Genesis 18: 1-15
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Genesis 21: 1-13
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose name was changed by God. She was first called Sarai—meaning “my princess”—but God changed her name to Sarah—signifying “princess” to all. The promise of ancestorship of many nations came with the change of the name of Sarai to Sarah. “I will bless her and she shall become nations.” She was thus associated with her husband in the great blessing of the covenant whose name was also changed from Abram to Abraham. The former, original name means a “high, or honored father,” the latter, “a father of many nations.” The Apocrypha speaks of Abraham as “a great father of a multitude of nations” (Ecclesiasticus 44:19-21)
Thus, Sarah was to be the princess, not only “because she was to be the ancestress of a great nation literally, of many nations spiritually, but also because the rank and power were to be possessed by her descendants, or rather because the people descended from her were to be ruled over by a regal dynasty, by a succession of kings of their own race and lineage, is derived from her.” In the genealogy of the descendants of Esau, Sarah’s grandson we read, “These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” The line of kings descended from Sarah terminated in God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, whose “kingdom is not of this world.” The sacramental name of Sarah, therefore, also symbolizes the spiritual seed, the whole multitude of believers of all nations who are “kings and priests unto God.”
Family Connections—Sarah came from Ur of the Chaldees, Babylonia, and her former name Sarai, “princely,” identifies her as coming from an honored family. She was the daughter of Terah and was therefore half-sister to Abram, her senior by ten years (Genesis 17:17), whom she married in the Ur of the Chaldees. While Abram and Sarai had the same father, they had different mothers (Genesis 20:12). Marriages between near relatives were countenanced in those days and were sometimes common for religious reasons (Genesis 24:3, 4; 28:1, 2), but not marriages between those actually by the same mother. Sarai was well past middle life and childless when with Abram she left her own country and with him went out “not knowing whither they went” (Genesis 11:29, 30).
Sarah remains the first unquestionably historical woman of the Hebrews, and their first mother. She is, therefore, one of the most important female figures in the world’s history, as the natural source of the Jewish people, through whom the nations of the earth were to be blessed.
The testimony of the Bible is that Sarah was unusually beautiful (Genesis 12:11, 14).
Hebrew folklore has kept alive stories of her remarkable beauty and ranks her next to the most perfect woman the world has known, Eve, “the mother of all living.” Sarah seems to have had beauty that grew more attractive with the passing years. When Sarah arrived, after a long journey through dusty deserts and under a scorching sun, at the frontiers of Egypt, she was more beautiful than ever, and this explains the curious speech of Abraham to his wife at that juncture: ‘Now I know that thou art a woman beautiful to look at.’ Did he not know that before? Not so convincingly, explains the rabbi, as after he had seen that even travel had left no touch on her countenance.”
Even when she was 90 years of age she was so lovely that Abraham feared that kings would fall in love with her bewitching beauty—which Pharaoh and Abimelech did, as our next glimpse of her proves. As one of the most beautful women who ever lived we can imagine that wherever she journeyed the admiring eyes of all were cast upon her. “Grave is all beauty,” and Sarah’s renowned loveliness certainly brought its trouble.
When famine drove Abraham and Sarah into the land of Egypt, and they felt that hostile kings might take them prisoners, Abraham came up with the abject, base proposal that if taken prisoners then his wife should represent herself as his sister. Fear of death unmanned him and led him to risk the dishonor of his wife and thereby save his own neck. She dearly loved her husband, and his life was too precious to her to make her think of the shame she might incur. Sarah was utterly wrong in yielding to her husband’s plot. How nobler she would have been had she stoutly refused Abraham saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” But she called her husband “lord,” and evidently he was lord of her conscience.
