Why did Sarai & Abram have the Egyptian slave/servant girl (שִׁפְחָ֥ה) Hagar? Was it custom for newlywed Hebrew couples like them to have servants?

  • 2
    Abram & Sarai are traditionally recognized as the founders of the Hebrew People so there would be no pre-existing "Hebrew" customs for newlyweds.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Feb 4, 2022 at 22:55
  • 1
    @Yirmeyahu Seemingly the Hebrews (עברים) are descendants of Ever (עבר), so it would make sense that there would have been customs of the descendants of Ever even before Avraham and Sarah.
    – Harel13
    Feb 5, 2022 at 17:47

4 Answers 4


How did the Egyptian handmaid named הָגָר Hagar [Bereshit 16:1] become servant to שָׂרַי Sarai ?

Rashi [1] believed : "She [Hagar] was a daughter of Pharaoh; when he saw the miracles which had been performed for Sarah’s take he said, “It is better for my daughter to be a handmaid in this man’s house than be mistress in another man’s house” (Genesis Rabbah 45:1).

Chizkuni [2] noted : "when Pharaoh handed over his daughter to Sarai (when the latter was a captive in his Palace) he had said to her: “my daughter is your compensation for my having wronged you. ”Here is your reward.” (Based on Matnot kehunah in Br’eshit Rabbah) As a result she was renamed: Hagar."

  • What do you mean Rashi believed
    – robev
    Feb 5, 2022 at 17:04

The [midrash][1] says after Avraham and Sara visited Egypt, Pharoh was so impressed with them that he gave his daughter (Hagar) to them as a slave. It was better for her to be a slave in Avrahams household then to marry anyone else.


  • Where is this midrash found?
    – Double AA
    Feb 4, 2022 at 20:44
  • @doubleaa Bireishis rabba 45 .1 i dont kniw how to to the edits
    – Shlomy
    Feb 6, 2022 at 0:59

So, according to the Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (26:7), Sarai was taken to the Pharaoh in order to be his wife and because of his love for Sarai, he wrote in her marriage document all his wealth. Not only gold and silver, but Pharaoh also gave Sarai his own daughter:

He (also) wrote (giving) her Hagar, his daughter from a concubine, as her handmaid. And whence do we know that Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh? Because it is said, "Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children; and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar" (Gen. 16:1).

The pasuk ends with "She had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar", on this, Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky explains in his work "Vedibarta Bam, Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Lech Lecha":

When a master marries off his slave to a Jewish woman, or when the master chooses his maidservant to become his wife and marries her, she automatically becomes a free person. Thus, after Avram had married Hagar, she considered herself a free person and no longer subject to Sarai’s authority.


Genesis 12:16 explains that she was a gift from Pharaoh:

And they [Pharaoh et al.] used Abram well for her [Sarai's] sake. And he [Abram] had sheep and oxen, and he asses, and men servants and maid servants, and she asses, and camels.

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