In Genesis 16:3 it is written:

"So Sarai, Abraham's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, at the end of ten years of Abraham's dwelling in the land of Canaan, and she gave her to Abraham her husband for a wife."

But in Genesis 21:12-13, HaShem addresses Abraham by calling Hagar simply "your handmaid", and not "your wife".

I did not understand if Hagar really was Abraham's second wife or just his pilegesh;the issue seems to me controversial in the Jewish tradition.

In some sources Hagar is considered a wife:

Yevamot 64a:5

"Although there is no explicit proof for the matter that one must take another wife if he has not had children after ten years of marriage, there is an allusion to the matter, as the verse states: “And Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar…after Abram had dwelled ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife” (Genesis 16:3)."

In other texts Hagar is qualified a pilegesh:

Rashi on Genesis 25:6:1

"The concubines — The word is written deficient, (without י, but our texts have a י in both places) because he had only one concubine, Hagar, who is identical with Keturah. Wives are those whom a man marries with a marriage-contract (Ketubah): concubines have no marriage contract, as we explain in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 21a) in reference to David’s wives and concubines."


1 Answer 1


The Haamek Davar writes,

לאברם אישה לו לאשה. תיבת לו מיותר. וביעקב כתיב ותתן אותה ליעקב לאשה. אלא כדברינו שכך היה התנאי. דלגבי אברם לבד תהא לאשה ולא לשפחה. אבל לגבי שרה תהא לשפחה כמו שהיה וע׳ להלן כ״א י״ב י״ג שכ״ז הי׳ נוגע אח״כ לענין:

Summarized that the extra "lo" (to him) in the verse signifies that Hagar was considered a wife only with regards to Abram, but regarding everyone else, she was a handmaid. Chapter 21, 12 and 13 have Hashem making the statement about who Hagar is, especially when compared to Sarah. On verse 13, he writes,

משום שכך היה התנאי שלגבי שרה תהא הגר כשפחה וכמש״כ שם

This was the condition (established when Hagar was given to Avram), that in regards to Sarah she was still a handmaid.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .