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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

sa'-ra, sa'-ri:

(1) In Genesis 17:15 the woman who up to that time has been known as Sarai (Saray; Sara) receives by divine command the name Sarah (Sarah; Sarra). (This last form in Greek preserves the ancient doubling of the r, lost in the Hebrew and the English forms.)

The former name appears to be derived from the same root as Israel, if, indeed, Genesis 32:28 is intended as an etymology of Israel. "She that strives," a contentious person, is a name that might be given to a child at birth (compare Hosea 12:3, 4, of Jacob), or later when the child's character developed; in Genesis 16:6 and 21:10 a contentious character appears. Yet comparison with the history of her husband's name (see ABRAHAM) warns us not to operate solely upon the basis of the Hebrew language. Sarai was the name this woman brought with her from Mesopotamia. On the other hand there can be little doubt that the name Sarah, which she received when her son was promised, means "princess," for it is the feminine form of the extremely common title sar, used by the Semites to designate a ruler of greater or lesser rank. In the verse following the one where this name is conferred, it is declared of Sarah that "kings of peoples shall be of her" (Genesis 17:16).

We are introduced to Sarai in Genesis 11:29. She is here mentioned as the wife that Abraham "took," while still in Ur of the Chaldees, that is, while among his kindred. It is immediately added that "Sarai was barren; she had no child." By this simple remark in the overture of his narrative, the writer sounds the motif that is to be developed in all the sequel. When the migration to Haran occurs, Sarai is named along with Abram and Lot as accompanying Terah. It has been held that the author (or authors) of Genesis 11 knew nothing of the relationship announced in 20:12. But there can be no proof of such ignorance, even on the assumption of diversity of authorship in the two passages.

Sarai's career as described in Genesis 11 was not dependent on her being the daughter of Terah. Terah had other descendants who did not accompany him. Her movements were determined by her being Abram's wife. It appears, however, that she was a daughter of Terah by a different mother from the mother of Abram. The language of 20:12 would indeed admit of her being Abram's niece, but the fact that there was but 10 years' difference between his age and hers (Genesis 17:17) renders this hypothesis less probable. Marriage with half-sisters seems to have been not uncommon in antiquity (even in the Old Testament compare 2 Samuel 13:13).

This double relationship suggested to Abraham the expedient that he twice used when he lacked faith in God to protect his life and in cowardice sought his own safety at the price of his wife's honor. The first of these occasions was in the earlier period of their wanderings (Genesis 12). From Canaan they went down into Egypt. Sarai, though above 60 years of age according to the chronology of the sacred historian, made the impression on the Egyptians by her beauty that Abraham had anticipated, and the result was her transfer to the royal palace. But this was in direct contravention of the purpose of God for His own kingdom. The earthly majesty of Pharaoh had to bow before the divine majesty, which plagued him and secured the stranger's exodus, thus foreshadowing those later plagues and that later exodus when Abraham's and Sarah's seed "spoiled the Egyptians."

We meet Sarah next in the narrative of the birth of Ishmael and of Isaac. Though 14 years separated the two births, they are closely associated in the story because of their logical continuity. Sarah's barrenness persisted. She was now far past middle life, even on a patriarchal scale of longevity, and there appeared no hope of her ever bearing that child who should inherit the promise of God. She therefore adopts the expedient of being "builded by" her personal slave, Hagar the Egyptian (see Genesis 16:2 margin). That is, according to contemporary law and custom as witnessed by the Code of Hammurabi (see ABRAHAM, iv, 2), a son born of this woman would be the freeborn son and heir of Abraham and Sarah.

Such was in fact the position of Ishmael later. But the insolence of the maid aroused the vindictive jealousy of the mistress and led to a painful scene of unjustified expulsion. Hagar, however, returned at God's behest, humbled herself before Sarah, and bore Ishmael in his own father's house. Here he remained the sole and rightful heir, until the miracle of Isaac's birth disappointed all human expectations and resulted in the ultimate expulsion of Hagar and her son.

The change of name from Sarai to Sarah when Isaac was promised has already been noted. Sarah's laughter of incredulity when she hears the promise is of course associated with the origin of the name of Isaac, but it serves also to emphasize the miraculous character of his birth, coming as it does after his parents are both so "well stricken in age" as to make parenthood seem an absurdity.

