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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: H. Hastings Weld :: The Women of the Scriptures

H. Hastings Weld :: The Life, Character, and Death of Sarah

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Picture of Sarah



In tracing the history of a life, it is interesting and important to know in what circumstances that life was commenced; what were the influences exerted over it in childhood and youth, the period in which the character is commonly formed and the future course directed. If these are favourable to knowledge and virtue, then the acquisition of these excellencies is not so much a matter of surprise, nor even deserving of so high a praise. We regard them rather as natural consequences-and view those in whom, under such circumstances, these results are not produced, as only deserving of the greater condemnation. Where, on the other hand, these are unfavourable to the attainment of knowledge and virtue-and yet, by its own innate power and love of goodness, the mind struggles through darkness into light, and through the force of surrounding evil to the possession of knowledge and virtue-in short, where, by its own energy and singular excellence, in defiance of all opposing circumstances from without, themind breaks through and soars above prevailing evil-converting adversity itself into a field for more glorious achievement-there we may well bestow our admiration and our praise. This is true GREATNESS, though there may still be remaining deficiencies; this is true GOODNESS, though there may still be occasional faults and surviving imperfections.

Bearing this thought in mind, as we proceed in tracing the life of Sarah, let us revert to the circumstances of her early days-and to the scenes by which, in her childhood and youth, and even in her riper years, she was surrounded.

It was now only the tenth generation from that of Noah,-when in fearful judgment the Almighty had caused the desolating flood to sweep from the world its impious inhabitants. The marks of the deluge were still fresh in the earth; and its appalling terrors must have been distinctly preserved by tradition. And yet, long before this, the true knowledge and worship of God appear almost to have vanished from the world. With Noah, and probably with his posterity for two or three generations, some knowledge of the true God was still preserved. He was recognised as the Creator-the Preserver and Governor of the world-the form at least of Divine worship was continued-the Sabbath was regarded as sacred-sin was prohibited-and in the offering of sacrifice a coming Saviour was shadowed forth. During this period every father was the Patriarch-the Priest of his own household, and, gathering them around the family altar, he offered sacrifices and prayers to God in their behalf. It was not long, however, before it wasdemonstrated by actual experiment, that without a written or supernatural revelation, no mere traditions, no mere forms of worship, were sufficient to preserve in the minds of men a knowledge of Divine truth, or to keep up the spirit of piety in the human heart. Alienated from God by a carnal nature, and blinded to the perception of the spiritually bright, and pure, and holy, there was a mighty and universal propensity to depart from a simple faith in things not seen-and from a spiritual religion, and yet to seek a substitute for these in that which was visible and sensual. As the gathering shadows of the night triumph over the retiring day, till all is encircled in darkness, so did these propensities in the depraved heart of man triumph over the light of truth, which tradition had feebly preserved, and over those lingering emotions of piety which had been cherished towards a God not seen. At first, perhaps, he merely sought some visible object by the aid of which he absurdly imagined that he couldbring God, who is a spirit, more distinctly before his mind. He sought amid the grandeur and magnitude of his works, to assign to the Omnipresent a local habitation; and as no object within the range of his search was so grand and glorious as the Sun, he therefore began to regard that as the throne of the Almighty. His thoughts ascended to it, and his prayers were directed towards it as the peculiar dwelling‐place of Deity. In process of time, wholly losing the great idea of God's spiritual nature, and becoming more and more darkened in mind, and enslaved by sense, men began to worship the Sun as itself God. Beholding the various benefits which through his influence were diffused throughout the world, and gazing upon what they supposed to be his stately steppings along his lofty and luminous path, they vainly imagined that, possessing vast intelligence and power in himself, he was the source of all intelligence and power in the universe. The moon and the stars, however, as apparentlypossessing the same nature, and, to a certain extent, bestowing similar benefits, were also regarded and worshipped as Gods, though of an inferior order. Hence, to draw near to their deities, they ascended hills, or dizzy mountain‐tops, and there prostrated themselves in adoration and prayer. At length they also reared pillars and lofty buildings, that thus they might approach their gods. In fact, it seems most probable, as two of the Targums intimate, that this was their main design in erecting the Tower of Babel; and certain it is, that when it was afterwards rebuilt and adorned by Nebuchadnezzar, it was called the Temple of Bel-or the Sun. God here, however, interposed and confounded their wicked purpose, for with this idolatrous worship were connected the most obscene and impious rites. But though, by this interposition of the Almighty, their object was defeated and they were scattered abroad, the spirit of idolatry still prevailed with wide‐spread and unmitigated power. The sun, themoon, and the stars, and, as their emblems or emanations, light and fire, were objects of universal reverence, and were worshipped as gods. Temples were dedicated to them-prayers and praises were addressed to them-unholy rites were performed in their honour-day and night did chosen priests minister unto them-and before them did the blinded multitudes bow down in senseless and debasing worship.