Abraham felt that if oriental despots knew that Sarah and he were married they would slay him and add the lovely woman to their harem. Married to a conspicuous beauty caused Abraham to be afraid, and he resorted to a falsehood to save his life. If taken, Sarah was not to say that she was his wife but his sister. This pretense was not an outright lie, but a half-truth, seeing that she was his half-sister. They were children of the same father, but not the same mother. It seems hard to believe that such a good man could deliver his lovely wife over to a heathen monarch, but he did, and Sarah entered Pharaoh’s harem. But God protected her by sending plagues upon the monarch. Pharaoh sent her back to her own husband, untouched. The same unworthy plan was carried out when Abimelech, king of the Philistines, admiring her bewitching beauty had her taken to his harem. But again God interfered and commanded the king to restore Sarah to Abraham, seeing she was his wife. Threatened with violent death, Abimelech obeyed, but severely rebuked Abraham for his deceit.
The one great grief of Abraham and Sarah was that through their long life together they had no children. To a Hebrew woman, barrenness was looked upon as a gnawing grief, and sometimes regarded as a sign of divine disfavor. Childless, even when back in Babylonia (Genesis 11:30; 16:1-8), Sarah remained so until at 90 years of age God miraculously fulfilled His promise and made her the mother of the son of promise. Through the long years, “side by side with the prosperity, beat for beat with the pulse of Abraham’s joy, there throbs in Sarah’s heart a pulse of pain ... There is as yet no heir.” The constant grief of barrenness caused Sarah to become “The Woman Who Made a Great Mistake.” In spite of the fact that, along with her husband, she had received the divine promise, that from her nations would spring, the possibility of ever becoming a mother died in her heart. Such a cross as barrenness inflamed and intensified her pride, and forced her to find a way out of this embarrassment to her husband. “Sarah sacrificed herself on the cruelest altar on which any woman ever laid herself down; but the cords of the sacrifice were all the time the cords of a suicidal pride: till the sacrifice was both a great sin in the sight of God, a fatal injury to herself, to her husband, and to innocent generations yet unborn.”
Sarah revealed the sad defect of her qualities when she said to Abraham, “Take Hagar my maid, and let not the promises of God fail through me. Through her I can continue your hereditary line.” But all poor Hagar could do was to produce an Ishmael. It was only through Sarah that the promised seed could come. Although it might have been a custom of the time for a man with a barren wife to take a concubine in order that he might have an heir, Abraham, as a God-fearing man, should have stoutly refused to go along with the unworthy scheme, which in the end produced jealousy and tragedy. “Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai,” but the voice was the fatal siren of Satan who sought to destroy the royal, promised seed (Genesis 3:15).
In His forgiving love and mercy God appeared to Abram when he was 99 years old, and assured him that his long barren wife, although now 90 years old, would conceive. To confirm His promise God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, and of Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17; 18). At such a revelation of God’s purpose, “Abraham fell upon his face and laughed.” Although he marveled at the performance of the naturally impossible, Abraham yet believed, and his laughter was the joy of a man of faith. Laughter is sometimes mad (Ecclesiastes 2:2) but that of Abraham was highly rational. He rejoiced in the thought that Isaac should be born, and perhaps at that time he had a vision of the Messiah. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (John 8:56). As for Sarah, what was her reaction when she overheard the Lord say to her husband, “Sarah thy wife shall have a son”?
The record says, “Sarah laughed within herself,” but hers was the laugh of doubt. Yet when her son was born he was named Isaac, which means “laughter”—a memorial of her sin (Genesis 18:13), and of her husband’s joy (Genesis 17:17). Sarah’s joy knew no bounds, “God hath made me to laugh” (Genesis 21:6; 24:36). She had laughter before, but God was not the author of her laugh of doubt. The joy of Sarah in the birth of Isaac reminds us of “the great joy” proclaimed by the angels who made known to the shepherds the birth of Christ who came of the line of Isaac (Luke 2:10; Romans 4:18-21). Paul reminds us that it was by faith that Sarah conceived beyond nature (Hebrews 11:11). It was not only in itself a miracle wrought by faith, but also in earnest of something far greater, even the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Source: Bible Gateway / Her Name Is Woman (By Gien Karssen)