Sarai (Sarah) – Mother of many nations. Scriptures: Genesis Chapters 12-23; 17:15-21; 18:1-15: 21:1-8; Hebrews 12:8-19 and I Peter 3:1-7
Sarai, later called Sarah, was the wife of Abram who was later called Abraham. The meaning of Abram is honored father and Sarai is princess. The meaning of Abraham is father of many nations and Sarah is Chieftainess. As you can see their names changed only slightly but the new meaning was consistent with the covenant between them and God. She is known for her faithfulness as a wife after God called Abram out of his homeland. Abram was from Ur of the Chaldees and was from an honored, wealthy family proven by the wealth he carried with them when they left on their journey
Women throughout history have followed her example and followed their husbands as they sought a better life. But, most of them had some idea where they were going. When God called Abram and Sarai out he did not give them a destination, but simply said to go to a land that God would show them.
Can you imagine Sarai’s response to Abram’s announcement that probably took place in the privacy of their bedroom? “We’re leaving? Where are we going? What do you mean you don’t know where we’re going? Are you sure this is a good decision? What if you’re wrong? We’re doing well here, why leave?”
You might think in that ancient culture Sarai would not question her husband, but as we follow Abram and Sarai throughout their lives you learn that Sarai was a strong woman, even though she was an obedient wife. Being obedient didn’t change her strong personality and having a strong personality didn’t make her disobedient. She even obeyed Abram twice when they were in a strange land and he instructed her to say she was his sister to save himself.
She was the first woman known for her faith as she followed her husband to an unknown destination, never to return. She was 65 years old and Abram was 75 years old when they left Haran in Canaan for the land God promised them. When Abram and Sarai traveled it was not like a modern-day family taking a vacation or even moving across country. He took with them servants and their families, animals and many possessions. They had their own caravan. Imagine the huge undertaking it was to move all that from place to place until God told him to stop.
At one point God spoke to Abram and promised him that this land in Canaan would go to Abram’s seed in Genesis chapter 12. Many years passed and in chapter 15 God confirmed the promise again that his inheritance would go to his own son, not to a son of one of his servants.
We have all heard how Sarai tried to “help” God in chapter 16 when she encouraged Abram to have a child with her handmaiden Hagar, an Egyptian servant. She convinced Abram that it had been too long and God was preventing her from conceiving. It was a common custom in that time and place for a woman to give her handmaid to her husband so that children would be born and those children would be the children of the husband and his wife legally. Sarai figured this would remove the curse of her barrenness. Abram didn’t put up an argument, as verse 2 states that he hearkened to the voice of Sarai. But, after Hagar became pregnant she hated Sarai according to verse 4. Sarai was miserable when she saw what her plan had done. Abram told her to deal with her servant as she pleased and in verse 6 it says Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar who fled into the desert. An angel of God visited her there and told her to return to her mistress. He promised that she would bear a son, his name as to be Ishmael and he would also be a great nation. Abram was eighty-six years old at the time. From that union came Ishmael and the Arab nations and the Islamic religion that constantly wars with Israel. That should be a lesson to us all that God does not need our help to accomplish his promises, but we all think he does and continue to try to help him.
When Abram was ninety years old and Sarai was eighty years old God once again confirmed the covenant and the promise and he changed their names to Abraham and Sarah. God once again promised Abraham a son and promised that Sarah would be his mother when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah ninety years old. As God was speaking to Abraham Sarah heard them and laughed within herself (Genesis 18:10-15) at the idea of bearing a child at her age. She asked if God would give her pleasure with her husband to have a child at her age. God said yes and even told them to name him Isaac and that many nations would come from him.
The hardest blow for Sarah had to be when Isaac was a young man and God told Abraham to take him and offer him as a sacrifice in chapter 22. Scripture does not specify how much Abraham told Sarah before he and Isaac ascended up the mountain to offer a sacrifice. But, surely they must have told her what happened when they returned, even if to tell her of the miracle of God providing the ram for the sacrifice and saving Isaac’s life. Just the thought of God asking for the sacrifice of her only son had to have been emotionally draining. In the very next chapter Sarah died at the age of one hundred twenty-three years old and Abraham buried her. He went on to marry again and father more children but his inheritance went only to Isaac. He sent his other sons away when he gave Isaac his inheritance in chapter 25. Abraham lived thirty-eight years after Sarah, making him one hundred seventy-one years old.
Questions to consider:
1. What was her sphere of influence? What was the result of her behavior immediately and to modern society?
2. What happened when her faith ebbed at different times?
3. How do you think she felt when Abram asked her to pretend to be his sister?
4. Imagine her feelings over those many years dealing with the curse of barrenness.
Discuss barrenness in that culture and today.
5. What about her feelings, beyond laughter, at the prospect of finally having the curse removed and bearing a child?
6. Discuss how she might have felt during the time she “encouraged” Abram to have a child with Hagar and later when she caused Hagar to run out of the camp?
7. What kind of mother do you think she was, giving birth at her age? Do you think it made a difference? How?
8. Do you think she ever disobeyed Abraham with her strong personality?
9. Do you think Abraham and Sarah sought God’s advice before they made a decision?
10. Who are the descendents of Sarah, both natural and spiritual?