Such was the state of the world during the earlier years of Sarah, and such the scenes of a false and superstitious religion by which she was surrounded. We have reason to suppose that the place of her birth was the very seat and centre of these gross idolatries. For "Uz," the name of the city in which she was born, and where she passed many years of her life, signifies fire, and probably derived its name, either from the temples which had there been dedicated to the worship of the Sun and of Fire-or from its being the residence of many devotees to these wild and dark superstitions-or from the common and extreme prevalence of this worship among its citizens. Though its precise situation cannot now be determined, yet as it was "Uz, of the Chaldees," it was probably in Mesopotamia, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Here, then, in a country where the wisdom and goodness of God were so strikingly displayed-where the earth was so richly covered with its luxuriant produce-wherethe flocks and the herds, and the soft and gentle air were all so eloquent in His praise; here, beneath these genial skies and over these verdant and smiling plains, here did man, both in mind and in heart a wanderer from his God, instead of adoring the Great First Cause and bountiful Giver of all, in the depth of his ignorance and debasement adore the creatures of the Divine power as themselves divine. Here, too, the young and beautiful Sarah doubtless mingled with the fire‐worshippers, and bowed down in devout homage before the hosts of heaven or the elements of nature. We may suppose, however, from the name she had received, Sarai, or a princess, that even in all the ignorance and superstition in the midst of which her life had opened and thus far been pursued, there was something, either in the grace and beauty of her person, the elevation and majesty of her spirit, or the high and commanding virtues of her heart, which greatly distinguished her from the crowd, and made her an object ofspecial admiration. From her subsequent history it is evident, exceedingly rare as such cases are, that she combined in herself all these excellencies, and they probably began in early life to develope their attractions. This supposition is rendered the more reasonable from what follows.

At the same time, and in the same city, there was a man distinguished above all his sex for his singularly clear and discriminating mind-his great courage and energy of character-and the virtues and purity of his life. If Socrates has been for ages the boast of Greece and the wonder of the world, for having brought out into a clearer light the knowledge of truth and the love of virtue when all around him was appalling darkness-much more may we be filled with admiration as we trace the early history of Abraham, "the friend of God," (Jam 2:23) the founder of the Jewish nation-God's ancient people-and "the father of the faithful," or head and pattern of the true Israel of God, who imitate his faith, and partake with him in its blessings. At a time when the whole world was buried in ignorance and superstition-when the grossest and most debasing idolatry everywhere prevailed-and when to question the truth of the prevailing belief, orto refuse a participation in their idolatrous worship, was represented as incurring the wrath of the gods, and was sure to excite the hostility and bitter persecution of men-even then do we behold Abram, like some effulgent light bursting forth from impenetrable gloom, rising above the universal superstition and impiety of the age-daring to question and to deny the truth of those degrading doctrines which were enshrined as sacred in the hearts of all-refusing to participate in their vain and sensual worship-and, by precept and example, unfolding the lessons of truth and of virtue in the midst of error and of vice. For Berosus tells us, that while he was yet in Chaldea, Abram had gained the honourable distinction of being "a righteous man, and skilful in the celestial science." And Josephus says, that "he was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things, and for persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; for which reason he began to have higher notions ofvirtue than others had, and he determined to renew and change the opinion all men had concerning God; for he was the first who ventured to publish the doctrine that there was but one God, the Creator of all things; and that as to other things," (which were called gods) "if they contributed any thing to the happiness of men, they did so only according to His appointment, and not by any power in them."

Now it affords good reason to suppose that in earlier life Sarai had been greatly, and in many respects, superior to the women of her age and country, since of this excellent and distinguished man she had become the chosen and the fondly‐cherished wife. Attracted, as such a man assuredly would be, not more by her resplendent beauty than by the powers of her mind, the purity of her life, and the virtues which adorned her character, he had given to her the warmest and most faithful love which he could give to mortal-while the highest wishes of her heart were also fulfilled in becoming the bosom companion of one who in all things was so worthy of her admiration and her love.

At what period in their history they were led to embrace a pure and sanctifying faith, in place of the gross errors which prevailed, we are not informed. It is highly probable, however, that for years before they set out for the land of promise, the strong and searching mind of Abram, enlightened as it evidently was also by communings with God, enabled him to perceive the folly and wickedness of the common superstitions and idolatrous rites. It is natural to suppose that with all a husband's affection and solicitude, he conversed frequently with his beloved and intelligent Sarai on this deeply interesting subject; and, from her known character, we may be certain that he received, not only all that attention which a subject so important deserved, but that support also in his enlightened views and pious purposes, which her wise counsels and affectionate sympathies would be sure to bestow. At length, having improved the light they had, by purity of life, by diligent effort and humble prayer, thatlight was increased; they became confirmed in their faith, they openly declared their rejection of the errors and vain and degrading rites which enslaved the race. They became preachers of truth and righteousness in their own heathen land; they sought to elevate and to bless those around them by breaking the shackles of an idolatrous and sensual worship under which they were oppressed and perishing, and to win them over to the knowledge, the love, and the worship of the only living and true God. That they did thus labour, even as faithful and devoted missionaries, though in their own country, and that these pious labours were not without success, is evident from the sacred record, which informs us that when "they went forth to go into the land of Canaan," (Gen 12:5) they took with them "the souls that they had gotten in Haran;" (Gen 12:5) which the Chaldee Paraphraststranslate-"the souls whom they proselyted" (or won from idolatry) "in Haran." It is likely, however, as Josephus states, that for promulgating "these doctrines, the Chaldeans and other people of Mesopotamia raised a tumult against them." Unable to conform to the common belief and practice-equally unable to resist the generous impulses of their nature and their sense of duty to their God and to their fellow‐men, by withholding their efforts to benefit and save them-yet repelled, opposed, and persecuted, how deeply were they perplexed as to the course they should pursue! At this crisis, to the unspeakable relief of his tried and faithful servants, God himself revealed to them what they must do. "Get thee out of thy country," said he to Abram, "and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." (Gen 12:1.) It was only necessary, both with Abram and Sarai, to knowwhat the will of God was-they were ready at once and cheerfully to obey. So "Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot, his brother's son, and all the 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." (Gen 12:5.)

