by Gwen Shaw
The fact that the Bible has recorded so much about Sarah reveals how important she is in the plan of God. She is, not only the mother of Israel and much of the Arab world, she is also the “mother” of all who are followers of her son, Jesus Christ, for the Word of God says that by faith we are the sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah, for we are children of the “free woman.”
The greatness of God was in Sarah. She was a woman of great courage and strength.
So great is her honour, that she is mentioned in the Hall of Fame of the Eleventh’s Chapter of Hebrews.
“Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable” (Hebrews 11:11-12).
Together with her husband, Abraham, she travelled throughout much of the then-known world. She was chosen by two kings to be their wives. One was the greatest king of his time, Pharaoh of Egypt. She lived in tent or palace. She was called the most beautiful woman in the world, had great riches, hundreds of servants at her call, suffered the curse of barrenness for many years, made some terrible mistakes, but knew how to pray through to victory, when, in the end she held her son of laughter in her arms and nursed him at the age of ninety.
Her beauty, even in old age, was so great that in the Aggadah it is written, “even Abishag the Shunammite, whose beauty is extolled, never achieved half of Sarah’s attractiveness.”
Life was not easy for her in those days, but she had great faith as she journeyed with her husband in his earthly wanderings, always looking for that city whose Maker and Builder is God.
The only land she ever possessed became hers only after her death when Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah for her burial place. Only then did she have a place she could truly call “home.”
It was the sacrifice of her death that secured forever Eretz Israel for her, her children, and her children’s children.
Gwen R. Shaw
SARAH – PRINCESS FOR ALL MANKIND
THE MYSTERY OF SARAI’S TRUE IDENTITY
Because Sarah’s original name was Sarai and Abraham’s was Abram we will begin the story by calling them Sarai and Abram, and we will change it when the Lord changes it.
Sarai means “a princess of her own people.”
Sarah means “a princess for all mankind.”
The ancestors of Sarai came from the godly line of Seth through Noah and his son Shem (Genesis 11:10-32, Luke 3:34-38).
Sarai had a golden opportunity to learn about the history of her people, for Noah lived another 350 years after the flood, and died only after both Abram and Sarai had been born.
They knew about the building of the Tower of Babel, the cruel dictatorship of the world’s first powerful deceiver, dictator and war monger Nimrod, and they saw how the people were now divided and spoke different languages, but their family retained the original language which had been spoken before the flood. This was the language that their descendant, Moses, would one day use to record the first oracles of God, the TORAH. It is still a living language today.
Sarai was ten years younger than her husband, Abram. They were closely related and had probably grown up together.
Their exact relationship to each other is uncertain. There are two different theories.
The first is that she is the daughter of Haran, Terah’s son, who died in the Ur of the Chaldees, leaving three children, Lot, Milcah and Iscah (Genesis 11:29). According to this theory, Iscah is the pet-name of Sarai.
The second is that Abram’s father, Terah, married a second time, after Abram was born, and when Abram was ten years old his father had a daughter, Sarai, by his second wife, whose name is Sarai.
In Genesis 20:12 Abram explains to King Abimelech about their relationship when he said, “And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12).
Does this mean that Sarai was Abram’s half-sister?
Or is our first theory more correct, that she was the daughter of Haran, and therefore a niece of Abram’s?
We know that Abram married Sarai, but what we don’t exactly know is, who Sarai was. That they were closely related, there is no doubt.
FATHER TERAH LEADS THE FAMILY OUT OF UR
When Terah left the Ur of the Chaldees to begin his long journey to the Land of Canaan, he took with him his two living sons, Abram and Nahor, and the children of his dead son, Haran — Lot, Milcah, and Iscah, who probably is the same person as Sarai, and is called by that name from then on. Abram married Sarai, and Nahor married Milcah, their nieces.
Terah took the well-travelled road along the Euphrates, but it was a difficult journey in those days, and he only got as far as Mesopotamia, where he stayed in a place called Haran until he died at the age of 205. Today it is in the far eastern reaches of Turkey, and tour guides claim they can show you Sarai’s house!
Many years later Eliezar travelled here to find a wife for Abram’s son, Isaac. And Jacob, Isaac’s son, did the same, at his father’s command. Both Isaac and Jacob married women who were their cousins.
It seems that Terah and his family lived in Haran quite a few years because Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran to go to the Land of Promise (Genesis 12:4). Sarai was sixty-five, and hoping and praying for a son.
GOD CALLS ABRAM TO LEAVE HIS FAMILY AND GO TO THE “LAND OF PROMISE”
The Lord spoke to Abram, after his father died, and said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3)
They left behind them Abram’s brother Nahor, his wife, Milcah, and their eight children — Huz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel, who became the father of Rebekah and Laban. Bethuel also had a concubine by the name of Reumah who bore him three sons, Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and a daughter called Maachah.
They followed the old trade route from Haran that led through the ancient city of Damascus. This may have been where Abram acquired his faithful servant, Eliezar of Damascus (Genesis 15:2), but on the other hand, he may have purchased him at the slave market in Haran, because Genesis 12:5 states, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5).
They crossed into the land of Canaan north of today’s Sea of Galilee, and continued south until they reached Shechem, where Abram built his first altar, and where the Lord appeared unto him and told him, “Unto thy seed will I give this land:” (Genesis 12:7).
From there, he continued his journey south to a place near Bethel, where he again built an altar. From here he continued still further south.
EGYPT, WHERE SARAI’S SORROWS BEGIN
Because of the famine in the land, he continued journeying on to Egypt to live there. Whether or not Abram was in God’s will when he went to Egypt we do not know. But that it became a snare to his soul is evident. He lied about his relationship with Sarai, saying she was only his sister, and not identifying her as his wife.
He also acquired a maid servant by the name of Hagar, who became the mother of his firstborn son, Ishmael, and the source of much trouble in his and Sarai’s lives. Egypt was the beginning of Sarai’s great sorrow of soul.
Genesis 12:11-20 tells the story of their lies and intrigue. It is a sad story, and one hates to link it with a man so great as Abram, and a woman like Sarai, but the Bible tells it as it is.
As they were getting close to the Egyptian border great fear for his life fell on Abram. He immediately resorted to his own wisdom and scheme of how he would save himself. He said to Sarai, I know that you are beautiful, and when the Egyptians see you, they will want to kill me so that they can take you.
I wonder if he had ever told Sarai before that she was beautiful? He had seen her all the sixty-five years of her life, but now he was looking at her with a new perspective. She didn’t look like the average dark-skinned Egyptian, with copper-toned skin, she was fair, and probably had golden hair — still without a trace of grey. Many women are beautiful in their sixties.
Every woman likes to be flattered, even Sarai, so it wasn’t difficult for Abram to win her over through flattery.
History tells us that Abram’s fear was valid. Ruthless men of that part of the world had killed more than one woman’s husband, and taken his wife into their harem. Abram had no doubt heard incidents from others as he chatted with other men when he and Sarai spent the nights at the traveller’s inns on their long journey. But his plan to save his life was not one of trust in God.
It is interesting to read how he reasoned with her, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13).
Was it really for her sake, or was it for Abram’s sake?
Many times we don’t know our own hearts. It is so easy to deceive ourselves and pretend that our reasons for doing “kind” deeds are for others, when we ourselves are benefitted by them. There are many who take great pride in being recognized for their philanthropic works. God is looking for those who are pure of heart, and whose motives are pure before Him.
Sarai was obedient to her husband. What other choice did she have in those days?
But things would never be the same between them. As you read and study and meditate on their lives you begin to see the fine line of separation come between them.
Separation between a husband and wife doesn’t begin in the divorce court, it begins in the heart, when harsh words are spoken in anger or agitation, especially when spoken in front of others to humiliate and belittle the other person. Nor does all the “sweetness” and cuddling that takes place in privacy make up for it. It takes more than petting and caressing the “pot” to heal the crack in it.
