how Hagar’s agency, identity, and life are compromised in the face of adversity. As a female slave, Hagar answers to Sarah and Abraham in every way and is forced to carry a child for their family. Hagar has little to no identity, considered property of Abraham and never being called by name within the text. Although the absence of agency and identity was common to those of her gender and servant status, Hillier argues that the conditions in which Hagar lived were most likely highly detrimental and painfully dehumanizing, also citing physical violence as a particularly harsh portion of Hagar’s plight. Hagar escapes, but is soon faced with the many dangers presented by the wilderness. Yet, it is here that Hillier debunks possible negative interpretations of Hagar’s encounter with God, instead proposing that it is here that God acknowledges Hagar’s identity before enslavement, offers her a newfound hope, and enters into an intimate relationship with her. Hillier particularly emphasizes the way in which Hagar is given the opportunity to name God, the only biblical character to do so. Thus, Hillier concludes that one particular interpretation of Hagar’s story tells us it is at the margins of existence that one can best be seen by and see God.


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