Not less to Sarai than to Abram belongs the praise of this unhesitating and cheerful obedience. Nay, on her part the sacrifice must have been yet more painful than on his. Home, to the heart of woman, is still dearer than it is, or than it can be to man. To her it is the world, beyond which even in thought she has rarely ventured. All its familiar scenes, its hallowed associations, its various endearments, are most tenderly cherished in her gentler and more affectionate nature. There in helpless infancy she reposed upon a mother's breast-there the fond smiles of a loving father have rested like sunshine on her heart-there has many a glad hour been winged away, alas! too swiftly, in the happy companionship of hrothers and sisters and friends-and there, perhaps, are now the graves of those whom she fondly loved, and who as fondly loved her. Powerful, then, must be the motive, and yet, even under the most pleasing prospects of future happiness, painful must be the struggle in the heart of woman,when from that home she is induced to depart for a new and distant abode. From the warmth and constancy of her affections, we cannot doubt that such was the conflict in the breast of Sarai. But the strength of her faith in the word of God-her confidence that she was going forth on a mission of mercy, and that God would require nothing of her but that which was also to secure her highest good-her entire reliance upon his divine promise-and her devotion to her beloved and pious husband,-are strikingly and beautifully displayed, when, whatever were her inward sorrows in bidding adieu to her home, on learning from Abram what God had directed, and what his desire was, without a moment's hesitation, without one word of regret to shake his purpose or awaken his grief, she at once went forth with him, not knowing where. It was enough for her if he, her beloved one, was to be her companion, and God was to be their guide. For, fondly and mutually as they were bound to each other by the most tenderaffections of their nature, they were yet more intimately and sacredly united by all the generous sympathies, the elevated principles, the sanctifying and immortal hopes of a pure and simple faith and a genuine piety. Hearts thus united are prepared for any event. Prosperity to them brings additional joys, and shall have no power to harm them; adversity shall be softened and sweetened by confidence in its benevolent uses, by more tender endearments and assiduous offices, and by brighter hopes; and death itself can only bear them to their happier home-for theirs, and theirs only, is an imperishable-an immortal love.

Abram was now "seventy and five years old when he departed out of Horan;" (Gen 12:4) and as Sarai was ten years younger than he, she must have been sixty‐five years of age. It should be remembered, however, that in those days the common duration of human life was far greater than it is now. Sarai, for example, lived "an hundred, twenty and seven years," (Gen 23:1) and consequently at this time she was only near her middle age, or as one in our day at thirty years old. For the same reason Abram, who lived "one hundred threescore and fifteen years," (Gen 25:7) or to the age of a hundred and seventy‐five years, at the time of their departure from Haran, though seventy‐five years of age, must have been in the full manhood and vigour of life.

From this point the history of Sarai assumes a new and yet more engaging interest. For God, and her husband, she has renounced her home and her country-she has severed all other ties-she has relinquished all other hopes; satisfied with their favour, she has forsaken all, and is pursuing her way to a distant and unknown land. The strength of faith, and the power of love, however, can joyfully triumph over danger or fatigue; and so, without murmuring or complaint, they reach at length the land of promise. Here all is to be peaceful and bright. Their pure desires are to be gratified, their sorrows and their toils are to cease; for here, as they fondly hoped, they were to find a happy and a permanent home. But, alas! how liable to disappointment are the fairest prospects and most cherished hopes of earth! The strength of their faith and love was here subjected to an additional trial-for instead of that abundance of temporal good which they expected to enjoy, there arose a famine in the land, and, againdriven forth by necessity, they "went down into Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land." (Gen 12:10.)