Many marriages are not merged one into the other, they only have a resemblance of being emerged. Outwardly, life goes on the same — smiles, flattering words, a lingering touch, an act of helpfulness, but deep within, there is a pain that seems to go away only to flare up with every sharp and painful rebuke.
Sarai, beautiful one, you were hurt when you were offered up as another concubine to some Egyptian who would purchase you to satisfy his lust so that your beloved Abram could live safely in the land.
As Abram and Sarai were welcomed among the great and the wealthy, the princes of Pharaoh saw her and spoke to Pharaoh about her. It didn’t take long before Sarai began to notice that the Egyptians “beheld the woman that she was very fair.”
Sarai became more and more uncomfortable as she saw men cast their lustful eyes on her. And then, one day, the uneasiness she felt turned into fear when Pharaoh sent for her. He wanted to meet her. She could not turn to Abram for help, he had already moved out of her bed, so she spent that last lonely night in fear, wondering what would happen to her when the day would come and she would be separated forever from him. She knew that her only hope was God. But did God also hear a woman’s prayer? Or was He only a man’s God?
Late into the night Abram did business with Pharaoh’s officers. He had hoped that the price he demanded for his “sister” would be so high, that Pharaoh would refuse to pay so great a dowry. But it didn’t work. No price was too high for this beautiful princess from the north — this “Nefertiti” who believed in a one, true God. And so, the agreement of marriage was signed, and the dowry was delivered to Abram — sheep, oxen, asses, camels in abundance, menservants and maidservants. And Sarai was brought to the grand palace of the most powerful potentate in the universe and prepared for her wedding night, when she would be taken to Pharaoh’s bed.
Garments of the finest silks and gossamer in rich and vibrant colours were prepared for her. Jewels for her forehead, her ears, neck, arms, hands, and ankles were given to her. The house of Pharaoh had no lack of gold and precious gemstones.
But Sarai was miserable. She had difficulty communicating with the women of the harem, for they did not speak the same language. And those who had been the king’s favorites resented this new-comer, and were jealous when they saw her chests of fine jewels, her gorgeous garments, and the fragrant oils and perfumes.
The nights were the worst of all. There was no word from Abram. He dared not try to communicate with her, lest Pharaoh become suspicious. And so, she was alone in her misery and fear. There were times she wept with longing for Abram, and then she would remember this whole thing was his idea. How could he do this to her? Did he really love her? He had said that it was for her sake that they must agree to tell people they were brother and sister, but what was the use of being alive, if one was so unhappy, and so miserable. Did Abram really love her? Wasn’t it his own life he was trying to save? Would she see him again, and did she really want him back, when he could “sell” her as a high priced concubine, to save his life?
The days passed slowly in the harem. Every exotic kind of food was brought to her by her maids, but she had no appetite for them. She had never eaten these dishes; one was less appetizing to her than the other.
The days passed by, one after another, and she still had not been called into the king’s presence.
THE LORD PLAGUED PHARAOH’S HOUSE WITH GREAT PLAGUES
She was beginning to wonder what was happening. She saw people talking to each other in whispers, while some would look her way and point to her. She knew they were talking about her.
Then sickness began to break out in the harem. One after another of the wives, and favorites of the king, fell sick with dreadful fevers that left their skin marked. Some were at death’s door. Nor did the doctors, who were called in, seem to be able to heal them. The only thing they could do was to give powders to reduce their suffering. Then the men servants took sick! The palace became a kind of hospital, with sick servants lying everywhere about in beds and pallets, and very few who were able to serve the royal family or wait on them, and they too needed help because the plague had struck many of them down also. The odour of sickness hung in the air. Only Sarai remained healthy.
When the doctors couldn’t help, the soothsayers and magicians were called before Pharaoh. They asked questions, did enchantments, inquired of their gods, and came back to tell the king that the plague was caused by one woman who had brought all the bad luck. He had to get rid of her immediately, lest he himself die!
But how does one break a covenant of agreement?
The only way was to call in Abram, discuss the matter — there must be something wrong; — the gods! This woman’s gods were angry. And they were powerful.
So Abram was summoned before the king, where, upon interrogation, he revealed the truth. The king was angry with him, for his not telling the truth about Sarai. He scolded Abram, “What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: Now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way” (Genesis 12:18-19).
Pharaoh could have had both Abram and Sarai executed, but by this time he feared their God, and he didn’t know but what their God would destroy him, and all of Egypt, if he harmed Abram, so he commanded his officers to treat Abram with honour and respect, and let them go in peace. Nor did he want any of the gifts he had given Abram in exchange for Sarai to be returned to him. He only wanted him out of the country, and that as speedily as possible.
And so Sarai was hastily sent for, and told to pack her belongings because she must immediately leave the palace. Only after seeing Abram did she understand what had happened, and all that God had done to save her life, her honour, and her marriage.
And then she knew that God hears a woman’s prayers too, and that He will do as much to save her as He will for any man. So it was that Sarai and Abram left Egypt, being ordered out of the country, taking all their newly acquired wealth with them, and an Egyptian maid servant called Hagar.
THE SEPARATION OF LOT AND ABRAM
Abram was now very wealthy in cattle, servants, silver and gold. He journeyed across the Negev and back up to Bethel where he had first raised his tent and built his first altar when he had come into the land of Canaan. Again he offered sacrifices and called on the name of the Lord. He had a lot to talk to the Lord about. Things had not gone well in Egypt. And he felt very unhappy about the whole thing. Sarai seemed to be more distant now. She still had unanswered questions in her heart. And Abram, sensing her drawing back from him, reacted in the same way. Their great wealth had not made them happier. In fact, they seemed to be even more unhappy, because Lot, who had also gone to Egypt with them, and had also become very wealthy in cattle, now added to the problem because there wasn’t sufficient grazing land for both of the families due to the immense size of their herds. This caused fighting between Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen, who were not righteous men, like Abram.
Finally, things got so bad between them that Abram, in his wisdom, said to Lot, “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:8-9).
Lot, being selfish and greedy, immediately chose the best grazing area, which happened to be the plain of Jordan, because the Jordan River flowed through it. It was indeed fruitful and beautiful. The only trouble was that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated in this valley and the Bible says, “…the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). Yet Lot was foolish enough to “pitch his tent toward Sodom.”
This was the mistake of his life. It would cost him a great price because, before very long, he would lose every bit of his wealth, including his wife and some of his children, and his grandchildren, for Sodom’s days were numbered, and time was running out.
It was after Lot separated himself from Abram that God spoke to Abram and said, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (Genesis 13:14-17).
The Hebrew scribes teach that to “walk the land” is a legal act which denotes acquisition.
After walking through the land and claiming it, as the Lord had commanded him, Abram moved his tent south to the plains of Mamre, the area where Hebron is situated today. He again pitched his tent, and built an altar. He had his home and his chapel in Hebron. It was here that he would spend much of his life and where his and Sarai’s body would rest after death, and where, it is believed they are still resting.
ABRAM SAVES LOT’S LIFE
One day Abram received the shocking news that Lot and his family had been captured by foreign troops, and carried into exile. He immediately marshalled his trained servants who had been born in his own house — all three hundred and eighteen of them — and pursued the enemy. He found them at Damascus, attacked them, smote them, and rescued Lot and his family.
On his return journey, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, went out to meet Abram and welcome him with bread and wine. He was, not only the king of Salem, he was the priest of the Most High God. He gave Abram a blessing from the Most High God. Upon perceiving this blessing Abram gave the high priest a tithe of all he had seized in the battle. It wasn’t anything that belonged to Sodom that he gave, but the wealth he had stripped from the bodies of the men he had killed in battle, for the soldiers in those days wore medals of gold and silver as good luck charms when they went into battle.
When Abram received the bread and wine he was reaching into New Covenant times and taking of the Body and the Blood of the Messiah. In so doing, his sins, and the guilt of the shedding of blood, even in warfare, was atoned for. Abram was able to give a sacrifice of tithes that was a sweet smelling savour before the Lord.
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21).
