Abrams wife had borne him no children, and
she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.
So Sarai said to Abram,
Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from
Please go in to my maid;
perhaps I will obtain children through
And Abram listened to the
voice of Sarai.
After Abram had lived ten
years in the land of Canaan, Abrams wife
Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and
gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.
He went in to Hagar, and
she conceived; and when she saw that she had
conceived, her mistress was despised in her
sight. - Genesis
It would seem strange to most
people today for a woman to give another wife to
But, looking at the customs
of the people of Abram's time, a woman without
heirs (especially male heirs) was left to
begging or prostitution to support herself if the
husband died. She was
forced to produce a male heir in any way she could.