Here an adventure occurred, which, however it exhibited the imperfection even of Abram's faith, at the same time afforded the most conclusive proof of the rare beauty, the endearing virtues, and also of the pure and honourable principles of his beloved Sarai. As they were pursuing their way towards Egypt, the mind of Abram is occupied in deep and painful thought. He contemplates the beauty of Sarai-he remembers the dissolute character of the Egyptians-he supposes that to secure so fair a treasure they will not hesitate to employ any means, however cruel and violent-that if they knew her to be his wife, the murder of her husband would assuredly follow, that thereby they might gain her-and, though we can have no doubt, from the proofs of his bravery which he had already given, and from his courage in the rescue of his nephew Lot, that he would willingly have perilled all, and sacrificed life itself in protecting one so dear, yet this would not prevent, it would only the more readily effect the evilwhich he so much dreads. Who can describe the tenderness of solicitude-the ardour of love which at that moment must have been glowing and burning with agony in his heart! For so devoutly is she the beloved of her husband, that he who had encountered the hostility of the world-who had gone forth a wanderer from his home and his country, in simple obedience to, and reliance upon the word of God-who with unshrinking courage had exposed himself to privations and dangers-at the very thought of being thus torn from her and of her being subjected to such evils, appears to have been bewildered and overpowered. It was more than he could bear; and even Abraham, the clear and strong‐minded reasoner, who had exposed and broken away from the follies and errors of the age-who, for his confidence in God, was distinguished as "the father of the faithful,"-in the excitement of such an apprehension seems to have lost both his usual discretion and his usual faith. And as they were entering into Egypt,he said unto her, "Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister." (Gen 12:13.) Now although this was true, for we are told (Gen 20:12) that Sarai was the step‐sister of Abraham, the daughter of his father, yet was it an evasion, for she was also his wife. Such relations in those early times, when the human family was comparatively so small, seem to have been unavoidable; and as the law on this subject had not yet been proclaimed, they were not in violation of any law, human or divine. It is not my purpose here either to vindicate or condemn the conduct of Abram; but does not this occurrence show us how mighty were the attractions of Sarai, and how devotedly she was beloved as a wife? For if we view the course adopted by Abram merely as an act of prudence to guard against impending evil, it was by no means the course adapted to secure the end, as the result plainly shoes, and therefore it was notthe course which in his calm and sober moments Abram would have pursued. Or if we regard it as a withholding of the truth-as a prevarication-it is equally unlike the uniform conduct of the faithful and true‐hearted Abram; and can be accounted for only by supposing that some intense agitation, some fearful apprehension, had overwhelmed his spirit. If any thing can palliate his fault, if fault it be-if any thing can awaken our pity, and at the same time preserve our respect and veneration for the distinguished patriarch-it must be as we consider how precious to his heart was his Sarai-his devoted friend-his wise counsellor-his constant companion-the partner of all his joys, his sorrows, and his hopes-his loving and beloved wife, from whom he supposed he was now about to be torn away. The happy result, however, proved that she was all these-that his ardent attachment was fully deserved, and yet that his sufferings were needless, and his fears were vain.

It is true that, as he supposed, scarcely had they entered Egypt when the fame of her beauty and grace was spread far and near. She seems to have been an object of universal admiration. "The princes of Pharaoh also saw her," (Gen 12:15) and having spoken of her charms to the king, by his royal order she was brought into his palace. We have no evidence, however, that she followed the direction of her husband in calling herself merely the sister of Abram. From the subsequent rebuke of the king addressed to Abram, it appears that he only had declared her to be his sister. But she was now the favourite guest of royalty; the monarch of Egypt, clothed as he was with power and surrounded by splendour, was taken captive by her charms. It is evident, however, that her fidelity was not to be shaken-that her ardent affection for him to whom she had given her heart was not to be withdrawn or diminished by the pomp, the riches, or the power even of aking. Therefore did God himself now interpose in her behalf. He visited "Pharaoh and his house with great plagues." (Gen 12:17.) The terror‐stricken monarch, understanding these Divine judgments, was led to search for the cause. And, as Josephus informs us, on learning from Sarai, who failed not and feared not-even in the presence of her royal admirer-to avow herself the wife of Abram, stranger and wanderer as he was, Pharaoh sent for Abram, rebuked his want of frankness, and, commanding his men to give them all needful protection and aid, he "sent him away, with his wife, and all that he had." (Gen 12:20.) Thus did the truth and fidelity of Sarai secure her escape from this fearful peril, and the heart of her husband, which had been overwhelmed with alarm, was filled with joy.

The sacred record now passes over an interval of several years without noting any thing of special interest in the history of Sarai. It leaves us to infer, as a matter of course, that during this period she had still continued the same dutiful and affectionate rife that she had ever been; following her pilgrim‐husband in all his wanderings, ever ministering to his comfort and studious of his peace.

Sarai is next introduced to us in her relations with one of her domestics, of whom we have not before heard, but who seems for several years to have been a favourite servant-treated by her with uniform and marked kindness, until at length she becomes an object of attachment, and is regarded rather as a friend and companion than a slave. Such elevation and familiarity, though they exhibit the kind and generous nature of the mistress, are seldom productive of good results. Bind feelings and manners should indeed be cherished and manifested towards all-and especially towards those who are our inferiors and our servants. The same God who made us made them; they have feelings like our own, and their lot which at best is painful and hard, should always excite our pity, and secure to them kind treatment and a just reward. But to admit them to an intimacy and companionship for which they are not fitted, soon ceases to be regarded as a favour, or returned with gratitude. They begin to view it as a matter ofright; they are no longer disposed to remember their true station; and being received as equals, they will hardly be satisfied to act as servants. Such a course, therefore, though it may indicate a kind and generous heart, is in reality neither wise nor merciful. So was it with Sarai, and her Egyptian handmaid Hagar.

