After being mistreated by her mistress Sarah the slave woman Hagar escapes to Beer-lahai roi which is between Kadesh and Bered

Genessis 16:6 NASB

6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Look, your slave woman is in your [e]power; do to her what is good in your [f]sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence

Later she is found by an angel and she is told to return back.

Genesis 16:9 NASB

9 So the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit [g]to her authority.”

Years later Moses instructs the Israelites not to return runaway slaves to their original masters

Deuteronomy 23:16 NASB

“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has [l]escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall live with you in your midst, in the place that he chooses in one of your [m]towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.

Why did the angel instruct Hagar to return to her mistress after being mistreated?

  • She was fleeing what she thought was female circumcision. The angel told her it was male circumcision.
    – R. Emery
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 0:29
  • TMI............
    – moron
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 7:47

6 Answers 6


God made His blessing to Ishmael. Genesis 17:20 NIV read

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

However, there was a prerequisite for His blessing to be valid, the "circumcision". Genesis 17:9-11 NIV read

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

So if Hagar went away, Ishmael would not be circumcised, his blessing would not exist.

  • +1 Good observation, @Vincent Wong. And God did bless the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, who fathered twelve princes (Genesis 17:20).
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 25 at 1:02
  • @Dieter - thank you for your kind words Commented Apr 25 at 2:00

Hagar was supposed to be a kind of surrogate mother on Sarah's behalf:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Gen. 15:1-2)

Rather than honoring Sarah as expected, Hagar despised her. Of course, Sarah was also wrong to mistreat her. However, by sending her back and instructing her to obey Sarah, God gave Hagar and Sarah a second chance. Once Isaac was born God hoped that the two brothers would restore the tragedy of Cain and Abel. Unfortunately that did not occur because Ishmael, like his mother before him, despised Isaac and became a threat to his life. The second chance thus failed, and God endorsed Sarah's plan to send Hagar and Ishmael away for good. (Gen. 21)

Conclusion: God sent Hagar back to give her a second chance to fulfill her proper role as a surrogate mother.

  • Could you provide a citation for the claim that “God hoped that the two brothers would restore the tragedy of Cain and Abel”?
    – bob
    Commented Apr 25 at 0:01
  • @bob, it seems to me that Dan Fefferman is extrapolating on the parallel events, which is not unreasonable. If true, then elaboration of the parallels would strengthen Dan's assertion.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 25 at 0:58
  • 1
    The problem I have is attributing motive to God without biblical support. That and as written it makes it sound like God had to come up with a plan B after the fact which is not the case. But my main objection is to making a claim about God’s purpose in something without providing biblical support for it.
    – bob
    Commented Apr 25 at 2:29
  • @Bob, good point. In much of the Bible, we observe "binary divisions." Not all of them are necessarily bad, but they are choices that God makes. We should be very careful in projecting motives to God, who exists outside of the space-time that he created, since we're likely wrong unless revealed in the scriptures. Nevertheless, it's not wrong to look for patterns.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 25 at 4:00

Genesis 16:9 NASB

9 So the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.”

Deuteronomy 23:15 NASB

You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.

New International Version

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.

  1. The angel told Hagar to return before Deuteronomy was written.

  2. Hagar had not taken refuge in a city when the angel spoke to her.

  3. Deuteronomy 23:15 was to be obeyed by the Israelites. It did not apply to the angel of the Lord.


First of all Sarai brought all this on herself when she told Abraham to sleep with Hagar. Sarai also blamed Abraham and Abraham put the blame on her. Read Genesis 16:1-6.

At Genesis 16:7 the angel of the Lord appears to Hagar and this is the first appearance of the angel of the Lord as the angel of the Lord. Also, I personally believe without a doubt that the angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

He at vv9 tells Hagar to return back to Sarai and submit to her authority. Vs10, "Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count."

At verses 11-12 the angel of the Lord said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. Vs12, And he will be a wild donkey of a man etc. And he will live to the east of all his brothers."

Ishmael is recognized by Muslims as the ancestor of several northern prominent Arab tribes and the forefather of Adnan, the ancestor of Muhammad. At vs13 Hagar says, "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

Now, with regards to Deuteronomy 23:15-15 the following is what Barns commentary states. "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:

The case in question is that of a slave who fled from a pagan master to the holy land. It is of course assumed that the refugee was not flying from justice, but only from the tyranny of his lord."

I don't think Sari or Abraham are "pagan" masters. Secondly, the Lord God/the angel of the Lord took care of Hagar and blessed her. Finally, as a personal note I would like to throw out the following question?

It says at Genesis 17, "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless, Vs21, And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will greatly multiply you exceedingly."

Did the being who multiplied Hagar's descendants the same being who multiplied Abram's descendants at Genesis 17:1-2?


Please see if this makes sense.

If you compare the promise of the Angel to Hagar vs what G-d Makes to Abraham about Ismael you will see that the promise is so much richer. In both cases there is the promise of a huge population.

Genesis 16:10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael,[a] for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward[b] all his brothers.”

Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

If you read Genesis 25:12-18, you will see that Ishmael has 12 sons, and they grew into a mighty nation as G-d promised to Abraham

Now coming to the point of the law in Deuteronomy 23:1,

  1. like Tony said this was given several years after Abrahan, Isaac, and Jacob died. (Remember the 400 years the Israelites were in Egypt)

  2. We read from Genesis 21 that Abraham was hurt when Sarah asked for Hagar and Ishmael to be sent away indicating that after her return from the wilderness they were well taken care of.

  3. The laws in Deuteronomy were given as the masters would illtreat the slaves and if they ran away they were retrieved and their times were worse. So this law was given to protect the slave from more harm.

G-d Bless


I believe this is because one of the key tests Abraham had to pass was to cast out Ishmael and Hagar:

Genesis 21:10–11 (KJV 1900)

Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

And it wouldn't be possible for Abraham to pass this test if Ishmael and Hagar were already gone. That's the only explanation for God to bring Hagar back only to tell Abraham to send her away a short time later.

  • Why not add Genesis 21:12-13 to support your point?
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 25 at 1:08

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