But Abram didn’t want anything to do with that which belonged to Sodom. He knew it was cursed, and would bring a curse upon his family. So he answered the king of Sodom, “…I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:”(Genesis 14:22-23).
We are never the richer when our pos-sessions are ill-gotten gain. Instead, we are the poorer, for evil money from evil men is evil, and it will cost us dearly in the end.
After this victory Abram received a vision of the Lord who promised him, “…Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
And surely the Lord is a rewarder of all who are righteous and holy in their dealings with God and their fellowmen.
Abram was still troubled because he remained childless. He began to feel that the only one who would inherit all his wealth was his faithful steward, Eliezar of Damascus. He didn’t see Lot as a possible heir, for sin had already greatly contaminated Lot and his family. So the only one to inherit his great promises from God was this faithful servant of his, who was also a very godly and righteous man.
The Lord then promised Abram, “…This (Eliezar) shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Genesis 15:4).
Then God brought Abram out under the stars of the night and said to him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Genesis 15:5).
God gave Abram a sign — a token of security, as Abram offered a very unusual sacrifice to God. And the Lord told him exactly what would happen in the next four hundred years.
1. Abram’s seed would multiply into very many.
2. They would sojourn in a strange land that wasn’t theirs.
3. They would become slaves there.
4. God would judge that nation for the way they treated them.
5. God would bring them out of the land.
6. They would come out in the fourth generation.
7. God would give Abram the land from the River of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
Abram now knew the entire future of his children and his children’s children. But how many of his experiences he shared with his wife Sarai, we do not know.
God had promised Abram that his heir would come out of his own loins, but he had not, as yet, told him that Sarai would be the mother of the son he would have.
THE SURROGATE MOTHER
As the custom still is in many countries, the woman is blamed when a husband and wife are childless. It is the duty of the barren wife to provide her husband with another woman who can bear children on her behalf.
It is therefore not strange that Sarai should feel she was the one to blame for the fact that they still did not have children after all these years. So if she is to blame, she must think up a plan to help out this situation.
Now Hagar was Sarai’s personal maid, and Sarai had become very fond of her. She was the only good thing about that whole Egyptian venture, which Sarai would rather not remember. So it was no wonder that she began to conceive the idea that God could finally give Abram and her a son through Hagar. Hagar would be, what we today call a surrogate mother. That was a thing that was customary in those days.
But Abram, being a righteous man, could not simply copulate with her without a ceremony of marriage. He must make her his second wife. She evidently had a higher position than a slave. She was not just a concubine. The Aggadah says that Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh, whom Pharaoh had given to Sarai as a personal handmaid.
And so it was that Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2).
Sarai fully intended to accept Hagar’s son as her own.
The plan seemed to be acceptable to Abram. There is no record of him disagreeing with Sarai, or arguing against it. The Torah simply says, “And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife” (Genesis 16:3).
Let us pause for a moment as we look back at the scene.
One day, Sarai says to Hagar, “Hagar, I have grown very fond of you. You are closer to me than the rest of the maid servants. You are almost like a daughter. I remember well the kindness you showed me when I was in Pharaoh’s house, and how you took care of me and calmed so many of my fears. I have always been so grateful that Pharaoh let me keep you when he banished me from his harem. Probably it was because he heard how close you were to me, and that the curse that had fallen on the palace, because of me, might have involved you also, and you would therefore be harmful to the house of Pharaoh. Now, I want to show you a kindness, and elevate you. But I need your help and co-operation. You know how long I have prayed and waited for a son, and now I am too old, as I have passed the time of conception. But still Abram is praying and hoping every day for a son, because he believes God has told him that he will have many children. He needs a younger wife who will bear his child. Would you be willing to become his second wife? You would be given great honour, and I also will be helped, because it will take the burden and responsibility off of my shoulders. All these many years I have tried so hard to have children, but it has been totally impossible. So now it is too late, and I have given up hope. You are the only hope I have. Perhaps God will give me a son through you, and through you I can give Abram his long desired son.”
Hagar was in shock when she heard this proposal. Never, in her wildest imagination, had she thought of such an idea. She was young and strong and healthy. Abram was an old man, four times her age. Could she stand to sleep with him? Could she accept this wild proposal? She knew there would be no passionate love between them, just a dutiful kind of relationship, where he would deposit his seed in her womb and then return to Sarai’s bed. She could never expect him to love her, nor could she love him as a woman should love the man she marries. Nor would she ever have the opportunity to love any other man or be married to someone else. She would be bound to him in a marriage that wasn’t a marriage, for the rest of her life.
But what future did she have as Sarai’s maid? If she accepted the proposal she wouldn’t be a slave any longer, she would be a free woman, at least as free as a second wife could ever be. And so she gave her answer, “I will do it.”
Sarai thanked her and kissed her; and the two of them began to make wedding plans.
The cloth merchant was brought in for the choosing of the wedding robe, the preparation of the trousseau, and the jeweler came to present his finest of jewelry for their selection. Abram himself, gave her a chain for her neck, ear rings, bracelets and ankle bangles of the finest gold.
THE WEDDING NIGHT
The musicians were hired, the wedding feast prepared, and the guests arrived.
The night of celebration began. The men feasted in their tent while listening to music and watching the dancers late into the night. Meanwhile, Sarai celebrated with their wives and the neighboring women in a special tent brought in and erected for that occasion.
Finally the celebration came to an end. It was time for the consummation of the marriage. Sarai took Hagar’s hand in her’s and led her to the tent which Abram had purchased for him and Hagar. From then on he and Hagar would share this tent until it was announced that she was with child.
As Sarai pulled aside the tent’s flap and handed Hagar over to Abram, who was waiting, she could feel the young woman trembling. She dared not look into Abram’s eyes. Neither did she dare to let him look into her own eyes. She could not speak, nor answer him, when he bid her good night, and gently touched her shoulder.
She hurried out as quickly as she could to her lonely, empty tent, and cast herself, still fully clothed, on her lonely, empty bed. Abram would be good and kind to Hagar. She knew him that well. He would not force her and make her afraid. And as the tears of confusion, pain, grief and sadness fell from her eyes, and her body shook with long pent up emotion, she suddenly remembered the day when Abram had turned her over to Pharaoh’s soldiers, and they had carried her away to Pharaoh’s house to be prepared for his bed.
How things had turned around! Abram had given Sarai to Pharaoh, and she had given her husband to a slave girl of Pharaoh’s household!
And she was somehow comforted that now he would have to feel what she had felt. For had he not rejected her as his wife, she would not have rejected him as her husband, and given him another wife!
We are even! she thought, as sleep slowly took away the grief of the night. Sweet, comforting sleep!
HAGAR AROUSES SARAI’S ANGER
It didn’t take long for Hagar to conceive, and when she did she was very proud of herself, for she saw how happy it made Abram. He began to treat her with respect and concern, for she carried in her womb his first child.
Sarai, meanwhile, was filled with all kinds of emotions — relief, joy, envy, jealousy and rejection. She saw this new closeness between Abram and Hagar, and it hurt her. Abram was treating Hagar as though she was fine porcelain, and very precious, while Sarai, who because of her age, needed a helping hand now and then, was totally forgotten.
To make it worse, when Sarai called upon Hagar to do her usual tasks, she was shocked to find that Hagar did not respond to her orders. When Sarai rebuked her for her disobedience Hagar reminded her, “I’m not your slave any more. I am Abram’s wife. I demand respect. Get someone else to wait on you.”
Sarai saw a defiance and disrespect in Hagar’s eyes which she had not seen before. It angered her, so she spoke to Abram about it.
“I have made a mistake by giving my maid to you in marriage. She has changed. From the time she found out she was pregnant she has treated me with disrespect. She looks down on me as though she despises me. The Lord has to judge this case — either He takes you, or He takes me. I can’t go on living like this.”
Abram knew Sarai well enough to fear her strength and authority. He immediately bowed out of “these women affairs.” He said to her, “Look, your maid is in your care. Do to her whatever you wish. Deal with her as you like. Don’t bother me with your problem.”