Clearly however to understand this part of her history, we must again revert to the direction and the promise which God gave to Abram on his departure from Haran, and of which, of course, Sarai had been fully informed. The direction and the promise were as follows:-"The Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show 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 in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Gen 12:1-3.)

In this promise, not only were the most tender and yearning affections of our nature-the most earnest and generous desires of virtuous and beneficent distinction-the most honourable and ardent emotions of patriotism and philanthropy, called into exercise, and divinely encouraged, but, as we are plainly taught by other passages of Scripture, and by the express declaration of our Lord himself (John 8:56), it also included, and was understood by Abram to include, the promise that of him, according to the flesh, and in a direct line of descent, should the promised Messiah, the Redeemer of the world, be born. Thus, in this promise was every compassionate and benevolent disposition, and every pious and holy aspiration of the patriarch, also addressed and encouraged. Abram was not only to be a father-the founder of a great nation-blessed and a blessing,-but through him was the glory of God to be promoted-the kingdom of the Redeemer to be established-thesalvation of multitudes of immortal souls which no man could number, to be secured-and the cause of truth, of virtue, of religion and happiness ultimately to be triumphant throughout the world;-thus in him should "the families of the earth be blessed." (Gen 12:3.) As relying with confidence on this promise, and looking onward to its certain and glorious fulfilment, well might our Lord declare, "Abram rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56.) Doubtless the first, if not the only being to whom he made this promise known in its full blessedness, was his own Sarai, to whom his whole heart was laid open, and from whom he concealed not even a thought. Who can adequately conceive the thrilling delight with which that promise was received-or the pure, the high, the ardent and the pious hopes which it inspired?

Ten years, however, had now passed away since that promise was given, and yet it remained unfulfilled. It now seems to have occurred to Sarai, that this promise was given to Abram-and, perhaps, in her humility, supposing that she was not worthy to bear a part in so high an honour, she seeks some project by which it may yet be accomplished, though it be by another. Though in this case the honour would be withdrawn from her, yet regardless of self, she desires only the glory of God, the honour and happiness of her husband, and the welfare of her race. However erroneous her reasoning and the course she pursued, yet the narrative clearly implies that such were her motives. And now pondering the subject carefully in her mind, her thoughts turn to Hagar-the favourite slave of whom we have before spoken-who had probably been one of the presents of Pharaoh, king of Egypt-and whom she had exalted rather to the station of a friend and companion, than retained as a slave. "And Sarai took Hagar her maid,and gave her to her husband Abram, to be his wife." (Gen 16:3.) As there was at that time no law prohibiting such relations, and consequently as it was not then considered a sin, "Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." (Gen 16:2.) Admitted to this intimacy, the mind of Hagar at once became proud and assuming. Forgetting the many years and numberless instances of Sarai's kindness, and her generosity in exalting her from the condition of a slave to that of an equal, she exhibits towards her the most shameful ingratitude. She disregards her wishes-resists her authority-and treats her with contempt;-for "her mistress was despised in her eyes." (Gen 16:4.) Such, alas! is the reward which the best actions and the kindest services often receive in this wicked world. Sarai seems patiently to have borne this treatment, till itbecame unendurable, and then she pours out her complaint to her husband. We can scarcely doubt that some degree of jealousy was mingled also with her sense of wrong; for love as pure and warm as hers could hardly exist, and, under such circumstances, not be painfully apprehensive of at least some diminution in return. There is, therefore, in Sarai's complaint, a little spice of reproach, such as she had never uttered to her husband before, and never uttered to him again. For Abram, seeing this, for ever hushed these fears of love by his reply: "Behold," said he, "thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee." (Gen 16:6.) Thus he reassures her affection; he teaches her that he still regards Hagar only as her servant, and that he leaves it to her to administer whatever correction she may deem proper, and likely to secure a better conduct. The proud spirit of Hagar, however, was in no state now to bear any correction,though it may have been only rebuke, from that benefactress who had so long and so faithfully sought her good; and yielding to the impulse of the moment-an impulse of rage under reproof-she fled from her mistress into the wilderness. Now, from the words of "the angel of the Lord," (Gen 16:7) who found her there, it is evident that Hagar, and not Sarai, had done wrong in this instance; for he said to her, "Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands." (Gen 16:9.) On her compliance with this direction, the amiable and forgiving spirit of Sarai is plainly exhibited in the fact that, apparently without a word of reproach, on her return to her mistress, Hagar is again kindly received, permitted to find in her house a peaceful home, and there she becomes the mother of Ishmael.

