April 16, 2024

A New Beginning – The Story of Abraham and Sarah

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Biblical Marriage

Abraham has his wife lie, and yet they are blessed.

Genesis 12:15 – And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

Here we have a problem for Abraham: He is a man with an attractive wife and he believes that the men of the land, being less civilized than himself or where he has come from, will kill him in order to get her. She must have been quite attractive! In order to avoid death, Abraham convinces his half-sister to say that she is only his sister, and in that way, he will be spared. What should Sarai do?

The modern problem to consider here is whether the wife should always obey her husband or whether there are times when she should not. There has been a lot of conversation online about this topic and people tend to take it to extremes. On the side, believing that wives are able to choose whether to obey are questions about whether a wife should kill someone if her husband ordered her to. On the side of those believing that they should obey in all things are the questions about where the line gets drawn, because people can define personal preferences to be moral issues and not just personal preferences.

In 1 Peter 3:6, Sarah is commended for obeying her husband, yet here she lies. Again, much discussion online about what part of Sarah’s life was commendable. Was it just that she called him “lord” when she heard about Isaac or her entire life’s attitude?

What makes this even harder to figure out is that God blessed and protected Abraham.  And he did this twice without anything becoming of him. Seems like it would be quite the gimmick to increase his wealth! “Hey honey, let’s do that thing where you pretend to be my sister, God will step in and then we can make some money!” Sounds like a winning business plan!

So I keep coming back to this: was it wrong for Sarah to lie in this circumstance? Would she be held accountable for it? I would argue that it’s always wrong to lie, and the God that provided protection could have protected them from the beginning.  These passages are to show that Abraham’s faith was not always strong, not that you should always obey.

Husbands should never put wives in a position of where they have to feel like they either need to disobey God or disobey them. This is abusing the leadership role God gave them.

Abraham listens to Sarah and has a child with Hagar.  God blesses Hagar because of Abraham.

Genesis 16:1 – Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.

Obviously, God created one man, and one woman, and yet the blessing of God was upon Hagar and Ishmael because Abraham was blessed. It’s very hard to reconcile our understanding of one-man one-woman with some of the Old Testament accounts because there seem to be circumstances wherein the second spouse is blessed. Rachel gets Joseph, who ends up saving the Israelites in Egypt, and gets a double portion from Jacob/Israel. Hannah, the second wife of Elkanah, births Samuel. Here in this story, Ishmael is blessed, even though Isaac gets the bigger blessing.

How does the fact that God says that Abraham will have a son by Sarah, instead of taking Ishmael, affect your thoughts on how God views marriage?

It would be a whole lot easier to make fit into our model of monogamous marriage if God condemned the slave woman that bore Abraham’s firstborn instead of blessing him. But God doesn’t do that. Abraham is a blessed individual by God– the Father of Many Tribes/Nations/Peoples– and this is just another tribe that will come from him. One of the consequences of this act is that Sarah unwittingly creates a brother feud that is with us to this day.

God approved of and blessed the union with Sarah– the wife– over Sarah’s slave Hagar, the servant. There was a blessing, but God blessed the fruit of the marriage. This was not the desire of Abraham, who loved his firstborn, and no doubt caused much contention in the house as long as Hagar and Ishmael lived there.

What does Sarah mean by calling Abraham “lord”?

Looking up the word “lord” in a Bible Dictionary we find that it is used in the following ways in the Bible: husband, Lord, lord, lord’s, lords, master, master’s, masters, owner.  This is the same in Greek and Hebrew.  Holy women of all ages lived in subjection to their husbands. This obviously looked different in times before Christ, as we know that those cultures expected men to care for women, and marriages were arranged by exchange of goods and money and sometimes to unite kingdoms or land. Ingrained in these cultures were respect and honor as something that was part of their society. A lot of their constructs would seem foreign to us, and the concept of a wife calling her husband by this kind of title is similar. It sounds wrong because it is foreign to today’s sensibilities.

The respect behind this appellation is commended in 1 Peter 3.

How do you think Sarah’s request to have Hagar and Ishmael removed affected history?

I believe that this is part of the reason for the hatred between the modern-day Arabs and Israelites. Do I believe that anyone consciously thinks about what Sarah did? No. But I do believe that both claims over ownership over the land where modern-day Israel exists stems back to each group claiming a right of ownership based on Abraham– if somewhat loosely.

 How did Abraham take the death of Sarah? (Gen 23:1-2, 25:1-7)

He mourned for her, got a special burial place for her, and then married again—and had concubines.  Marriage was until death.

Series Navigation<< We Are One – The Story of Adam and EveBy the Book – Marriage from the Israelite Law – Part 1 >>
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