Before the birth of this child of promise, however, Sarah is again exposed, through the cowardice of her husband, to dishonor and ruin. Abimelech, king of Gerar, desiring to be allied by marriage with a man of Abraham's power, sends for Sarah, whom he knows only as Abraham's sister, and for the second time she takes her place in the harem of a prince. But the divine promise is not to be thwarted, even by persistent human weakness and sin. In a dream God reveals to Abimelech the true state of the case, and Sarah is restored to her husband with an indemnity. Thereupon the long-delayed son is born, the jealous mother secures the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, and her career comes to a close at the age of 127, at Hebroni long time her home. The grief and devotion of Abraham are broadly displayed in Genesis 23, in which he seeks and obtains a burying-place for his wife. She is thus the first to be interred in that cave of the field of Machpelah, which was to be the common resting-place of the fathers and mothers of the future Israel.

The character of Sarah is of mingled light and shade. On the one hand we have seen that lapse from faith which resulted in the birth of Ishmael, and that lack of self-control and charity which resulted in a quarrel with Abraham, an act of injustice to Hagar, and the disinheriting of Ishmael. Yet on the other hand we see in Sarah, as the New Testament writers point out (Hebrews 11:11 1 Peter 3:6), one who through a long life of companionship with Abraham shared his hope in God, his faith in the promises, and his power to become God's agent for achieving what was humanly impossible. In fact, to Sarah is ascribed a sort of spiritual maternity, correlative with Abraham's position as "father of the faithful"; for all women are declared to be the (spiritual) daughters of Sarah, who like her are adorned in "the hidden man of the heart," and who are "doers of good" and "fearers of no terror" (1 Peter loc. cit., literally rendered). That in spite of her outbreak about Hagar and Ishmael she was in general "in subjection to her husband" and of "a meek and quiet spirit," appears from her husband's genuine grief at her decease, and still more clearly from her son's prolonged mourning for her (Genesis 24:67; compare Genesis 17:17, 23:1 with Genesis 25:20). And He who maketh even the wrath of man to praise Him used even Sarah's jealous anger to accomplish His purpose that "the son of the freewoman," Isaac, "born through promise," should alone inherit that promise (Galatians 4:22-31).

Apart from the three New Testament passages already cited, Sarah is alluded to only in Isaiah 51:2 ("Sarah that bare you," as the mother of the nation), in Romans 4:19 ("the deadness of Sarah's womb"), and in Romans 9:9, where God's promise in Genesis 18:10 is quoted. Yet her existence and her history are of course presupposed wherever allusion is made to the stories of Abraham and of Isaac.

To many modern critics Sarah supplies, by her name, a welcome argument in support of the mythical view of Abraham. She has been held to be the local numen to whom the cave near Hebron was sacred; or the deity whose consort was worshipped in Arabia under the title Dusares, i.e. Husband-of-Sarah; or, the female associate of Sin the moon-god, worshipped at Haran. On these views the student will do well to consult Baethgen, Beitrage, 94, 157, and, for the most recent point of view, Gressmann's article, "Sage und Geschichte in den Patriarchenerzahlungen," ZATW, 1910, and Eerdmans, Alttestamentliche Studien, II, 13.

(2) The daughter of Raguel, and wife of Tobias (Tobit 3:7, 17, etc.).


J. Oscar Boyd

Strong's Hebrew
8297. Saray -- a wife of Abram
... 8296b, 8297. Saray. 8298 . a wife of Abram. Transliteration: Saray Phonetic
Spelling: (saw-rah'-ee) Short Definition: Sarai. ... Sarai. ...
/hebrew/8297.htm - 6k

Scenes in the Lives of the Patriarchs.
... valleys, was Abram. A worshipper of the Infinite One, he married Sarai, a
maiden of elevated piety and personal beauty. And doubtless ...
/.../headley/half hours in bible lands volume 2/scenes in the lives of.htm

How Abram Fought with the Assyrians, and Overcame Them, and Saved ...
... Accordingly Sarai, at God's command, brought to his bed one of her handmaidens,
a woman of Egyptian descent, in order to obtain children by her; and when this ...
/.../josephus/the antiquities of the jews/chapter 10 how abram fought.htm

Abraham --The Father of the Faithful.
... He took Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his nephew, and some servants, and cows, and
sheep, and camels, and asses, and went into the land of Canaan. ...
/.../lathbury/childs story of the bible/chapter iii abrahamthe father of.htm

Explanation of the Preceding Chapter.
... Abraham loved Sarai and Agar, and until Agar began to despise her mistress it
could not well have been discerned which he loved the better. ...
/.../francis/treatise on the love of god/chapter vii explanation of the.htm

Chapter xvi
... Yahweh's grace will give him, man can contribute nothing. The experience of this
chapter makes this fact most clearly apparent to Abram and to Sarai. ...
// of genesis volume 1/chapter xvi.htm

That when There was a Famine in Canaan, Abram Went Thence into ...
... Now, seeing he was to take Sarai with him, and was afraid of the madness of the
Egyptians with regard to women, lest the king should kill him on occasion of ...
/.../josephus/the antiquities of the jews/chapter 8 that when there.htm

Of the Change of Name in Abraham and Sarah, who Received the Gift ...
... a promise which we now see fulfilled in Christ,"from that time forward this couple
are not called in Scripture, as formerly, Abram and Sarai, but Abraham and ...
// of god/chapter 28 of the change of.htm

Entire Sanctification in Patriarchal Times.
... to Haran and dwelt there," or to give the record in full, "And Terah took Abraham,
his son, and Lot, the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai, his daughter-in ...
/.../clark/the theology of holiness/chapter iii entire sanctification in.htm

Chapter xvii
... the essentials of numerous posterity and possession of the land, and involving by
implication the Messianic features found in v.12, now specify Sarai as the ...
/...// of genesis volume 1/chapter xvii.htm

Consecration to God --Illustrated by Abraham's Circumcision
... How shorn of splendour is Abram seen when we read of him, "and Abram hearkened unto
the voice of Sarai!" That business of Hagar is to the patriacrch's deep ...
/.../spurgeons sermons volume 14 1868/consecration to godillustrated by abrahams.htm

Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary

my lady; my princess

Smith's Bible Dictionary

(my princess) the original name of Sarah wife of Abraham.

Easton's Bible Dictionary
My princess, the name originally borne by Sarah (Genesis 11:31; 17:15).
Sarai (13 Occurrences)
... 15). Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. SARAH; SARAI. sa ... language. Sarai was
the name this woman brought with her from Mesopotamia. On ...
/s/sarai.htm - 20k

Sarai's (1 Occurrence)
... Multi-Version Concordance Sarai's (1 Occurrence). Genesis 16:8 He said,
"Hagar, Sarai's handmaid, where did you come from? Where ...
/s/sarai's.htm - 6k

Sar'ai (12 Occurrences)
Sar'ai. Sarai, Sar'ai. Saraiah . Multi-Version Concordance Sar'ai (12 Occurrences). ...
(See RSV). Genesis 11:30 And Sarai was barren; she had no child. (See RSV ...
/s/sar'ai.htm - 9k

Maidservant (73 Occurrences)
... Genesis 16:1 And Sarai Abram's wife did not bear him children. ... Genesis 16:2 And Sarai
said to Abram, Behold now, Jehovah has shut me up, that I do not bear. ...
/m/maidservant.htm - 28k

Maid (57 Occurrences)
... Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bore him no children. ... Genesis 16:2 Sarai
said to Abram, "See now, Yahweh has restrained me from bearing. ...
/m/maid.htm - 27k

Abram's (8 Occurrences)
... The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah,
the daughter of Haran who was also the father of Iscah. ...
/a/abram's.htm - 9k

Abram (48 Occurrences)
... The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah,
the daughter of Haran who was also the father of Iscah. ...
/a/abram.htm - 21k

Sarah (38 Occurrences)
... ABRAHAM.). Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. SARAH; SARAI. sa ... language. Sarai
was the name this woman brought with her from Mesopotamia. On ...
/s/sarah.htm - 28k

Hagar (15 Occurrences)
... HAGAR. ha'-gar (haghar, "emigration," "flight"; Hagar, Agar): An Egyptian woman,
the handmaid or slave of Sarai; a present, perhaps, from Pharaoh when Abram ...
/h/hagar.htm - 22k

Abraham (2539 Occurrences)
... 12:18). Sarai was restored to him; and Pharaoh loaded him with presents,
recommending him to withdraw from the country. He returned ...
/a/abraham.htm - 50k

Bible Concordance
Sarai (13 Occurrences)

Genesis 11:29 Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran who was also the father of Iscah.