And now, though we are led to suppose that domestic harmony was again perfectly restored, another period of thirteen years in the life of Sarah passes away, without being marked by any occurrence of sufficient importance to occupy a place in her history. The days of those years, we cannot doubt, were well employed in useful and in virtuous deeds-in offices of love and piety-but they were distinguished by no uncommon or remarkable event. These were their usual-their every‐day pursuits and pleasures. What large portions of every human life, brief as it is at best, glide thus silently and imperceptibly away-leaving scarcely a mark by which memory can retrace the path we have pursued. Happy is it for us, if, as in the case of Sarah, so in our own case, from the established frame of our spirits, and the uniform character of our conduct, we may have good reason to suppose that even during those periods which have almost faded from our memories, we have yet cherished in our hearts those motives,affections, and purposes, and put forth in our lives those actions, the record of which we shall not dread to meet, when it shall be fully unfolded at the bar of our Judge.

At the expiration of this period the promise of God is again repeated to Abram; the Divine covenant, that the land of Canaan should be given to him and to his posterity till the coming of the Messiah, is renewed; the names of Abram and of Sarai, probably to denote their more numerous descendants and extended honours, by Divine direction are changed to Abraham and Sarah; and the assurance is now expressly given that Sarah shall herself in the following year become a mother, and that it is especially in her descendants that "the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 12:3.) These fond hopes of the patriarch having been so long deferred, appear to have been almost relinquished, or to have rested alone on Ishmael as the son through whom the promise was to be fulfilled. And on now learning expressly from God himself that his beloved Sarah is to be the partner of these blessings and honours, he is filled with an ecstasy of delight, and"he fell on his face and laughed" (Gen 17:17) for joy.

Immediately, therefore, Abraham proceeds to comply with the terms of the covenant as directed by God, both with himself and his household. And again are his hopes encouraged, by another repetition of the Divine promise, through "the angel of the covenant,"-our Lord Jesus Christ,-though in giving that promise he now assumed the form of a man; the form in which, by his own incarnation, it was afterwards completely fulfilled in himself. On this occasion, as Abraham was seated in his "tent‐door in the heat of the day," (Gen 18:1) he saw three men standing near by, and, going forth to meet them, he bowed himself towards the ground, and with generous and pious charity he besought them to accept his hospitality. Having attended to what was most necessary for their immediate comfort, he "hastened into the tent unto Sarah," (Gen 18:6) by whose industrious and cheerful aid a repastwas speedily prepared and set before them. "And he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." (Gen 18:8.) Here it was that the assurance was again given, that in the son of Sarah the promise of God should be fulfilled. Sarah, who was just by in the tent, heard these words, and laughed. Perhaps her laughter, in some measure, like that of Abraham, proceeded from joy at the very thought of being so highly favoured of God; at the same time, supposing it was only a man who said it, (for as yet they knew not the distinguished character of their guests,) she seems to have considered it highly improbable, and an honour for which she could now indulge no hope. To convince her, however, that he who had given this assurance was more than man, he shows her that he knew of her laughing, though it was only "within herself" (Gen 18:12) that she laughed, when she supposed he saw her not; andtherefore, to strengthen her faith and to encourage her hope also, as well as to correct her incredulity, he who had declared the promise inquired aloud, "Wherefore did Sarah laugh?…Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" (Gen 18:13-14.) Thus, if, from the very greatness of the blessing promised, doubt for a moment entered her mind, when she found by whom that promise had been given, the doubt was as quickly expelled, and, as the holy apostle teaches us, (Hbr 11:11) she was confirmed in faith.

Yet was Sarah called to pass through other trials, both of her faith and patience, before the fulfilment of those pious hopes which were now renewed. For some reason, which is not revealed to us, Abraham again struck his tents, and with his numerous train journeyed toward the south, "and sojourned in Gerar," (Gen 20:1) a city in Arabia Petraea, which was governed by a king of the Philistines. Finding himself in the midst of a powerful, and, as he supposes, an abandoned people, the same terror of apprehension in relation to Sarah again takes possession of his mind, which on a previous occasion had so overwhelmed his spirit in Egypt. Strange as it may seem, again does he seek security for Sarah and himself by calling her his sister. The consequence was also similar, for "Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah." (Gen 20:20.) In this instance, probably in compliance with a solemnpromise which she had given Abraham to soothe his agonizing fears, and because the statement, though not the whole truth, was still true, she concurred with her husband in saying-"he is my brother." (Gen 20:5.) The answer of Abraham to the question of Abimelech, why he called her his sister?-fully sustains the supposition that she also said, he is my brother. (Gen 20:12.) The whole narrative teaches us that Abimelech was perfectly innocent in this matter. Believing, as he was told, that Sarah was only the sister of Abraham, "he sent, and took Sarah" to his house (Gen 20:20), intending honourably and according to the customs of the country, to make her his wife. It was on his account, therefore, lest through ignorance he should be led into great sin, as well as for the protection of Sarah and Abraham, that God again miraculouslyinterposed, and "came to Abimelech in a dream by night," (Gen 20:2) telling him that Sarah was "the man's wife," (Gen 20:2) and that if he restored her not speedily and safely to her husband, for the reasons we have assigned, he "should surely die." (Gen 20:2.) So, early on the morrow Abimelech rose, and called Abraham, inquiring of him, why he had done this? "And Abraham said, Because I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake. 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." (Gen 20:11-12.) Thus Abraham assigns his reasons for calling Sarah his sister, and justifies it as an act of prudence for their protection, and as in a measure thetruth. Our remarks, however, on this reasoning and conduct of Abraham in the similar case already mentioned, are equally applicable here; and the recurrence of these events after the lapse of so many years, serves to show us that Sarah was still the same affectionate, pure, devoted, and most tenderly‐endeared wife that she had ever been- time had not diminished the power of her attractions-and that even in advanced age, she was still as precious to the heart of her husband as when he first pressed her to that heart, his youthful and his blooming bride-that he, who in his past life had encountered so many perils without hesitation or fear, in defence of truth and in firm reliance on the protection of heaven-who had borne so many painful privations and trials-and passed through so many sad changes and sorrows with child‐like submission, is yet, though life is now far advanced, thrown into intense agitation and overpowered by alarm at the bare apprehension of being parted from her who isstill far dearer than life itself. Fully, however, does he exonerate Sarah from all blame-if blame there be-by declaring that, for the above reasons, it was he who directed and earnestly besought her, if she would show "kindness" to him-if she regarded his peace-to say of him, "he is my brother." And again, a second time, escaping safely and joyfully from the splendours of a palace and the proffered attentions of a king, did Sarah hasten to the arms of her more humble yet beloved husband.

