How could Sarah's treatment of Hagar and Ishmael be considered righteous? I intend this as a sincere and serious question. While Hagar was pregnant, Sarah "prevent[ed] her intercourse with Abraham, whipped her with her slipper, and exacted humiliating services, such as carrying her bathing-materials to the bath (l.c.);she further caused Hagar by an evil eye to miscarry." (Source) Then, when Ishmael teased Isaac, Sarah insisted that Abraham send both Ishmael and Hagar away from her family, thus estranging a young son from his father, ensuring that son would receive none of his father's inheritance, and nearly causing both mother and son to die of thirst in the desert.

Obviously, G-d intervened and prevailed, and everything was okay in the end. (Except for the inheritance part, of course.) Still, how can any of this be considered righteous behavior on Sarah's part?

  • 2
    Chazal tell us that Yishmael was not merely "teasing" Yitzchak, but sexually abusing him, forcing him into idolatry, and attempting to kill him.
    – yoel
    Jun 6, 2012 at 20:15
  • Where do Chazal say he was sexually abusing him??
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 9, 2015 at 21:10

1 Answer 1


Sarah's actions need not be righteous. First, this source is based on a Midrash. The simple text just states that Sarah oppressed Hagar without going into any detail. The goal of the Midrash could be to get you to view Hagar from a sympathetic point of view - it does not necessarily mean to justify the behavior. Secondly, the Ramban ad loc (secondary source) takes the approach that Sarah was indeed wrong for her actions and Avram was wrong for allowing it.

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    So modern Judaism is not purely based on Torah! It is rathe based on commentaries and other texts written by Rabbis that comprise their own opinions. We have no authenticity of this incident whether it is a factual incident or not.
    – Maxood
    Jun 7, 2012 at 9:03
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    @Maxood, how is what I said anything but a simple reading of the Torah? Also, what does that have to do with the historicity of the Torah? Are you proposing that the Torah is crystal clear about all the implications of every incident therein and requires no thought or analysis to understand it? Jun 7, 2012 at 13:51
  • Thanks Yaakov Kuperman. Perhaps I should have asked not whether Sarah was righteous, but why we consider her to be.
    – SAH
    Sep 4, 2014 at 14:37

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