HAGAR RUNS AWAY FROM SARAI
When Sarai saw she had Abram’s permission to punish Hagar she immediately took advantage of it. The Bible says, “she dealt harshly with her.” She was, in fact, so cruel, that Hagar fled from Sarai. She ran away into the desert.
This was a very dangerous thing to do, both for her and her unborn child.
Sarai was relieved to get rid of Hagar, but when she saw how angry and upset it made Abram, because of his concern for Hagar and his unborn child, she realized she had not handled the situation correctly. She had a feeling that even God was displeased with her. She vowed to herself that if Hagar returned she would treat her differently — after all, things were really not the same — Hagar really was Abram’s wife, and she herself had been the cause of it all. Had it not been her idea that Hagar should bear children to Abram? She was the one who had given Hagar into her husband’s bosom. And in so doing, had driven a sword into her own — one that would wound her for the rest of her life, and still does today, as the children of Hagar are fulfilling the prophecy that the angel of the Lord gave Hagar concerning her son Ishmael, “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him…” (Genesis 16:12).
Meanwhile, Hagar finds herself in that waste and howling wilderness, far from home. Her grief and anger was spent, and her physical and emotional wounds were beginning to heal. And there was grief and hurt in her heart. She was thinking how she had heard Abram give Sarai permission to “do as it pleased her.” Perhaps he had not realized how harsh and hard Sarai would be. But then, Hagar realized Sarai wasn’t the only one to blame — she herself, had done wrong. She had been proud and disdainful towards Sarai, and had said things to her and about her to others that were not proper. If she could go back home, she would be different. She would treat Sarai with the respect she was due. But it was too late. She could never return!
As she struggled on, looking for some kind of civilization, where she could find someone who would give her a drink of water, she saw the sun sinking in the west, tinting the sky coral, pink and deep red. In places it was almost purple. She stopped to gaze at its beauty and take one final drink from her meager water supply. It didn’t even begin to quench her terrible thirst. But she must hasten on. She had to find refuge before darkness descended. She was on her way to Shur, but she knew she would never live to get there if she didn’t find water soon. In the heat of that wilderness people were known to have died within a few hours from sheer thirst and dehydration because of the intense heat. It was like a bake-oven.
Just when she felt like giving up because her legs could go no farther, she saw what looked like tents not too far in the distance. Their colour had camouflaged them and hidden them.
Upon reaching them she saw a well. No one was about, so she quickly lowered the rope, with the wooden bucket on the end, and brought up water — cool, refreshing, life-giving water! She drank and drank, and then she poured it on her face and head and arms, and she rejoiced at the miracle of water — just plain water! Never in her life had she appreciated it so dearly.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARS TO HAGAR AND SPEAKS OF ISHMAEL
Suddenly, a supernatural being stood in front of her! At first he looked like a man, but when she looked at him more closely, and heard him speak, she knew he was an angel of the Lord. He had found her by this well in the wilderness.
He had come in answer to Abram’s prayers to God, for God loved Hagar and the child in her womb as much as He loved Abram and Sarai. He loves all of us all the time, no matter what we have done. He laid down His life for sinners.
When the angel had been commissioned by the Lord God to find Hagar, he knew that the best place to look for her would be at a well.
Even today, the daughters of Hagar will be found at the fountain of Living Water. Search for them there, for you will surely find them. They are tired and weary with millennium of wandering in the wilderness. Many have died of thirst. God needs you to go as an “angel of God” to them and give them the message of life — the water, the living water, which, if they drink, they will never thirst again.
Suddenly the angel spoke, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
The angel knew the answer to all these questions, but he wanted Hagar to know that, in God’s sight, she was still Sarai’s maid. And then He wanted to get her to confess and talk to him about her troubles. If we can share our troubles it helps to heal our hearts.
She answered him, “I am fleeing from the face of my mistress, Sarai.”
Ah! What a victory! She acknowledges that Sarai is still her mistress!
The angel says, “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.”
What good, sensible advice. After all, where else was there for her to go?
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to admit you were wrong, and go back to where you came from.
The prodigal son did it. But too often pride makes us keep on going, until we destroy ourselves.
The angel told her to submit herself under her Sarai’s hands. When the Lord tells you to do a hard thing, He gives you the grace to do it!
Then He promised her, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10).
The very same promise which God had given to Abram was now given to his firstborn son while he was yet in the womb, because he was of the seed of Abram.
He told her, “Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:1-12).
The name “Ishmael” means, “God hears”. His name would be a reminder to her that God had heard her weeping. She had not been chosen as a wife for Abram because he loved her, nor even because he desired her in a carnal way, but out of convenience. She had been available. Sarai had made sure she was of good breeding, and so she was really not much more than a “baby machine”, and the realization of these facts, together with the grief of this young maiden’s heart, God had not overlooked. She had been born and raised a worshipper of the gods of Egypt, but God treated her as though she was a daughter of Abram. In fact, except for Eve, this is the first account of God speaking personally to any woman.
The angel told her Ishmael would “dwell in the presence of his brethren.”
Although Ishmael was raised in the desert, and probably lived there all of his life, and during the centuries, his descendants have lived there, now, in these end-times these words are being fulfilled as the Palestinians dwell with the sons of Israel in the Chosen Land — the land that was given to their joint father, from the River of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates.
Hagar named the place, Beerlahairoi, and took comfort saying, “I have seen the One who always sees (watches over) me.”
And with this promise in her heart she knew she could face anything — even Sarai’s wrath. She filled her bottle, and when morning came, she turned her steps northward to home.
“And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram” (Genesis 16:15-16).
Abram was seventy-five years old and Sarai was sixty-five when they first arrived in Canaan (Genesis 12:4). He had been ten years in the land when he took Hagar as his second wife (Genesis 16:3). He was eighty-six when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16).
GOD CHANGES THEIR NAMES, MAKES THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION, AND PROMISES HIM THAT SARAH WOULD BEAR HIM A SON
Thirteen years later, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and Sarah was eighty-nine, the Lord appeared to him, and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”
When Abram heard the voice of God he fell on his face. The Lord continued talking with him, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And God said unto Abraham, “Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her” (Genesis 17:1-17).
When Abraham heard these powerful words he fell on his face before the mighty presence of God. Three special commands and revelations were given to Abraham that day.
1. The Covenant of Circumcision of all the males of Abraham’s descendants.
2. He would become the father of many nations.
3. The names of both Abram and Sarai were changed.
Sarai (8297) WBC which meant “princess of her own people” would be Sarah (8283) UBC which meant “princess for all mankind.”
Abram (87) JBP} which meant “high father” would be Abraham (85) JUBP} which meant “father of a multitude.”
4. Sarah would bear him a son in the following year (whose name would be Isaac), and she too would become a mother of nations.
The promises were so overwhelming that Abraham fell upon his face the second time, laughing at the very thought of Sarai, his eighty-nine year old Sarai, having a baby. He asked God, “Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”
That was when God gave him the name of Sarah’s son, “Isaac,” which means “laughter.” He would bring great joy and happiness into their lives after all their years of trials and testings, hoping and waiting, and finally giving up hope and resorting to their own way of fulfilling God’s promises.
“O THAT ISHMAEL MIGHT LIVE BEFORE THEE!”
Then Abraham remembered Ishmael. He loved Ishmael, his thirteen-year-old son, and he didn’t want God to cast him off. The child certainly wasn’t to blame for Abraham’s and Sarah’s sin of unbelief.
“O that Ishmael might live before thee!” Abraham beseeched the Lord (Genesis 17:18).
The Lord answered him, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” (Genesis 17:19-21).
And with these words, God “left off talking with Abraham and went up from Abraham.”
That same day Abraham circumcised every male in his household, including his purchased slaves, his son Ishmael, and himself.