And now, when Sarah is next introduced to our notice, the time at length has come-hopes long and fondly cherished are fulfilled-and we behold her as the happy mother of the child of promise. As directed of God, "Abraham called the name of his" new‐born "son Isaac;" which, in the original, signifies laughter. (Gen 21:3.) This name was designated by God, when the promise of this son of Sarah was expressly given, and when "Abraham laughed" for joy. And so Sarah, in the hymn of thanksgiving which flows from her grateful heart, now says, "God hath made me to laugh" (or exceedingly to rejoice) "so that all who hear will laugh with me." (Gen 21:6.) For her infant boy, she performs herself all the kind offices of a mother; esteeming it a duty too sacred, and a privilege too dear to be intrusted to another. Under the blessing of God, and her maternal care,"the child grew," and, when probably three years of age, as the Scriptures tell us "it was weaned." On that occasion, so joyful to his heart, "Abraham made a great feast." (Gen 21:8.) The numerous tents of the patriarch resounded with innocent hilarity and grateful mirth. Most gladly and liberally did he appropriate his abundance for the celebration of this happy day. Whatever enlarged generosity could bestow, or princely wealth could purchase, was provided and spread forth. The feast was sumptuous. The numerous attendants and guests of the rejoicing parents rejoiced with them in spirit, as they partook with them of the feast. All faces were lighted up with smiles-and all hearts were filled with gladness. All?-no, not all. For there, in part withdrawn, stood one gazing on that happy scene with eyes now flashing with jealous hate, and then smiling with contempt and scorn.-At one moment he seemed kindling into wrath, and thenext with mimic gestures and grimaces he derided what he saw. True, it was only a youth, of some seventeen years of age. But who is he, that seeks to mar the pleasures of that joyous festival?-Who is he, that with such a spirit can behold these offerings of gratitude to heaven, and good will to men? What heart so young in years, can yet display such full maturity of envy or of rage? Ah! it is Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid. Already does he manifest that wild impetuous nature which is to raise his hand against every one, and every one's hand against him. In that young heir he sees a rival,-and though it be the son of his own father, and of the mistress, the friend, the benefactress of his mother and of his own friend and benefactress-his fierce, malignant spirit burns within him. In that festive scene, he only reads the exaltation of his rival; in those shouts of innocent and grateful mirth, he only hears the knell of his own selfish and ambitious hopes.

Sarah, the ever watchful and devoted mother, beholds this exhibition of Ishmael's inflamed jealousy and hate. It is not to be forgotten. It sinks deep into her heart. Shall her own son be subjected to the evil influences of such companionship? Shall he be exposed to the malice of such a spirit, to the fiery impulses of such an enemy, so much older and stronger than himself? Shall he, the son of her slave, who already shows such a disposition to dispute the right of Isaac, as Abraham's legitimate heir-as the child of the Divine promise-be permitted still to dwell with them, to grow up with this impression-and to seek at last, perhaps, by force, or some fearful act of violence, to wrest it from him? These thoughts are carefully revolved in her mind-they are deeply felt in her maternal and pious breast-and when the feast is ended, hastening to Abraham, she relates what she had witnessed-she reminds him that through Isaac the gracious promise of God is to be fulfilled-and therefore insists, asthe only means of securing their son's welfare and safety, and of making sure his promised inheritance, that Hagar and her son should be expelled. Hagar, who seems long to have supposed that Ishmael was to be the sole heir of Abraham, and the child of promise, was, doubtless, sorely disappointed and grieved at the birth of Isaac. It dispelled her cherished delusion on this subject. It prostrated in the dust all her vain and mercenary expectations. It is highly probable therefore, that this joyous festival, which was given in consequence of Isaac's having passed safely through the dangers of infancy, again aroused the evil spirit also in Hagar's breast; therefore we hear not of her reproving Ishmael for his wicked conduct. She seems rather to have encouraged, if she did not actually take part with him, in the exhibition of his vile envy, and malicious hate. Therefore Sarah earnestly requests Abraham to expel, or remove to some distant land, both Hagar and her son. The affectionate heart ofAbraham is sorely afflicted and grieved at this request, for Ishmael, with all his faults, is still dear to him as his son. But here God again comforted the heart of the sorrowing parent, though he directed him to comply with the counsels of his wife Sarah. "For," said he, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called;" (Gen 21:12) and promising His care of Hagar and her son, wherever their lot should be cast, he added, yet further to strengthen and support him in this duty-"Of the son of the bond‐woman also will I make a nation." (Gen 21:13.) Accordingly, having made ample provision for their journey, Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, and peace is restored to his household.

