Women of the Bible: Sarah — Samantha Harvey

Many of us know about Sarah and Abraham and the Hebrew nation that was built with their descendants. We are first introduced to these individuals at the end of the eleventh chapter of Genesis in the genealogy of Shem. We are told that Abram (Abraham), the eldest of Terah’s sons, took a wife and her name was Sarai (Sarah). Terah takes Abram, his grandson Lot, and his daughter-in-law Sarai from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan but they only make it to Haran. There Terah passes away and the Lord says to Abram to leave his country and family and go to a land that He will show him. He will make him a great nation and make his name great. So Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. That would make Sarai 65 years old based on the difference of age given in Genesis 17:17.  They’re about middle-aged for the era in which they lived.

We don’t get a personal account of how Abram explained to his wife how they were going to gather up everything and go to the land of Canaan because the Lord Himself spoke to Abram and told him to do so. Personally, I would be a little skeptical if my husband told me that God spoke to him and directed us to pick up and move. I would like to have heard that myself. And yet, my husband applied for a job in South Carolina, interviewed, received an offer and believed that was an answer to our prayers. Thus, we moved 1,000 miles from home in August 2011. Ty had a pretty good track record with answered prayers and I trusted his decision. I am sure the same was true for Sarai.

When Abram reaches the land of Canaan, the Lord appeared to him and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” Yet, there was a severe famine in the land. Thus Abram decides to go down to Egypt. He fears that Sarai’s beauty would cause the Egyptians to covet her and kill him so they could keep her. This prompts him to ask Sarai to say she is his sister so they would not harm him. Did God shake His head at Abram? Why should Abram fear a famine? Did God not say He was giving the land of Canaan to his descendants? In order to do that Abram would have to live long enough to produce an heir. Likewise, should he fear the Egyptians? Nonetheless, Sarai obeyed her husband and indeed the princes noticed her great beauty. She was taken to Pharaoh’s house but the Lord plagued them until he gave Sarai back to Abram. Pharaoh confronted Abram asking him why he just didn’t say she was his wife. Abram was deceitful out of fear even though he knew of God’s promise to him. He should have trusted that God would keep him safe no matter his location.

In Chapter 15, Abram had returned to Canaan and God revealed to him that his heir will come from his own body and that his descendants shall be as numerable as the stars. Abram believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (v. 6).

It is important to me that I can read and know how Abram trusted God but still struggled in how to put that trust into action; yet because of his trust in Him, God found something righteous in him. Did Sarai have the same struggle? In chapter 16, Sarai said “…the Lord restrained me from bearing children” and then told Abram to go in to her maid so perhaps she could obtain children by her (v. 2). We can see that Sarah had owned God’s providence in this situation yet she is not willing to accept it. When we set our hearts on something, we are usually willing to go to great lengths to get it. If our wishes are not kept in submission to God’s will, then our methods will hardly be obedient to His rules. Temptation can make us justify our actions. Let us be aware. Sarai wanted children so desperately that she was willing to give her maid as a wife to Abram so she could be a mother to the child. The Bible does not say if Abram had spoken to Sarai about all that God has promised. Most assume he had and it seems reasonable to assume so, yet why would Sarai do this if she knew they would have descendants? From the beginning, God instituted marriage as a union between one man and one woman only. So if Abram knew his body would provide the seed of an heir, then he should have known that Sarai would be the mother because she was his wife. If we try to rush God’s plan and not wait upon Him, we can make mistakes too.

This mistake had major consequences as Sarai quickly learned. Once Hagar her maid learned she had conceived she despised Sarai. Sarai confronted Abram about Hagar despising her and said, “My wrong be upon you…the Lord judge between you and me” (16:5). Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar, causing her to flee. The angel of the Lord found Hagar and told her to return to her mistress and submit herself. She was also that she would have a son named Ishmael and that his hand would be against every man and every man’s hand against him. The consequence of these choices brought forth the progenitor of the Arabs, enemies of the Jewish people. The founder of Islam would derive from the line of Ishmael.

Abram was 99 years old when the Lord appeared to him and established His covenant with him.  God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah.  God said He would bless Sarah and give Abraham a son by her.  She would be a mother of nations; kings of peoples would be from her.  Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Ishmael was now about 13 years old.)  But God said, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son” (Gen. 17:18-19).  God quickly reminded Abraham that Sarah is his wife.  Even though he slept with Hagar and had a son by her, that was not part of God’s plan.  God’s plan was to produce an heir from his wife Sarah and keep the covenant with Isaac and his descendants.

In Genesis 18, the Lord appeared to Abraham as he was sitting in his tent door. He lifted his eyes and three strangers were standing by him. He offers his hospitality to them and asks Sarah to make them some bread. While Sarah was listening to their conversation at the tent door, she heard that she will have a son. She laughed to herself, thinking she and Abraham are old and past the age of bringing forth children. The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (vs. 13-14). Sarah denied it because she was afraid. He confronted and corrected her on that. God is all-knowing.  It is best to confess because you can’t hide it, not even in your heart.

Abraham and Sarah traveled again and stopped in Gerar. Again Abraham asked Sarah to say she is his sister. King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah, but God visited him in a dream by night and said he is a dead man because he took another man’s wife. Abimelech woke early in the morning, recounted all to his servants and called for Abraham. He rebuked both Abraham and Sarah for deceiving him. To Sarah he said that he has given her brother 1,000 pieces of silver to vindicate her before all. To hear that must have stung. Abraham assumed that there was no fear of God was not in that place and acted out of fear for his life (Gen. 20:11) leading Sarah to cover the truth yet again.

Sarah obeyed God and she obeyed her husband. She was not free of mistakes and there were hiccups in her faith along the way. Yet God still blessed her life. Galatians 4 says we should not be daughters of the bondwoman, born according to the flesh. Instead we are children of God, born according to the promise. We need to walk as we are called. Just like Sarah, our faith will be stronger at times than others and we will make mistakes. Yet in striving be obedient and godly, we will have reason for God to bless us as well.

Samantha and her family live in Florence, SC.

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