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Biblical People

Biblical People: Sarah (2)

Sarah is sensible, brave, and beautiful. She’s been married seven times and is also seven times a widow, for each time on her wedding night, a demon kills her new husband. When falsely accused of murdering all seven, she plans to commit suicide.

However, wishing to spare her father the grief, she doesn’t. Instead, she prays, giving God the option to take her life if he is displeased with her conduct.

God hears her prayer but has another solution in mind. He sets in motion the events to rescue her.

Meanwhile, Tobias embarks on a quest of epic scope. At the prompting of an angel, he stops by to ask Sarah’s father for permission to marry her. Though he’s never met her, he’s her closest living relative and next in line to marry her, according to Jewish custom.

When Tobias finally meets her, it’s love at first sight. Despite the risk of the demon-killing him on their wedding night too, Tobias still wants her. Sarah’s father agrees. They sign the wedding contract.

That night Tobias mixes a potion and burns it. The smell chases away the demon. Then Tobias and Sarah ask God to protect them through the night. He does. For the first time in eight tries, Sarah’s husband is still alive at daybreak.

Sarah’s family then celebrates for two weeks before the happy couple leaves. When they reach Tobias’s home, there’s a grand reunion and another weeklong wedding celebration.

Sarah’s life was a mess and her future, bleak. No one could fault her for giving up. But instead of suicide, she sought God. He rescued her, removing the curse and protecting her new husband.

When life overwhelms us, do we quit or seek God?

[Discover more about Sarah in Tobit 3:7–16, Tobit 6:10–18, Tobit 7:9–16, Tobit 8:1–21, Tobit 10:10–13, and Tobit 11:15–18 in The New Jerusalem Bible, Common English Bible (CEB), and New American Bible (NAB). For more information, see “Bonus Material: The Full Picture.”]


Read 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 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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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.]


Read 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 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Bible

Another Man With Two Names

Last week we talked about Simon Peter, a guy with two names. Another man with two names is John Mark.

Unlike Abraham and Sarah who received new identities from God and Peter who got his second name from Jesus, the origin of John Mark’s two names seems to lack divine origin.

Perhaps his parents gave him one name at birth and his other label, a nickname bestowed by friends. Maybe he needed two names to avoid confusion with other guys named John and other dudes called Mark.

Regardless John Mark’s dual name does not seem to have any spiritual significance, but to simply be practical.

Even so, John Mark is a fun name to say.

[Read more about John Mark in “Lessons from the Life of John Mark” and “The Comeback of John Mark.”]

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Bible

Three People Given a New Name by God

In the book of Genesis, God gives new names to three people.

In doing so, God is effectively saying, I’m giving you a new identity. You may see yourself according to your old name, but I see you differently. I’m giving you a new name and a new future.

  • Abram becomes Abraham
  • Sarai becomes Sarah
  • Jacob becomes Israel

The Amplified Bible tells us the meaning for five of these names:

Abram means “high, exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5).

The meaning of Sarai is not given, but Sarah means “Princess” (Genesis 17:15).

Jacob means “supplanter” (one who usurps or replaces another), whereas Israel means “contender with God” (Genesis 32:28).

Would you like God to give you a new name? Just ask.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Bible

She’s My Sister

Abraham, the great man of faith, did not always act that way. Once, when fearing for his safety, he lied to king Abimelech, claiming that Sarah was his sister and hiding the fact that they were married.

Assured by Abraham’s lie, Abimelech felt free to take Sarah into his harem. Fortunately, God intervened before anything happened to her, revealing the truth of the situation to Abimelech in a dream.

God’s instructions to Abimelech were simple: return Sarah to Abraham and then Abraham would pray for Abimelech.

Abimelech quickly returned Sarah as instructed. He also gave many gifts to Abraham, as well as to Sarah. Then Abraham prayed for Abimelech and everything was made right.

What is interesting is that God never told Abimelech to give gifts to Abraham and Sarah. Abimelech did that on his own; God did not require that.

I wonder how many times we act in the same way, doing things that God didn’t ask us to do and that he didn’t require.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Bible

Sarah Laughs at God

In Genesis 18:10-15 we read the amazing story of Sarah being promised a son in her old age. When she hears this, she laughs—I would to; it seems preposterous (but for an all-powerful God, nothing is impossible). 

In fact, God rhetorically asks Abraham (Sarah’s even older husband) “Is anything too hard for [me]?”

Sarah’s laughter at God’s promise may have been delight, but more probable, it was doubt. Even so, God did as he promised and Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham within the year.

Despite Sarah’s laughter over what was humanly impossible, God later commends her for having faith, Hebrews 11:11. Although she doubted, she apparently had enough belief so that God would later esteem her for her faith.

We may not have immense faith, but a little faith, even with some doubt sprinkled in, is enough for God.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.