Thus left undisturbed in the exercise of her fond affections, and the performance of her domestic duties, Sarah, as an affectionate wife, and as a tender and yet faithful mother, devotes herself wholly to the happiness and welfare of her family. Again do years of usefulness and of enjoyment roll peacefully away. Her son, reared by her care, and instructed by her wisdom and piety, has now grown up to manhood. Kindly does he reward all her maternal toil-fully does he answer all her brightest hopes-and, with his gentle and loving nature, warmly does he return her fond affections. But, alas! as we before remarked, many happy years have thus rolled away. And that wife and mother, so tenderly endeared by all the intimate and sacred intercourse, and all the hallowed associations and kind offices of the past, is now bending beneath the weight of age. That countenance, once so resplendent in beauty, is marred by the furrows of time, and that form once so symmetrical in shape and so queen‐like in itsgrace, is tottering with infirmity and bending downward to the tomb. Thus it always is with earth's fairest and brightest things. Even in the midst of their bloom, the hand of time is there which is brushing that bloom away. But though infirmity and age had now robbed even Sarah of her surpassing and long‐continued beauty, she still possessed fairer and more precious charms over which they had no control, except to increase their brightness and to exhibit their worth. Implanted, and well cultured in her immortal nature, were all those attractive virtues which had made her what she was, which had rendered her life useful and happy, and secured to her the favour of God, and the honour, the affection, and admiration of mankind. Those spiritual attractions, those divine and heavenly charms, which neither age nor death can impair, are to constitute her yet more resplendent beauty, and the sources of a far higher felicity, beyond the narrow limits of life, and in a world where death shall beunknown. Then let the end come, it can do her no harm. Sweet and pleasant as life is, when in lowly faith, and with a good conscience, and in deeds of piety, it is occupied as hers was, yet to such in our present state, death is the most precious boon of life, it is the perfecting of the soul, and its entrance into a world of perfection. Such had life been to Sarah, and therefore, to her, such also must death be. She had believed in and obeyed her God, she had found in her experience every gracious promise more than fulfilled, she looked forward with confidence to a coining Redeemer, in whom the promise was to be complete, and therefore, peacefully and sweetly could she repose on him her trust for the future without fear or reserve. The lamp of life burns feebly and dimly now, till at length, suddenly as it seems, yet calmly it goes out. The journey is ended, the weary pilgrim is at rest. "And Sarah died in Kirjath‐arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mournfor Sarah, and to weep for her." (Gen 23:2.)

The fond husband, it appears, being absent from his home, probably attending to his numerous flocks in some distant pasturage, in the providence of God was spared the agony of witnessing the last faint breathings of a life that was so dear to him. When, however, the melancholy tidings of her death are received, he hurries to his home. Oh! how sad and desolate that home is now! Over the pale, cold form of the beloved dead, he pours the tribute of his bitter lamentations and his gushing tears. There, seated on the ground, he mourns for days that loss which time can never restore. At length, religion breathes its consolations in his soul. Feeling that he is himself but "a stranger and sojourner" on earth, that his long‐cherished and warmly‐loved companion has only gone before him to their home, where he will join her soon, he recovers from the shock of a grief so deep and overwhelming, and rising from before that cold but sacred corpse, he proceeds to the last sad office he can paythe dead. For this purpose he buys of "Ephron, the Hittite, the cave of the field of Machpelah," which was also in Hebron, where Sarah died, and having it made sure to him as a possession for a burying‐place, there "Abraham buried Sarah." (Gen 23:17-20.) And there too, at last, was Abraham himself buried by the side of his faithful and beloved Sarah; and there was their son Isaac, and his son Jacob buried. Thus were their graves together within the land of Canaan-the land of promise-the land to which Abraham and Sarah his wife had gone forth in simple obedience to the word of God, from the land of their birth-the land of error, idolatry, and vice. Striking and beautiful indication of the yet more certain, and the joyous reunion which awaited them, and which awaits all the believing and obedient servants of God, in that brighter world, of which the land of promise was but a faint and shadowy type.

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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