Back in Genesis 12 Sarah is “sold” into Egypt in order to save Abraham. When Pharaoh finds out the truth he frees Sarah along with slaves and gifts to guard her honor. It is possible that Hagar was received as a slave at this time. Whereas Pharaoh sets Sarah (and Abraham) free from Egypt along with gifts, in Genesis 16 Sarah oppresses her handmaid Hagar. In the context she seems to symbolize Egypt which in the future would oppress God’s people.
If Hagar, on one hand, is a type of the people of Israel’s later experience in Egypt and in the desert, on the other hand she prefigures in many ways Moses’ own experience in Egypt, in the desert, and back in Egypt.
Hagar and Moses both have a dual identity: she is an Egyptian slave and becomes the second wife of Abraham; Moses is the son of a slave in Egypt and becomes adopted into Pharaoh’s family. Moses and Hagar both received a revelation from the Angel of the Lord (Gen 16:7; Exod 3:2). Both received a message of liberation: to Moses the promise of freedom from Egyptian bondage; to Hagar the promise that her son would never be a slave for he would be like a “wild donkey.” In both verses the noun “affliction” or “oppression” is found.
Hagar and Moses share several similarities:
|The Angel of the Lord found her by a||The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire|
|spring of water in the wilderness (Gen||from the midst of a bush (Exod 3:2)|
|Then she called the name of the Lord|
|who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees|
|Hagar names God (Gen 16)||God reveals himself as JHW|
|I have heard the boy cry||I have heard the people’s cry|
|Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with||Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say|
|your hand, for I will make him a great||to them, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of|
|nation (Gen 21:18)||Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me,|
|saying, ‘I have surely visited you and seen what is done|
|to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out|
|of the affliction of Egypt’” (Exod 3:16, 17)|
Several points in common stand out in these two revelations to Hagar and Moses. The presence of the Angel of Lord is at the beginning of each call. In both revelations there is an interaction between Egypt and Abraham’s descendants. Ishmael and the people of Israel are guided and strengthened respectively by Hagar and Moses in the wilderness. God hears the cry of the boy but he does not know that God has heard. God tells Hagar “to lift up the boy and hold him by the hand”; similarly, God hears the cry of the enslaved people but they are not aware that he has heard their cry. God tells Moses to let the people know that I will deliver them out of the affliction of Egypt. As Moses looked back at these stories and its parallels with his own experience with God and that of the people’s, it must have been a source of hope and encouragement to both Moses and the people. In this context, the Hagar and Ishmael typologies seem to be intentional and to point to God’s plan to save his people.
Ishmael and the People of Israel
There are other interesting parallels in this study. The son of an Egyptian slave was received and educated by Abraham and Sarah, the son of an Israelite slave in Egypt was adopted into the Pharaoh’s family. Both sons were sent to the desert.
Ishmael, not Isaac, seems to represent the people of Israel in these narratives. Just as Ishmael had to go in order to be blessed and for the promise to be fulfilled, so too the people of Israel had to leave Egypt in order to worship God. Just as Ishmael had to pass through the desert in order to grow and allow God’s promises to be fulfilled, so Israel also had to pass through the experience in the wilderness before arriving in the Promised Land. Just as God heard the boy cry, he also heard his people’s cry for help. Just as God commanded Hagar to “take the boy by the hand and lift him up,” so too he commanded Moses to let the people know that he had heard them (Ishmael). Both Ishmael and the people of Israel brought with them to the desert the trauma of their experience. But God was with them (Gen 21:20; Exod 25:8).
Ishmael and Joseph are also connected in that God was with them specifically in their time of distress and despair (Gen 21:20; 39:2, 21) . Both were sent away from home. In so doing, both fulfilled God’s purpose for them. Likewise, the people of Israel would also be connected with the descendants of Ishmael in their journeys. In Dotham, Joseph would be “saved” from the hands of his brothers and sold into Egypt. The Ishmaelites, unknowingly, would be instruments of salvation and rescue to Joseph. God’s providence would transform that tragic situation so that Joseph would become God’s instrument to preserve the remnant of Jacob.
In order to fulfill God’s promises of blessings to Ishmael, he was to remain in the desert. He was to be as free as a “wild donkey” in the desert; his mother was a slave but he would never be a slave. He became an archer and he was to “dwell in the presence of all his brothers” (Gen 16:12), including Isaac. His mother chose an Egyptian wife for Ishmael and he had twelve sons who became princes. Isaac’s son, Jacob, who later became Israel, also had twelve sons, so it seems that all of the promises given to Abraham and Isaac were also given to Ishmael, except the promise to be the son of the covenant.