1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
2 And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
Sarah was Abraham’s longtime companion and friend. From one journey to the next, Abraham had to part ways with one family member after another, but she remained his constant partner. Now, though, after 172 years, Sarah finally took a separate journey of her own.
Abraham has had many causes to attend to throughout the Genesis chapters. He has proven honorable and devoted with Lot, Abimelech, and God. He has faithfully fulfilled his duty to each in turn. Now his story is winding to its close, and there are not going to be any more duties to perform, just a quiet retirement until he rests in his grave.
Or rather, almost it is time for that retirement. Before he comes to that there remains one last duty for Abraham to fulfill, and it is fitting and touching that it is to his wife, Sarah. Now that she has died he must find a place to bury her, and the entirety of this chapter is about Abraham diligently seeking and finding the perfect resting place for her. We will read in the next chapter how he begins entrusting his duties to his servants, but this one task, this is the last that he will undertake with his own hand.
8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.
9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
We learn a new detail in verse 9, that Hagar was an Egyptian. Presumably she was recruited during their visit to Egypt at the time of the famine. There is an interesting foreshadowing in this moment that Ishmael, a son of Egypt, afflicts Isaac, a son of Abraham. This same pattern will play out on a much larger scale when the entire nation of Israel is made slaves to the Egyptians, awaiting deliverance at the hand of Moses.
Now comes a difficult situation for Abraham. His two sons are divided against each other, and Sarah is filled with indignation for the offense to her son. Naturally Abraham cleaves to both of his sons, they are each his own blood. But Sarah is only tied to Isaac and her concern is strictly for him.
Now we do not know exactly what she saw in Ishmael’s mockery. “Mockery” is a very wide term. It might mean anything from harmless teasing to hateful tormenting. It is possible that Sarah something that made her fear a terrible violence when she and Abraham, Isaac’s already-old parents, went to the grave and were no longer around to protect him.
4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
The record once again makes abundantly clear that Abraham immediately followed all of the instructions God had given him, and circumcised his son when he was eight days old, the exact age that the Lord had specified in His commandments. By this he welcomed his son into the covenant that God had established, making Isaac ready to receive all the promised blessings.
As for Sarah, she recalled the moment when God said she would have a son in her old age and she laughed in incredulity. The Hebrew word used here for “laugh” is the exact same as the one used in that earlier passage, which means to make sport or play. Sarah was observing that all the world would be in on the joke now that the promise had been fulfilled. A joke that she was happy to have at her own expense!
9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh
I find this passage rather comical. Sarah finds the Lord’s promise incredulous and inwardly laughs. But of course, with God no inward thought is private. When He calls her out she tries to deny it, but He reiterates “nay; but thou didst laugh.”
And then He drops it. He reproved her for doubting Him and corrected her for lying to Him, but He doesn’t need to punish her for having a moment of everyday human incredulity.
Because Sarah’s behavior is actually very common. When we speak with God we frequently forget just who it is we’re talking to. I, myself, have tried to bargain with Him and con Him, I’ve made promises that I knew I wouldn’t keep, and I’ve quickly disbelieved His declarations of love. I’ve made the mistake of seeing Him as just another man, and He has called me out on that. But then, as with Sarah, He has also patiently waited for me to take Him seriously so we can move forward.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
Earlier Abram received his new name and became Abraham. Now it is Sarai’s turn, and her new name, Sarah, means “Princess,” which is explained in the statement “kings of people shall be of her.” Abraham’s new name signified that he would be the patriarch of many nations, Sarah’s new name signified that those nations would be populated with heroes and royalty, figures both mighty and important.
Just consider a few examples of the progeny that would come through this “princess:” Joseph the prince of Egypt, Moses the liberator, Joshua the conqueror, Gideon the miracle fighter, Samuel the counselor to kings, David the warrior-poet, Solomon the wise monarch, Samson the strong, Daniel the faithful, Elijah the caller-down of fire, Esther the bold queen, and of course Jesus the savior of the world.
Abraham and Sarah were going to be the foundation for something great and powerful, and now they had names to reflect that. I do wonder what sort of insight they might have had as to the caliber of their future family. Did they ever have visions of the mighty sons and daughters that would look back and revere them?