THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SARAH, THE MATRIARCH AND ANCESTRESS OF THE JEWS
by: Bonnie Schupak
The first thing you must know about me: I am Sarah, wife of Abraham, mother of Isaac, who was born to me in a most extraordinary way… Abraham and I came to Israel as part of God’s promise of numerous children and the land. I am thus the ancestress of all Israel. We were forced by famine to leave the land and travel to Egypt when I was 65 years old and Abraham was 75. In spite of my age, everyone acknowledged that I was a great beauty. Abraham became afraid that the Egyptians would kill him in order to have me. My husband decided to tell pharaoh I was his sister-for adultery was considered a terrible offense – and my beauty would surely make me a likely target. And so I pretended to be Abraham’s sister. And it certainly enriched Abraham, who was given bride wealth for a sister, something that he would never have received as a husband. And so Pharaoh did take me. The same circumstance with King Abimelech, who also thought I was the sister of Abraham, God revealed the truth about me in a dream, and I was returned to Abraham along with a present of animals, slaves, gold and silver.[i]
My barrenness prompted me to give my handmaiden Hagar to Abraham as my surrogate womb. When Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael, I felt displaced by Hagar, who no longer accepts me as her superior. My resentment grew, and now I am once again vulnerable. After all, I have been given away before, in the wife-sister roles I was forced to play to save Abraham’s life.
When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to Abram and said “walk in My way, and I will establish a covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceeding numerous. You shall no longer be called Abram but your name shall be Abraham.”
As for me, God said I would no longer be Sarai, but my name shall be Sarah. He said he would bless me so that I shall give rise to nations; rulers of people shall issue from me. God spoke to Abraham and announced that, indeed, He will give Abraham a son by me. Abraham laughed, just as I did. “Can a child be born to a man 100 years old, and can Sarah bear a child at 90?” I laughed, picturing myself pregnant at 90. “Now that I am withered and old, am I to have enjoyment with my husband, also so old?” I asked the Lord shall I, in truth bear a child, old as I am? The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh – is anything too wondrous for the Lord? Nevertheless, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and you shall name him Isaac, and I will maintain my covenant with him everlasting, and for his offspring to come.”
God reacted to my laughter –and impressed upon me that I should understand how important I am–for God has worked a miracle for me. One year later, my son Isaac was born to me at age 91 after all my years of being barren. When Isaac was 8 days old Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded him.
When I saw the son Hagar had borne to Abraham, playing, I grew alarmed. Cast her and her son out, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac. Abraham became distressed, for it concerned a son of his. God heard this, and said “Do not be distressed. Whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.
“Hagar and Ishmael are sent away,” God said. “As for Ishmael, I hereby bless him and make him fertile. He shall be the father of 12 chieftains, and I will make him a great nation.”
I have secured the rightful place of my son Isaac. I have triumphed over my humiliations as the so-called “sister” of my husband, Abraham, and have become the ancestress of my people.
For your information, I played no role in the near sacrifice of my son, Isaac. I died at the age of 127, and Abraham buys his first real property in the land of Israel, the Cave of Machpelah, in order to bury me at a cost of 400 sheckels of silver. I shall always be remembered and referred to as the ancestress of my people.
As I look back on my long life, I recall the resentment and anger I felt against Abraham, for passing me off to Pharaoh as his sister. I did not realize this ruse would have some advantage for me, for a brother was somewhat of a protector, whereas a widow had no protection of any kind, and so I agreed and served as a slave in Pharaoh’s house.
My own questions for God would be:
Why did you allow all this to happen to me?!
Why did you wait so many years to have me bear a child?
Why did you not tell me that Abraham taking Isaac to be sacrificed was just a test of faith for Abraham?
Why, oh my God?!