THE POWER OF THE HEBREW LETTER “HE”
It was only after two things had been accomplished in Abraham’s life that Isaac could be born. Both of these were vitally important:
1. The Covenant of Circumcision had to be made.
Circumcision was symbolic of a work of sanctification i.e. “cutting off the flesh.” God could not give the son of promise to unholy, unsanctified parents, for both Abraham and Sarah had sinned in the matter of lying about their relationship and the giving of Hagar to Abraham as a wife.
2. Both Abram’s and Sarai’s names had to be changed to AbraHam and SaraH so the letter HE could be added to them.
The mystery of the change on their names is found in one of the little “hidden treasures” in the Hebrew alphabet. It is the letter HE. The Jewish scribes consider it a very holy letter.
When you breathe out the letter “HE” you can hear its sound coming out of your mouth. They say “the entire world was created by HaShem, with just a little HE, i.e. (the breath (RUWACH) of God, and that it was put into Abraham’s and Sarah’s names, so that they could have children. This letter is found two times in the Hebrew name for God: YeHoVaH. When God changed their names the only difference was the addition of the letter “HE.”
When God put His breath into Sarai and Abram, the HE changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. It was only after God added this letter that Abraham and Sarah were able to have a child. From this we understand that when the breath of God entered into their lives it empowered them to reproduce life. And when we receive the “breath of life,” i.e. the Holy Spirit, we receive the resurrection life. That is why, after His resurrection, Jesus “breathed” on the disciples, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).
When the breath of God enters into a person, that person is completely changed! God breaths, by the Holy Spirit, into our hearts, and creates within us a new creature for the Glory of the Lord! “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
THE LORD VISITS SARAH PERSONALLY
It was not long after that when, one day, as Abraham sat in his tent door in the heat of the day, (the Jewish scholars say he was still suffering discomfort from his recent circumcision), while the rest of the camp was taking their afternoon nap, that he opened his eyes, which were heavy with sleep, and saw three men standing close beside him. He immediately knew they were heavenly visitors. He ran to greet them, and bowing himself to the ground he extended eastern hospitality to them. He begged them, “My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.”
They answered him, “So do, as thou hast said” (Genesis 18:3-5).
After getting them seated Abraham hurriedly entered the tent and woke up Sarah, “Quickly prepare three loaves of bread for our guests.”
Leaving her wondering what was going on, he ran into the herd and chose a fatted calf which he gave to one of his young servants with the command to hurriedly butcher it, and prepare it for his newly-arrived guests. He, himself, set the table — butter, milk, the prepared veal and the freshly baked bread, and waited upon his guests as they ate.
When they finished their delicious “earth meal” they turned to Abraham and asked, “Where is Sarah, your wife?”
He answered, “She is in the tent.”
The Lord then repeated the promise He had given Abraham when he had spoken to him previously, “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son” (Genesis 18:10).
Sarah heard what He said because she was standing in the tent door, which was behind Him, listening to everything that was happening. When she heard these words, she thought about her great age, and knowing that she had passed the days of child-bearing, she began to laugh silently, saying to herself, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:12).
The Lord, knowing her thoughts, gently rebuked her by saying to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? And why did she say to herself, shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Then Sarah denied she had laughed, saying, “I laughed not,” for she was afraid.
But the Lord answered her, “Nay, but thou didst laugh.”
Saying that, they stood up to leave.
Inside the tent Sarah was still in shock. She wondered if what she had just seen and heard had all been a dream. The day was very hot, and after a lunch of bread and cheese and fresh fruit, that Abraham had ordered delivered from the fruitful Jordan valley, she had retired for her afternoon nap. “Abraham, why don’t you lie down and rest too,” she had coaxed him, as she had every day of their married life.
Sometimes he obeyed her, but usually, like today, he would just sit in the shade of the old oak tree — that tree was so large its branches also shaded part of the tent that he now lived in with Sarah.
It was hard for Abraham to remember to call her by her new name, Sarah. Most of the time he still called her by the old one, Sarai. And although he had told her that she must now call him Abraham, he noticed that she almost never remembered.
He had told her the message the Lord had given him, that she would bear him a son, and they would call him Isaac (Laughter, Joy) because, after all these years, God was finally going to answer their prayers.
But Sarah didn’t really believe him. She knew that Abraham had been circumcised, along with the entire household of males, and she saw how weak the whole ordeal had made him. He was only then beginning to heal up. Ishmael was still complaining of discomfort, and Hagar had shared her misgivings about it all with Sarah.
The two women had laid down their old conflict, and were getting along quite well — after all, old Abraham couldn’t be a husband to either of them now; he was all “withered” — especially now, with this circumcision.
Thirteen years had gone by since that night when she had brought Hagar into Abraham’s tent. It was only a memory now. When Hagar had returned from her flight into the desert she had told Sarah all about her meeting with the angel, and that the angel had commanded her to return to her mistress, Sarah, and submit to her. So she had come back in a different spirit than when she had left, and Sarah, herself, had repented of her hardness, so the two women got along quite well together.
Now this! What had really happened? she wondered. She had been thinking about what it would be like if it were true that in her old age she would have a son. She said to herself, “But if it is true, why doesn’t God tell me, Himself? After all, He had told Hagar, when she was in the desert, that she would have a son. He talked to her! Why doesn’t God talk to me?” These had been her last thoughts as she had fallen asleep.
Sarah went over it all again in her mind, as she thinks back at what has just hap-pened. She remembered how, suddenly, she had heard Abraham talking. Who is he talking to? She listens for a while, still drifting in and out of sleep, when he shakes her wide awake and says, “Get up quickly, and make three loaves of bread, and use the finest flour.”
She immediately gets up, peeks out the flap of the tent, and begins to prepare the bread. What she had seen was three men dressed in an unusual fashion, and with the kindest, most beautiful faces she had ever seen in her life. Who were they, and where did they come from? Abraham seemed to be acquainted with one of them. Where had he met them?
The bread was ready when Abraham set the table for them, and fetched her loaves, still hot from the fire, laid them before his guests, and stood to serve them with extreme politeness.
She was watching, and listening from the darkness of the tent, when she heard the chief of these men ask, “Where is your wife, Sarah?”
Ah, He called her by her new name! Almost no one else did that. Who was He?
Fear began to grip her heart — fear and awe and wonder. Could it be Him? Could God, Himself, have come down to talk to her? And was He going to tell her that she would have a son?
She listens intently, She hears the man ask Abraham, “Where is Sarah, your wife?”
She hears Abraham answer him, that she was in the tent. And then she hears the amazing prophecy, “I will return unto thee according to the time of life, and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son” (Genesis 18:10).
The whole idea was so preposterous that she had to laugh. Abraham was incapable of giving her any seed. And her womb had shrivelled up long ago. The thought of it was too humorous. She started laughing quietly, so no one would hear her. She was embarrassed talking about these private things with strange men — except for one’s own husband, women only talked with other women about having babies.
But the Man didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed, instead, He seemed to be upset with her, “Why did Sarah laugh?” He had asked Abraham, as if he was responsible! Why did she doubt, thinking she is too old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? And then He had added that He would return, and she would have a son. He, Himself would attend the birth of this son. And even though they had waited all these years, he would be born “at the time appointed.” Yes, there was a time to be born (Ecclesiastes 3:2).
Sarah looked about her, seeing the remains of her baking effort. Yes, it was real. It wasn’t just a dream. There was the flour, and the remains of the fire to prove it.
But who were these men? Had God truly visited her? And had He eaten her bread? She couldn’t wait for Abraham to come back to her, but he had walked along with his guests, and she could see them up on the top of the hill talking together. Abraham seemed to be very concerned, waving his arms about, as if he was begging God for something special, or trying to convince Him to agree to his plea. She would ask him when he returned.
ABRAHAM’S INTERCESSION FOR SODOM
When Abraham did return he was very somber, and heavy-hearted. At first Sarah could get nothing out of him. But finally, Abraham couldn’t bear the burden any longer. He told Sarah how God had confided in him — what he had known all along — that the sins of Sodom were very grievous, and that He, and the two men who were with Him, had come down to personally investigate whether the people of the cities were really doing the wicked things that they were being accused of by the people who had so grievously suffered from them, for their cries had gone up to God, and He had heard.
