This is the account of Terah’s family line.
Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.
- Genesis 11:27-32
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
- Genesis 12:1-5
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
- Genesis 12:10-13
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
- Genesis 16:1-3
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
- Genesis 17:15-19
So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old? ’Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
- Genesis 18:12-15
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
- Genesis 20:11-12
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
- Genesis 21:1-5
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.
- Genesis 23:1-2
“‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
- Leviticus 18:9
In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
- Romans 9:8-9
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
- Hebrews 11:8-12
“ [Genesis 21:1-2] To the aged couple (vv. 2, 5, 7), exactly as promised, a son was born and the twenty-ﬁve year suspense was ﬁnally over with the earlier laughter of derision now turning to rejoicing (v. 6). The barrenness of Sarah (11:26) had ended.
“ [Genesis 23:1-2] Although Sarah’s age—the only woman’s age at death recorded in Scripture-might suggest her importance in God’s plan, it more importantly reminds of the birth of her only son when she was well beyond childbearing age (at ninety years of age, cf. 17:17) and of God’s intervention to bring about the fulﬁllment of His word to her and Abraham. Sarah’s death occurred c.2028 B.C.”
- John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)
What Do We Know about their Relationship?
The twice tried ruse (with Pharaoh in Genesis 12 and Abimelech in Genesis 20) was indeed a fact. Sarai (Sarah) was the half-sister of Abram (Abraham). They shared the same father, but different mothers. Leviticus 18:9 forbids such sexual conduct, but this marital union happened soon after the confusion of language at the tower of Babel in the first part of Genesis 11. There were probably few people with whom Abram could marry, who also shared the same language, and the Levitical Law was not yet in place.
Sarah was very beautiful, but she was barren. Sarah did what many humans try to do, fix a problem that is something of God’s concern. It creates jealousy within Sarah from the moment Hagar conceived until Hagar and Ishmael were cast away after Isaac was born. With the first of these stories, it is complicated. The slave, Hagar, abused her mistress, probably mocking her for being barren. Abram stay out of it. Sarai abuses Hagar for the abuse Hagar was doing. Hagar ran away but was stopped by God who promised that the offspring of her child, yet to be born, would produce kings. Hagar is not receiving a blessing equal to God’s covenant with Abram, but she would be provided for.
The covenant was promised to go through Isaac. Thus, God testing Abraham by having him sacrifice Isaac meant that Abraham would have to rely on resurrection of Isaac, rather than Sarah giving birth to another child if Isaac had indeed been sacrificed. Note: This was only a test of Abraham’s faith.
Terah started the journey to Canaan, but he stopped at Harran. Abram received a message from God. He continued the journey with his wife and nephew to Canaan.
With Sarah near 90 years old when she heard that she was going to become pregnant, she laughed. She laughed a second time, then ninety, when the three visitors arrived on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy the cities and save Lot. She denied laughing.
Other than when Hagar slept with Abraham to produce a son, there is no other evidence that Abraham was unfaithful, and it was Sarah who suggested the union, second guessing herself once Hagar became pregnant. It was after Sarah had died that Abraham married Keturah and had several sons.
Abraham had a large flock to tend, and he had many servants. There were servants enough to tend to Sarah and to tend to Abraham’s flocks. Abraham went to Beersheba after he was tested by God, and Sarah died at Kiriath Arba. Rabbinical tradition places Abraham’s test of faith when Isaac was 37 years old. If this is true, it explains that Abraham had to travel to mourn the loss of Sarah.
The tomb of Sarah, which will become the family crypt, the only land Abraham could call his own, was obtained from the Hittites, not the Canaanites.
What Can We Infer about their Relationship?
I do not know if we can infer that Terah heard from God and that was the reason for his journey to the Land of Canaan, but if so, he was unfaithful. Abraham did as God told him and completed the journey. The promises then came through Abraham first and then Isaac.
With God promising descendants as many as the stars or the grains of sand, Abraham was probably doing his part, but we can assume, other than with Hagar, he stayed faithful to Sarah. Yet, he had no problem having Sarah become a member of a king’s harem to save his own skin.
In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?
We could fill in the gaps with a lot, in that Sarah lived 127 years and we know very little. She was a barren woman who was beautiful, even in old age. Yet, Noah was 500 years old when he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. We have no idea how old Noah’s wife was at the time. But it is in Genesis 6:3, before the flood, that God laments the wickedness of mankind and limits the life expectancy to 120 years – with some notable exceptions. Thus, we can draw the lines that pregnancy in an advanced age was rare, if not impossible without a miracle from God. So, with Sarah lovely enough for two different kings to desire her in middle age or higher, Sarah must have been lovely beyond compare.
Rev. MacArthur has a list of couples who exhibited romantic love in the Bible. He does not list Abraham and Sarah, probably because their relationship is like two lifelong friends. My wife and I are in that stage. While we think about life without the other, when one of us dies, at the same time, we cannot think of life without the other. In Genesis 2, it speaks of a man marrying a woman and becoming one flesh. This seems to be the case with Abraham and Sarah.
There could be many fictional stories based on that type of relationship, but they might not be best selling novels. Yet, I feel those types of stories are often the most pleasing to God.
What Can We Learn from this Relationship?
We could learn to emulate such faithfulness. Although Sarah laughed, she is commended along with Abraham in the Faith Hall of Honor (Hebrews 11). They both had faith in God and acted upon it. Although their faith in the natural process of having children may have been weak, they never turned from God. Instead, their wrong move was in trying to take matters into their own hands.
We could look down on the couple for introducing Hagar into the picture, but how long do you wait? For many of us, waiting is a hard thing to do, maybe the hardest. If we are honest with ourselves, we might have taken more drastic measures far sooner than Abraham and Sarah did.
Yet, throughout the Bible, God has those who are faithful waiting for one thing or another. People joke that you should never pray for patience. God will test your patience soon enough, but God delivers on His promises just in time, and it is by His time, not ours. Thus, praying for patience just might mean that we have some when we are asked to wait.
Who But You, sung by Mark Hall and Megan Garrett.
A Closing Prayer
If we are not among those praising Your Name and thanking You for a wonderful relationship that endures, we can think of those around us that we could never think had a cross word toward each other. We can think of those who were dedicated to their spouse until death, often staying true to a deceased spouse, many years after that spouse had passed away. It is getting rarer to see such couples, but something draws us to them. Even if you never see them kiss or hug, you know there is love there. And Lord, we know how hard it is to endure in love. We know at times it is impossible without your strength within us. Please help us to endure just a little longer until we go across the river or You come again.
In Thy Name we pray,
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.