(Sarʹah) [Princess], Sarai (Sarʹai) [possibly, Contentious].
Half sister and wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. (Ge 11:29; 20:12; Isa 51:2) Her original name was Sarai. (Ge 17:15) She was ten years younger than Abraham (Ge 17:17) and married him while they were living in the Chaldean city of Ur. (Ge 11:28, 29) She continued barren until her reproductive powers were miraculously revived after she had already stopped menstruating.—Ge 18:11; Ro 4:19; Heb 11:11.
Sarah may have been in her 60’s when she left Ur with Abraham and took up residence in Haran. At the age of 65 she accompanied her husband from Haran to the land of Canaan. (Ge 12:4, 5) There they spent time at Shechem and in the mountainous region E of Bethel, as well as in various other places, before famine forced them to go to Egypt.—Ge 12:6-10.
Though advanced in years, Sarah was very beautiful in appearance. Therefore, Abraham had earlier requested that, whenever necessary in the course of their travels, Sarah identify him as her brother, lest others kill him and then take her. (Ge 20:13) In Egypt this resulted in Sarah’s being taken into the household of Pharaoh on the recommendation of his princes. But divine intervention prevented Pharaoh from violating her. Thereafter he returned Sarah to Abraham, requesting that they leave the land. He also provided safe conduct for Abraham and his possessions.—Ge 12:11-20.
It is noteworthy that an ancient papyrus tells of a Pharaoh who commissioned armed men to seize an attractive woman and kill her husband. Thus Abraham’s fear that he might be killed on account of Sarah was not unfounded. Instead of endangering his life in an unsuccessful attempt to save the honor of his wife in an alien land, Abraham followed what appeared to him to be the safest course. It should be remembered that Abraham was the owner of his wife. Sarah was happy to serve Jehovah and Abraham in this way. Never do the Scriptures censure Abraham for having done this.
Ten years after having originally entered Canaan, 75-year-old Sarah requested that Abraham have relations with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar in order to have children from her. (Ge 16:1-3) The resultant difficulties made it apparent that this was not Jehovah’s way of fulfilling the promise previously made to Abraham concerning the “seed.” (Ge 15:1-16) Becoming aware of her pregnancy, Hagar began despising her mistress. When Sarah voiced complaint, Abraham granted his wife full authority to deal with Hagar as her maidservant. Humiliated by Sarah, Hagar ran away from her mistress but returned in obedience to divine direction, after which she gave birth to Ishmael.—Ge 16:4-16.
About 13 years after Ishmael’s birth, on the occasion of Abraham’s being divinely commanded to circumcise all the males of his household, Abraham was also instructed to call his wife, no longer by the name “Sarai,” but “Sarah,” meaning “Princess.” Regarding Sarah, God said: “I will bless her and also give you a son from her; and I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Ge 17:9-27) Not long thereafter, at Mamre, one of three angelic visitors reaffirmed that Sarah would give birth to a son. Overhearing this, “Sarah began to laugh inside herself, saying: ‘After I am worn out, shall I really have pleasure, my lord being old besides?’” Reproved for laughing, Sarah fearfully denied having done so. (Ge 18:1-15; Ro 9:9) Since Sarah is cited at Hebrews 11:11 as an example of faith, evidently her laughter was not an expression of complete unbelief but merely indicated that the thought of having a son in her old age apparently struck her as somewhat humorous. Sarah’s acknowledgment (inside herself) of Abraham as her lord was indicative of her obedience and subjection to her husbandly head, and her example is recommended to Christian wives.—1Pe 3:5, 6.
Sarah and her husband began residing at Gerar. As previously, Abraham referred to his wife as his sister. The king of Gerar, Abimelech, then took Sarah. Again Jehovah’s intervention saved her from being violated. Upon returning Sarah to Abraham, Abimelech gave livestock and male and female servants to Abraham, perhaps in compensation for having temporarily deprived him of his wife. Additionally he gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver (c. $2,200). These silver pieces were to serve as evidence that Sarah was cleared of all reproach against her as a moral woman.—Ge 20.
At the age of 90, Sarah had the joy of giving birth to Isaac. She then exclaimed: “God has prepared laughter for me: everybody hearing of it will laugh at me.” Such laughter would evidently be prompted by delight and amazement over the birth of the child. Sarah nursed her son for about five years. When Isaac was finally weaned, Abraham spread a big feast. On that occasion Sarah observed Hagar’s son Ishmael, now about 19 years old, “poking fun,” or playing with Isaac in a mocking way. Apparently fearing for the future of her son Isaac, Sarah requested that Abraham dismiss Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham did so, subsequent to his receiving divine approval for this action.—Ge 21:1-14.
Figures in a Symbolic Drama. In writing to the Galatians, the apostle Paul showed that Abraham’s wife Sarah represented “the Jerusalem above,” the mother of spirit-anointed Christians, the spiritual “seed” of Abraham. Like Sarah, “the Jerusalem above,” God’s symbolic woman, has never been in slavery, and therefore, her children are also free. For an individual to become a free child of “the Jerusalem above,” having “her freedom,” he must be emancipated from the bondage of sin by the Son of God. (Ga 4:22-31; 5:1, ftn) As Christ Jesus told the natural descendants of Abraham: “Most truly I say to you, Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son remains forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.”—Joh 8:34-36; see FREE WOMAN; HAGAR.