EL ROI (The Living One Sees Me)

 EL ROI is one of the Hebrew names attributed to God.  If one will take the time to read the Scripture, one will see how God uses  different circumstances to reveal himself and his character to us.  The story behind EL ROI is no exception.  How He revealed this side of Him and to whom is truly beyond most of our expectations.

Hagar (illustration by Keith Karloff Antazo)

Who was Hagar?  Those familiar with the story of Abraham and Sarah have “met” Hagar in the book of Genesis.  She was Sarah’s slave.    It is not certain how Hagar joined the household of Abraham, but some Bible scholars believe that she was probably one of the slaves given to Abraham during their sojourn in Egypt. Pharaoh, as the Scripture says, was smitten by Sarah.  In his attempt to win her over and gain the approval of Abraham – who pretended to be Sarah’s brother- Pharaoh gave them “sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.”[1]  When Pharaoh discovered the truth about Abraham and Sarah, the couple was asked to leave Egypt.  Abraham and Sarah proceeded to Negev bringing with them everything they owned including those that Pharaoh gave them.  It was not until three chapters later that Hagar was mentioned in the book.  In Genesis chapter 16, we see Sarah desperate to have a child gave Hagar to Abraham to bear for him an heir.  When Hagar became pregnant, she unwittingly provoked Sarah’s ire.  Hagar knew that though she was carrying Abraham’s child, she remains Sarah’s slave.  The spat between Sarah and Hagar made a turn for the worse that forced Hagar to flee to the desert.  It was there that she encountered God for the first time.

Hagar was at the lowest point of her existence in Genesis 16 when the “Great I am” spoke to her, and called her by her name.  She had nowhere to go and did not know what to do.  As far as Abraham and Sarah were concerned, Hagar was merely a property to be disposed of at their convenience.  Hagar’s name was never even mentioned by either Sarah or Abraham. [2]Hagar, like the many other women during her time, lived in the margins of society. But unlike the others, she had it worse.   She was not only born female, she was a slave and an Egyptian, a foreigner in Abraham’s community.  All throughout chapters 12 to 15 of Genesis, this slave woman never once had a voice.  She was powerless even over her life.  Her masters can do with her whatever pleased them.   But to the God of Abraham and Sarah, it was different.  That Yaweh should reveal himself to a slave woman, who was not even an Israelite, says so much about this Great and Mighty God.  Through Hagar we learn that God knew everyone in the household of Abraham, including the slaves they had “acquired” during their journeys. Hagar’s encounter with God in chapter 16 changed her for the rest of her life.  El Roi gave Hagar a new identity.  But this was not the only time Hagar would encounter God, He was yet to reveal to her another side of Him.

ISHMAEL, the name that God gave to Hagar’s son was another revelation of God’s other attribute.   Five chapters later, chapter 21, we find Hagar leaving the community of the Israelites for good.  She was sent away by Abraham to live on her own with Ishmael.  Hagar was more desperate this time.  Seeing Ishmael dehydrated, tired and famished, she decided to leave him beside the road than witness her son slowly die before her eyes.  She never thought they would survive the desert until God met her again.  God HEARD their cries.  Ishmael means God hears.

Hagar’s story may be ancient, but it echoes the story of many women up to the present time.   Many women across societies continue to suffer abuses, discrimination and oppression because of their gender.  Very recently, a pregnant Chinese woman was shown in the news.  The woman was drugged and hogtied on a bed as her seven month old baby was forcibly removed from her womb.  Despite claims of many countries to development and modernization many societies have not left the Dark ages.  Many continue to condone inhumane practices against women such as “honor killing,” female circumcision, the killing or abandonment of female babies, etc. Slavery continues under a new name, “human trafficking.”  One may wonder how God can allow all these things to happen to women.   For women, children, and even men who find themselves in an oppressive situation, Hagar’s story can mean strength and hope.  God sees and hears the cries of the oppressed.  He does not only hear and see, He also acts on their behalf.  For His people, He goes to even greater lengths.

YWH has never kept Himself hidden. He was never a mystery to be fathomed, on the contrary, He chooses to make Himself known to humanity from age to age.   God has always been there for us and for the rest of His creation.  From the beginning of time up to the end He was and will be there for He is also IMMANUEL.   Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can find Him there.

[1] Genesis 12:16 (NIV).

[2] Carolyn Custis James, Lost Women of the Bible: The Women we Thought we Knew. (Michigan: Zondervan, 2005),89.


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