Leading Idea: Rhetorical Questions

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Leading Idea: Rhetorical Questions
“Where have you come from? Where are you going?”

When the Angel comes to Hagar he asks: “Where have you come from? Where are you going?” Does the angel want an answer? Rhetorical questions are questions we ask when we do not expect (or even desire) an answer – rather, their intent is either: (i) to lead us along a path of reasoning (in which case the person asking the question then proceeds to answer it (e.g.; “Why am I saying this? Because…), or (ii) to point our attention to something we are already expected to know (e.g.; “Do you really want that third cookie?”).
In the case of Hagar, it seems the angel is asking the second kind of rhetorical question. So what is the angel seeking to get Hagar to think about? Hagar has left Avram’s house and she is ‘on the road to Shur’ – heading back toward her place of birth, Egypt. It looks like she is fleeing from one home and returning to another home. The question might be: “To what home should you be returning?” or “Where do you belong?”
Other cases of rhetorical questions in the Torah involve other pivotal events.

  • God to Adam and Chava in the garden of Eden, (Bereshit 9-13)
  • God to Cain “Where is Hevel your brother?” (Bereshit 4:9)
  • God to Moshe “Why are crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15)

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