Q. Genesis 21 says that Abraham threw out his wife Hagar because Ishmael mocked Isaac, and with God's blessing. Is this a precedent for a husband turfing out a wife if there is strife in a family? It does seem a bit harsh. Have you ever thrown out a wife?
On the surface of it, yes, it does seem a bit harsh. However, there is more here than meets the eye, and the Book of Jasher, if it is to be relied upon as an historical document, goes further in saying that the teenaged Ishmael actually tried to kill his younger half-brother Isaac out of jealosy because of the loss of inheritance. That Hagar and Ishmael had to be sent away is clear when you realise that there was a spirit of murder around and that Yahweh would not permit Satan any opportunity to destroy the promised Messianic seed.
As I have discussed in another article, Is the Abrahamic Model of Polygamy Correct?, we should not be looking to the Sarah-Hagar relationship for any kind of model for New Covenant polygamy. Human error abounds with tragic consequences. First in Genesis 15, Sarah tries to jump ahead of Yahweh and get the promised seed through a servant girl. When the servant girl gets pregnant, she is despised by her. Sarah blames Abraham. Abraham chickens out of his responsibility and tells Sarah to decide what do to with Hagar. She mistreats her and she runs away. Yahweh rescues Hagar and recompenses her for the suffering she received at her misstress' hands and brings her home. Finally, Sarah gets pregnant. By this time we presume that Hagar has settled down and there is no further animosity between the two sister-wives. However, it is not so with the concubine's son who mistreats Isaac in the same way that Sarah had mistreated his mother (a familiar cycle, isn't it?). Finally Abraham sends Hagar away apparently with little in the way of provisions and she is rescued from death by Yahweh. This was not a divorce, as some have said (see The Hagar Heresy: A Lame Excuse for Divorce in Polygamy Rebutted) and according to the Book of Jasher Abraham established Hagar and Ishmael in another camp and visited them regularly each year.
The tragedy of the separation of Hagar and Ishmael from the main camp of Abraham is not a precendent for sending a rebellious wife away whenever things go wrong in a polygamous family. The problem here was one of potential murder, a spirit that the descendents of Ishmael still, alas, struggle with. Were the teenage child of one of my wives to become possessed of a murderous spirit (Yah forbid!) I would be forced to do something similar. If two wives simply could not get on (or would not get on) then for family peace I would be forced to separate them, for instance, into two separate homes (again Yah forbid!). A husband does have the right to rearrange his households for the greater good as he perceives it though he cannot abandon or divorce a wife unless, as in the case of Hagar and Israel, there are life-threatening circumstances. Such a decision is a heavy responsibility to be sure and not one to be taken lightly or executed unadvisedly.
As for myself, no, I have never thrown a wife out of my house, though there was one devastating time when I came close to doing so because the family was being emotionally torn to shreds and was threatened with disintegration. Yahweh providentially intervened through a series of unforseen events that forced a permanent separation to take place without executive action on my part or anyone else's. It is my belief that when Yahweh is given full sovereignty in a family's life - and particularly the husband's - that He carries out most of the actions Himself. One is reminded of the judgment and penalty of Annanias and Saphira which was carried out by heaven alone. We reap what we sow in the end.