Abraham said to Sarah, “I thought judgment was coming to Sodom. I have known it for a long time. I immediately thought about our nephew Lot, and his wife, who has always loved the things of the world, and their children, who grew up in our household. We have been apart now almost twenty-five years. They will all be grown up. Some will be married, and have children of their own.”
Abraham remembered how he had rescued Lot and his wife and family after they had been taken captive by a foreign army. They would all have ended up as slaves, or worse, if he had not saved them, but they had hardly seemed grateful. They had hurried back to Sodom as soon as they had returned. Nor did he ever get much news from them. Lot didn’t come to see him, and of course, Abraham refused to ever go down to Sodom. He knew it was cursed. The tales that the travellers told about Sodom and her twin city, Gomorrah, were so horrifying that men would not talk about them in front of their wives and children.
Now God, Himself, was going to investigate! That meant only one thing — the judgment of God upon the cities was imminent. Abraham continued his story to Sarah, “When I thought about Lot, I began to intercede, ‘Oh God, will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?’ If there are fifty righteous in the city, would you not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous that are in it? It’s not like you to slay the righteous with the wicked. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The Lord said to me, “If I find fifty righteous in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole city.”
“Then I asked if He would do the same for forty-five, and He agreed. So I asked Him if He would spare the city for the sake of forty righteous people, and He agreed to that. I then asked Him to do the same for thirty, and when He agreed, I asked Him if He would do it for the sake of twenty righteous. Each time He said He would. Finally, I asked once more, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: If there are ten righteous there, will You please spare the city?” And the Lord promised me that He would not destroy it for the sake of ten righteous people.” I dared say no more. Surely Lot must have some of his family who are worthy of being spared! There are more than ten in his family. They have daughters and grandchildren and servants. Hasn’t he taught them to believe in our God!”
“I don’t know,” answered Sarah. “I do know his wife had no interest in spiritual things. She loved the way the Canaanite women lived. She fit in better with them than with me. Even Lot never built altars and offered sacrifices like you did. Abraham, I doubt if they are ready for this.”
“We can only wait and see. May God be merciful to them!” Abraham replied with a great sigh.
“AND LO, THE SMOKE OF THE COUNTRY WENT UP AS THE SMOKE OF A FURNACE.”
Abraham did not sleep well that night. Early in the morning he arose and started walking to the place where he had last talked to the Lord, and pled for the city of Sodom, and the lives of the family of Lot. Before he had even reached his destination he saw a terrible sight which he would never forget. The entire beautiful plain of Jordan, where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had once stood, was now ablaze. The smoke of them was ascending miles in the sky, like a great furnace. The entire area was being totally destroyed by a gigantic, raging fire. It looked like the whole world was on fire.
Abraham fell on his face and cried out to God. He had no idea what had happened to Lot and his family. His heart was filled with anguish. He hurried back to his tent and told Sarah to come and see. Soon the whole camp was aroused. They all stood there, shaking and trembling at the awful sight. It felt like the end of the world had come. They could smell the brimstone even from there. The sky was dark. When the sun rose, no one could see it. Darkness covered the land.
“Let us leave this place. It is dreadful!” someone cried out.
No one knew what would happen next. All the Canaanites were filled with fear. Only Abraham and Sarah knew that God’s judgment would fall no further. Had God not told Abraham that it would take four hundred years before the iniquity of the Amorites would reach the degree of evil where God will command their destruction? (Genesis 15:13-16).
Even in this day, God is measuring the sins of our nations and our cities. He knows how long it will be before He will have to pour out His wrath and judge a nation or destroy it. It has happened to many, even in this century.
Abraham was not comfortable living in Mamre any longer. The terrible eruption and outpouring of fire had caused devastation in areas far from Sodom and Gomorrah. All the five cities of the plain had been destroyed. The vegetation had been affected. Good grazing land was now impossible to find. So Abraham decided to move south, to the Negev, in the area known as Gerar.
SATAN’S LAST ATTEMPT TO DESTROY THE SEED OF SARAH
As soon as they arrived Abraham was again filled with fear that he would be killed so that Abimelech, the King of Gerar, could take Sarah as his wife. Again he told everyone that she was his sister. And again, she was sent for by the king. Human nature doesn’t change much.
But how could it be that at so great an age Sarah could still be so beautiful and desirable that the king would lust after her?
There is no doubt that when God visited Sarah, He touched her in a supernatural way, and her body was renewed and much of her youth was restored. Her womb became alive, and desire and passion was restored to her. She was a young woman again. The breath of God had entered her, and rejuvenated her. Is that not why God had changed their names, and why He had added the Hebrew letter HE, the letter of the Spirit, the Ruwach of God, the breath of God?
Not only was Sarah rejuvenated, Abraham had also been rejuvenated, for his name had also been changed. He had also had the HE letter added to his name. And after his circumcision, his body had been renewed and rejuvenated, and he once again felt that he was a “man.”
The womb of Sarah was waiting for the new, lively, joyful seed from Abraham’s body, for he had also laughed when God had told him that Sarah would bear him a son, and that laugh was the evidence that he had received the Ruwach of joyful renewal.
Scientists today have discovered that joy and laughter produce endorphins, and that these endorphins bring health and renewal to the body. The scripture is right when it says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
But Satan, seeing Sarah’s rejuvenated womb, sought to destroy God’s plan by putting it in the mind of Abimelech to make her his wife, and to thereby deposit his seed in her, so that Isaac could never be born, instead, a completely different nation would father her son, thereby destroying God’s plan of redemption.
How many young women marry the wrong man, and as a result, give birth to perverse seed, never fulfilling God’s plan for their lives — nor the lives of the children which God would have given them if they had been married to the right man, and if the right man had fathered their children!
But God again intervened the second time for Sarah by visiting the king in a dream, and announcing to him, “Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3).
Abimelech pleaded his innocence because he still had not touched Sarah. He told God that both Abraham and Sarah had told him they were brother and sister. God answered him that He knew all that, but that he must now immediately return Sarah to her husband, for he was as good as dead if he tried to keep her. The Lord told the king that Abraham was a prophet, and he would pray for him, and he and all his household would be healed, for God had “closed up the wombs” of all the women of the house of Abimelech.
God had done this so that Sarah, who was in the house of Abimelech, could not possibly conceive, even if Satan attempted his cruel and evil scheme!
Early the following morning Abimelech summoned all his servants, and told them what had happened. He also called for Abraham, and rebuked him, “What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?” (Genesis 20:9-10).
Abraham answered, “Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake” (Genesis 20:11).
It is at this time Abraham explains the relationship between him and Sarah, “And yet indeed, she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12).
Abimelech rewarded Abraham generously for praying the prayers of healing, and invited him to live in the land. He did not banish him, like Pharaoh had.
ISAAC IS BORN
The twenty-first chapter of Genesis begins with the joyful news: “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken” (Genesis 21:1).
It was exactly on schedule with the Holy Spirit’s timing. Sarah became pregnant, and nine months later she gave birth to the son of promise who was called Isaac, as the Lord had spoken.
It was an easy delivery. There were no complications. It was as though Sarah was a young woman. The whole camp of Abraham was filled with joy and happiness. Their laughter rang out to the neighbouring areas. Soon they were laughing too. Even today, if anyone bears a child in old age, they are jokingly called “Abraham” or “Sarah.”
When Isaac was eight days old he was circumcised. Abraham performed the surgery himself.
It was as Abraham had prophesied, “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age” (Genesis 21:6-7).
It wasn’t only a miracle for her to have a child, it was also a miracle that she was able to breast-feed him.
Of all the joys of motherhood, none are more satisfying, comforting, fulfilling and precious than that of breast-feeding one’s baby. To feel him snuggle up to one’s breast and suck contentedly, stopping now and then to peek at you, is beyond any mother’s ability to describe. Breast-feeding builds a relationship between the mother and child and helps them to be bonded together like nothing else in the world can.
