Biblical People

Biblical People: Sarah (1)

The story of Sarah (first called Sarai) is scattered throughout the narrative in Genesis chapters 11 through 23. Not only is she the first wife of Abraham, she is also his half sister. Though this makes us squirm today, at the time, a man marrying his half sister isn’t prohibited.

Sarah, whose name means princess, is most attractive. Abraham worries that would-be suitors will kill him to get her, so he asks her to say she is his sister. He even says this will be an act of love.

She agrees and does so—twice—with other men taking her as their wife. Both times God protects Sarah and works out her return to Abraham, but what torment she must go through when they take her away, and Abraham does nothing to stop them.

Although God repeatedly promises Abraham children, Sarah grows tired of waiting. In her old age she concocts a plan where Abraham can have his promised child through her servant, Hagar. It’s an ill-conceived idea, and Abraham is boneheaded for going along with it. Conflict results.

Later God confirms that Abraham’s chosen child will come from Sarah. She laughs at this improbable promise, and God criticizes her for it. A year later, the child is born when Sarah is ninety and Abraham is one hundred. They name him Isaac, which means laughter or he laughs

Sarah lives another thirty-seven years and dies at age 127.

With God, all things are possible, even a ninety-year-old woman having a baby or living 127 years.

Do we ever get tired of waiting for God and mess up his plans by doing things our way?

[Discover more about Sarah in Genesis 11–23, specifically Genesis 20:12 and Genesis 21:1–7.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at