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Who was Sarah in the Bible?

Sarah is best remembered for being Abraham's wife and mother to Isaac. Because of this, she is also known as the first matriarch of the faith.

Sarah was Abraham's (originally called Abram) half-sister, born to the same father by a different mother, and was originally named Sarai (Genesis 20:12; 11:29). She accompanied her father, Terah, husband, Abram, and nephew, Lot, when they left their homeland of Ur and set out for Canaan (Genesis 11:31). Instead of reaching Canaan, the family settled in Haran. Eventually, God called Abram to leave Haran and go to the land where God would lead him (Genesis 12:1–5). So Sarai and Lot went with Abram and ended up in Canaan with him.

Sarai was a beautiful woman, which caused some anxiety for Abram (Genesis 12:11, 14). Due to living in dependence upon the land, Sarai and Abram moved around following the availability of food. A famine once took them to Egypt, and many years later, they journeyed to Gerar. At both places, Abraham and Sarah hid the fact that they were married because Abraham feared that the local men would kill him so that they could take Sarah as their own wife (Genesis 12:10–20; 20:1–18). In both instances, the ruling men did take Sarah into their households. However, God revealed to the Egyptian Pharaoh and to Abimelech of Gerar that Sarah was Abraham's wife. Each man returned Sarah to her husband with her honor still intact, along with livestock and other goods. Thus Abraham's wealth increased. In 1 Peter 3:6 Sarah is remembered for obeying her husband in this matter without fear, so she was not only beautiful but brave too.

God promised Abram a descendant to inherit the land, but Sarai had been unable to conceive for the entire length of their marriage (Genesis 11:30). So Sarai devised a plan whereby Abram could father a child through one of the maidservants they gained in Egypt. This servant, Hagar, did bear a son, Ishmael, to Abram, but he was not the son God had promised (Genesis 16). God reiterated His promise for a son through Sarai and changed Abram's and Sarai's names to Abraham and Sarah as a sign of this covenant (Genesis 17:5, 15). Abraham originally laughed at the thought that after all these years, in their old age, Sarah would bear a child (Genesis 17:17). Later, when Sarah overheard divine guests reiterating this promise to Abraham, she too laughed, but denied it out of fear (Genesis 18:12, 15). So it seems both she and Abraham were prone to dishonesty when fear got the better of them.

Nonetheless, God kept His promise and Sarah gave birth to Isaac a year later at over ninety years old (Genesis 21:1–2). The writer of Hebrews commended Sarah for her faith saying, "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11).

Sarah was beautiful and brave, but had her flaws in her treatment of Hagar and propensity to lie when caught in a fearful situation. But the Bible recalls her faithfulness to her husband and to the Lord and honors her with commendation in Hebrews 11. For these reasons, she is an inspiring matriarch of the faith.

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