Back in Abraham’s camp, everything seemed to be beautiful on the outside, but in Hagar’s tent things were different. It had not taken Ishmael long to discover that his father was spending less and less time with him, and more and more time with his newborn son. Ishmael began to feel that he was forgotten. Then he felt rejected, and finally, he was jealous and angry. He shared his hurt with his mother; she sympathized with him, for she too felt that she and her son were outcasts.
Then came the day of the great feast in honour of Isaac. Every Oriental family who can afford it, and many who cannot, celebrate on the one year anniversary of their firstborn son. They invite many people to the feast. It is almost as big an occasion as the wedding feast. The Orientals love to feast. It is a great honour to be able to entertain one’s friends, relatives and neighbours with sumptuous dishes.
As Sarah entertained the women in her tent, she took great delight in all their flattering compliments of how well she looked. She certainly didn’t look her age — like they did! They praised Isaac, squeezing his cheeks till they were red, and hugging and kissing him until he screamed.
By this time he was no baby. Sarah had put off weaning him until the very last day, so Isaac was cranky because he was missing his breast-feeding. Besides, all these people demanded his mother’s attention, and he didn’t like that either.
“CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON”
At last, he saw his big brother, Ishmael. Like all little brothers he loved Ishmael, but Ishmael never responded to that love. Instead, when no one was watching, he would pinch him, or make faces at him. It always ended up with Ishmael making Isaac cry.
Sarah was suspicious of Ishmael’s meanness to her son. On that night she was especially watchful. And her alertness was not in vain. Before long, she caught Ishmael mocking her son, her precious son. She saw the hurt and the tears in his eyes, as he tried to understand what was wrong, but couldn’t, for he had only known love all his short life. What was this strange new bad feeling?
Sarah was angry. She was very angry. On the outside she seemed the same, but inside she was seething. She would not, she could not, put up with this kind of behavior. She would tell Abraham tonight. They had to do something about it. And real soon!
The festivities lasted until late into the night, and Sarah remained gracious and friendly with her guests outwardly, but inside, she was making plans.
Finally, the last of the guests had said their goodbyes and the camp was quiet. Most of them were sleeping. But in Sarah’s tent there was great contradiction. Abraham, Sarah and Isaac finally were alone together. Isaac was sleeping. Abraham immediately sensed that something was wrong — something was very wrong! He had never seen Sarah so angry. She should have been happy. Instead, she was crying with terrifying frustration and anger.
“What is wrong?” he asked her.
Then she told him what had happened. She knew it wasn’t the first time. She had found Isaac crying before, when she had left him alone with his big brother. But when she had checked to see what was wrong Ishmael had seemed to be playing happily with Isaac.
“I dare not leave them alone together. Who knows what might happen to Isaac when we aren’t looking. And Hagar doesn’t stop him. I spoke to her about it tonight, but she only defends him. Abraham, you have got to do something!” she commanded angrily.
“What should I do?” Abraham asked.
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of this woman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac!” Sarah answered him.
Abraham was shocked. The very thought of it grieved him deeply, for he loved the lad, and he was concerned for Hagar, for he had an affection for her also. Had she not laid in his arms many nights? There was a bonding between them which he could never deny. He had many happy memories of his times alone with that young woman who was so different from his wife Sarah.
He walked out of the tent, silently. He must get alone with God. He must pray. How suddenly things can change! An hour earlier he had been basking in the glow of his friends compliments and honours, which he had received from all his friends who had come with their gifts of gold and silver for Isaac.
Now, all of that seemed so far away, and so long ago. His joy was gone. Could it have happened just this very night? “Oh God! What should I do?” He agonized late into the night.
Finally, God spoke, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed” (Genesis 21:12-13).
After a long struggle, peace came to Abraham’s heart. Sweet Peace! But it was mingled with pain, terrible, searing pain. A pain that would last and last because there is no medication known to man that can heal the heart — except it be the passage of time, or God does a miracle.
Abraham slipped quietly into his tent. He didn’t want to awaken Sarah. But she was still not sleeping. “Well, what have you decided?” she asked.
“I will do it! You are right! Hagar and Ishmael will have to leave. God has confirmed it to me. I will send them away this morning. In a few hours I will wake them up and tell them. Now rest. Try to sleep in the short hours that remain of the night.”
THE BANISHMENT OF HAGAR AND ISHMAEL
Early that same morning Abraham rose from his bed, dressed, and with a heavy heart, walked over to Hagar and Ishmael’s tent. He hated to do what he had to do. But one thing consoled him. He wasn’t doing it for Sarah’s sake, but because God had spoken to him. Only for God could he make such a dreadful sacrifice!
Hagar and Ishmael were still deep in sleep when he entered the tent. He walked over to her and touched her on the shoulder, waking her gently. She was surprised to see him. He did not come to her in the night, like this. There might be some emergency, she instantly thought. “What has happened?” she asked, as she quickly sat up in her bed.
Slowly, he began to tell her the story, including the command of God to him, but ending with the comforting promise of the Lord that Ishmael would become the father of a nation. He would live; God would take care of him. He would not die.
Abraham was not angry with Ishmael. He was only sad. He was almost sick with sorrow. As he looked over at his firstborn, and saw the handsome lad still sleeping, his heart ached even more. In his heart, he asked himself the question, “How can I let you go, my son?”
A man may have many sons, but none of them can take the place in the father’s heart which the other sons have. Each one has his own place in the father’s heart.
Hagar began to weep. Abraham put his arm around her shoulder. Don’t weep! It will be all right! The One who watches over you will take care of you. He promised me He would, otherwise I could have never let you go. When He changed my name He promised me, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). “And,” he added, “you must remember what the angel promised you, even before Ishmael was born, when you ran away into the desert and He found you there. Did He not tell you, that you were with child and you would bear a son and call his name Ishmael, and that the Lord would multiply your seed exceedingly, that he would become the father of a great nation, and that his seed would not be numbered for multitude. He even said that the reason you were to call him Ishmael was because it was a token of the covenant that He was making with you that He would always watch over you. And the day will come when we will all be together again, as one happy family, for the Lord told you, “He (Ishmael) shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:10-12).
“Now get ready, for you must leave immediately, before the heat of the day sets in. I will pack some food for you. There is still plenty left over from last night’s feast. And I will give you a good supply of water.”
As Hagar prepared herself for the journey into nowhere, Abraham left to prepared bread and water for her and their son.
When they stepped out of the tent, the morning was still cool. The sun had not yet risen. Ishmael’s eyes were still groggy with sleep. His black hair was tousled. He was tall and strong for his age, with sparkling brown eyes and olive skin, like his mother. He had never looked more beautiful to Abraham than he did that morning when he had to bid him good bye.
Abraham went to him and held him in his arms. But Ishmael could not respond. How could his father pretend to love him, when he was forcing him to leave his home, the only home he had ever known. He was confused and hurt. Tears stung his eyes, some ran down his cheeks. He tried to be brave for his mother’s sake, and not cry, but she was crying too.
Abraham placed the bread and water on Hagar’s shoulder, and an additional supply of the same on his son’s shoulder. He prayed for them with tears, kissed them both good bye, and sent them away. The last thing Ishmael saw, was Sarah standing in the doorway of her tent, watching. She hadn’t come out to say good bye.
And then he knew why! It was because of her! Last night she had caught him teasing and mocking Isaac. She was the one who had forced them to leave. And he hated her as much as he hated her son, “Some day,” he said to himself, “I’ll get even!”
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL’S STRUGGLE FOR LIFE IN THE DESERT
But for the present, it was a battle for life. As soon as the sun rose, the sand of the desert became like the top of a stove. It was unbearable. The only relief was to drink water. So they drank, and drank as they wandered about in the desert, looking for a road that would take them somewhere.
As the sun rose higher in the sky Ishmael could see his mother begin to falter. He saw her stumble, and almost fall. He felt like fainting too. “Water! Mother, please give me water!”