Genesis 11:30 Sarai was barren. She had no child.

Genesis 11:31 Terah took Abram his son, Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife. They went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan. They came to Haran and lived there.

Genesis 12:5 Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother's son, all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls whom they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan. Into the land of Canaan they came.

Genesis 12:11 It happened, when he had come near to enter Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman to look at.

Genesis 12:17 Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.

Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bore him no children. She had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

Genesis 16:2 Sarai said to Abram, "See now, Yahweh has restrained me from bearing. Please go in to my handmaid. It may be that I will obtain children by her." Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

Genesis 16:3 Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife.

Genesis 16:5 Sarai said to Abram, "This wrong is your fault. I gave my handmaid into your bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. Yahweh judge between me and you."

Genesis 16:6 But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your maid is in your hand. Do to her whatever is good in your eyes." Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face.

Genesis 16:8 He said, "Hagar, Sarai's handmaid, where did you come from? Where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai."

Genesis 17:15 God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but her name will be Sarah.



Related Terms

Sarai's (1 Occurrence)

Sar'ai (12 Occurrences)

Maidservant (73 Occurrences)

Maid (57 Occurrences)

Abram's (8 Occurrences)

Abram (48 Occurrences)

Sarah (38 Occurrences)

Hagar (15 Occurrences)

Abraham (2539 Occurrences)

Afflicted (171 Occurrences)

Please (324 Occurrences)

Running (135 Occurrences)

Haran (19 Occurrences)

Oppressed (81 Occurrences)

Goest (79 Occurrences)

I'm (30 Occurrences)

Iscah (1 Occurrence)

Fleeth (54 Occurrences)

Fleeing (38 Occurrences)

Restrained (51 Occurrences)

Egyptian (35 Occurrences)

Dealt (130 Occurrences)

Mistress (20 Occurrences)

Mistreated (14 Occurrences)

Master's (52 Occurrences)

Pleaseth (13 Occurrences)

Prevented (19 Occurrences)

Builded (65 Occurrences)

Comest (50 Occurrences)

Camest (27 Occurrences)

Charan (3 Occurrences)

Agreed (31 Occurrences)

Fled (181 Occurrences)

Whither (151 Occurrences)

Flee (187 Occurrences)

Treated (69 Occurrences)

Listened (120 Occurrences)

Perhaps (89 Occurrences)

Best (252 Occurrences)

Obtain (63 Occurrences)

Whence (84 Occurrences)

Taketh (398 Occurrences)

Built (299 Occurrences)

Daughter (320 Occurrences)

Sleep (136 Occurrences)

Shut (237 Occurrences)

Canaan (102 Occurrences)

Wilt (324 Occurrences)

Handmaid (77 Occurrences)

Bearing (150 Occurrences)

Build (242 Occurrences)

Harshly (20 Occurrences)

Hearkened (171 Occurrences)

Hearkeneth (34 Occurrences)

Violence (98 Occurrences)

Nephew (5 Occurrences)

Nahor's (4 Occurrences)

Nahor (18 Occurrences)

Lightly (31 Occurrences)

Grandson (14 Occurrences)

Gotten (38 Occurrences)

Terah (12 Occurrences)

Esteemed (44 Occurrences)

Embrace (11 Occurrences)

Daughter-in-law (16 Occurrences)

Despises (16 Occurrences)

Despised (96 Occurrences)

Milcah (10 Occurrences)

Pharaoh's (72 Occurrences)

Plagueth (2 Occurrences)

Pregnant (33 Occurrences)

Plagued (10 Occurrences)

Chalde'ans (74 Occurrences)

Conceived (66 Occurrences)

Contempt (55 Occurrences)

Accumulated (4 Occurrences)

Acquired (32 Occurrences)

Sarah's (6 Occurrences)

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