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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 25

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 25.—Of Sarah’s Handmaid, Hagar, Whom She Herself Wished to Be Abraham’s Concubine.

And here follow the times of Abraham’s sons, the one by Hagar the bond maid, the other by Sarah the free woman, about whom we have already spoken in the previous book.  As regards this transaction, Abraham is in no way to be branded as guilty concerning this concubine, for he used her for the begetting of progeny, not for the gratification of lust; and not to insult, but rather to obey his wife, who supposed it would be solace of her barrenness if she could make use of the fruitful womb of her handmaid to supply the defect of her own nature, and by that law of which the apostle says, “Likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife,” 918 could, as a wife, make use of him for childbearing by another, when she could not do so in her own person.  Here there is no wanton lust, no filthy lewdness.  The handmaid is delivered to the husband by the wife for the sake of progeny, and is received by the husband for the sake of progeny, each seeking, not guilty excess, but natural fruit.  And when the pregnant bond woman despised her barren mistress, and Sarah, with womanly jealousy, rather laid the blame of this on her husband, even then Abraham showed that he was not a slavish lover, but a free begetter of children, and that in using Hagar he had guarded the chastity of Sarah his wife, and had gratified her will and not his own,—had received her without seeking, had gone in to her without being attached, had impregnated without loving her,—for he says, “Behold thy maid is in thy hands:  do to her as it pleaseth thee;” 919 a man able to use women as a man should,—his wife temperately, his handmaid compliantly, neither intemperately!



1 Cor. 7.4.


Gen. 16.6.

Next: Chapter 26

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