Hagar reached for the bottle, “It’s almost all gone!” she said. He knew what that meant. If there was no water, they would both die a terrible death.
He realized his mother had hardly drunk any herself. She had left most of it for him. But he was so thirsty so terribly thirsty! He could not stand to be without water any longer. He grabbed it from her hands, and drank the last drop — and still cried for more.
Soon he began to get dizzy, he stumbled, and then he fell. Half conscious, he felt his mother dragging him under some bushes. Then he saw her walk away and sit down, for she too had no strength left. He cried out to her, but she did not answer.
She had not been able to listen to his last faint cries for water, so she had walked far enough away that she would not be able to hear him, as he lay there, dying. She lifted up her voice to God, and wept aloud. She wept so loudly that Heaven itself heard this mother and son’s requiem of tears and sorrow.
Suddenly HE was there! Talking with her! The ONE Who had found her in the desert before.
“What is wrong, Hagar?” he asks her. “Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the lad, where he is.” (She couldn’t hear him from where he was, but Heaven could). “Arise, pick him up, and hold him in your arms, for he is going to live to become the father of a great nation.”
Then she saw the miracle happen! Right there in the barren desert! Suddenly a spring of water appeared! She filled the bottle with water and gave it to her son to drink; and he drank and drank and drank, and his soul revived.
Where had that well come from? Had it always been there? Or had the angel dug it as they wept?
Ishmael, “God watches” discovered that day that his father’s God was his God, and that He loved him and cared for him, for the Bible says, “And God was with the lad…”
And Ishmael “grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt” (Genesis 21:20-21).
Ishmael was approximately fifteen or sixteen years old when he was banished from the house of his father, Abraham. He had been fourteen when Isaac was born.
THE OFFERING UP OF ISAAC AS A SACRIFICE TO GOD
We do not know how old Isaac was when God spoke to Abraham and said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2).
The terrible test of offering up Isaac as a sacrifice was given only to Abraham. Sarah was not involved in this great trial of faith. God was trying to do a work in Abraham’s life which only Abraham needed, and not Sarah. And that is why she seems to have known nothing about it. At least, the Bible does not mention her in this story. It simply says, “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am” (Genesis 22:1).
Abraham immediately answered God’s call. He rose up early, saddled his ass, took two of his young servants, his son, Isaac, and the wood that would be used for the fire that would burn up the sacrifice, and started out for Mount Moriah, the place where God had told him to perform this dreadful deed (Genesis 22:2).
For three days they journeyed, while Sarah waited in her tent, not realizing the full extent of the journey her husband and son were making.
Abraham must have been instructed by God to let Isaac carry the wood, for it was symbolic of the wooden cross which the Son of God would one day carry, when His Heavenly Father would offer him up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
When Isaac asked his father, “My father, …Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” his father answered him, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7-8).
The Bible says, “So they went BOTH of them together.”
Except for the brief moment, when all the sins of the world were laid upon Jesus, as He hung on the cross, His Heavenly Father was with His Son. God was there when His Son carried His cross along the Via Delorosa. God was there when He climbed Golgotha’s hill. And He was there when He cried out, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”
The Father is with us when we go through fiery trials. We are never alone. And His heart is aching for us when He sees us suffer.
The altar of sacrifice was built. Abraham was good at that job, for he had built many altars in his life time. But never had it pained him more than to build this one.
As he laid the wood upon it. He must have thought, “Will this really become the ‘crematorium’ for my son?”
When all was ready, he turned to his son and spoke to him. I cannot believe that he suddenly pounced on Isaac and tied him up, thereby making him an unwilling sacrifice, or a sacrifice by force. No, that would not picture the atoning sacrifice of our Father God and His Son, Jesus. Rather, I believe that he explained to him what God had said, and that Isaac was a willing sacrifice, who offered himself up as a burnt offering. Only then could he become the type of the One who prayed in the Garden, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done.” It was an act of faith for both of them. They both knew the promises of God, and they were believing together that God would raise up Isaac again — even if he had to recreate him out of the ashes.
As Abraham lifted up his hand to plunge the knife into the flesh of his beloved Isaac, the Lord called out to him out of Heaven, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).
The artists paint pictures of this scene with Abraham’s hand holding the knife in mid-air. And this is no doubt how it might have been. God was just in time. But then, He is never late.
Can you imagine the relief it was to Isaac when he heard God call out of Heaven, and saw the mighty angel who had suddenly come down to save his life! He would never forget this. All the days of his life he would remember it. This was not only the proving of his father, Abraham, this day was the making of Isaac also. It is no wonder that he lived such a quiet and peaceful life for so many years.
In that instant, Abraham saw behind him a ram that had been caught by the horns. It had been waiting there all the time. God is always ready to meet our every need. We never need to doubt that He will provide whatever the need may be. He even has provided a way of salvation and deliverance for us from our sins and transgressions.
Abraham called the place, Jehovah Jireh — “The Lord will provide.”
Many years later, it became the site of the Temple, and later it was in this place where God, so loved the world, that He “gave HIS only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”1 (John 3:16, 2 Chronicles 3:1).
Jesus Christ became the “ram” that gave his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
God promised Abraham again, that because of his obedience to Him, and willingness to sacrifice his son that, “…in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18).
Abraham returned to where he had left the two servants, back at the foot of the hill, and the four of them went to Beersheba — where Abraham dwelt. The journey had taken about a week.
Sarah lived another thirty-seven years after the birth of Isaac, and died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven (127) at a place that was called Kirjath-Arba, in the land of Canaan, which is called Hebron today. The people living there were called Hittites. They were the descendants of Canaan’s son, Heth. Canaan was the grandson whom Noah had cursed because of his sin against his grandfather, Noah.
The Hittites were warlike. They made valiant soldiers. Some of them were in David’s army (1 Samuel 26:6), and Bathsheba, David’s wife, had been the wife of Uriah, the Hittite (2 Samuel 23:39).
The Bible says that when Sarah died Abraham “came” to mourn for her and to weep for her.
Where did he come from? Beersheba? In the previous chapter, it says that he dwelt in Beersheba. Why was he not living with Sarah when she died? Hebron is about twenty-eight miles from Beersheba.
Whatever the reason for their separation, Sarah was in the God-appointed place when the Lord called her to her eternal rest, for it took her death to make a way for Abraham to be able to purchase land from the Canaanites for her burial place. Up until that time Abraham had not purchased any land. They were wanderers and pilgrims.
For over four hundred years the body of Sarah lay in the ground of The Promised Land as a seed of faith that one day her children would claim it as their own.
Sometimes we may have to wait a long time for the promises of God to be ful-filled; and sometimes we may feel as though there is no hope of our dream or vision ever coming to pass. But it is then we must remember, in the winter-times of the soul, that:
“Far beneath the icy snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring, becomes a rose.”
(The Rose by Amanda McBroom)
Sarah’s “rose” is blooming again, after all these years. It is blooming in Eretz Israel.
And the day will come when Ishmael will lay down his sword, which has been against every man, and he and Isaac will dwell together in unity and love, for this is what the Angel of the Lord promised Hagar.
“And Behold! Is there anything too hard for Me, saith the Lord!”
1 It is believed that Mount Calvary is a part of the Temple Mount, which is Mt. Moriah. During the earthquake of King Hezekiah’s days (Zechariah 14:5) this mount was split in half, so it appears to be two different mountains, but it originally was one and the same.
Enjoy more of the Women of the Bible Series
EVE—Mother of Us All—Gwen Shaw. The life of Eve has been one of the most neglected and misunderstood stories in the history of mankind. Discover the secrets of the mother of us all… #117-50 $4.50
Sarah—Princess for All Mankind—Gwen Shaw. You will be taken back in time to feel the heartbeat and struggles of this great woman whose life left so great an impact on all the world for all time. #117-51$4.50
Rebekah—The Bride—Gwen Shaw. Read how the destiny of the World was determined when she says three, seemingly insignificant words, “I will go!”… #117-52 $4.50
Copyright 1997 by Gwen R. Shaw