Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God's Princess, an overview (Gen 11:27-23:20)

Today, we come to the story of a woman who's life is described, alongside her husband Abraham's, for eleven chapters! This is the first woman we come to know in any real sense after Eve. Since it is such a long story, my first step here will be to outline the information points we have about Sarah in a rough timeline of her life:
  • She is the wife of Abram (we later learn she is Abram's half sister) and she is unable to become pregnant.
  • With Abram, she moves from Haran to Canaan, and then to Egypt when there is a famine in Canaan.
  • She is given by her husband to Pharaoh, so he could avoid being killed, and then given by Pharaoh back to Abraham after plagues fell on his house.
  • She travels by Abram's side as he travels with Lot, and settles in Canaan, and participates in a local war.
  • Abram receives the promise that he will have many descendents, which depends on her.
  • She offers her servant Hagar to Abram, to help God fulfill his promise.
  • She is treated with contempt by Hagar, and sends Hagar away. God cares for Hagar and sends her back.
  • Abraham receives another covenant from God establishing circumcision, changing his name, and her name.
  • God promises Abraham that Sarah specifically will have a son.
  • Three holy messengers visit Abraham at Mamre and announce birth of a son through Sarah within a year. Sarah overhears this from inside the tent and laughs.
  • After Lot is rescued from Sodom, Sarah accompanies Abraham south. 
  • Again Abraham says she is his sister and gives him to Abimelech. The Lord warns Abimelech she is married and he gives her back, saying she was in on the deception.
  • She gives birth to Isaac in her old age, and declares God has brought her laughter.
  • She sends Ishmael away because he is mistreating Isaac.
  • Abraham offers Isaac.
  • She dies at 127, and was buried at Machpelah, near Mamre, where Isaac's birth was promised by the holy messengers and she got caught laughing at the promise.
Based on this outline, Here are several themes I want to look at.

The central one is Sarah's infertility. Though Abraham is the lead in this story, the first thing we learn about his family pertains to Sarah--that she cannot bear children. We have previously seen how important childbearing is in the story of humanity. It is certainly given first priority in these chapters. Even God's promise to Abraham to establish a people through him to be God's own special people hinges on this important womanly detail of Sarah's life.

The next interesting feature of this story is what we are told about her marriage relationship to Abram. It begins within their nuclear family (!?).  We are told she has great beauty and, with no children, a lack of obvious matronhood. This allows Abram to claim her as only a sister, and twice effectively pimp her to menacing kings. We also have God's attention to these situations without obvious reprimand to Abram.

I'd also like to look at her relationship with God. Throughout the story, Sarah is in the action, and even speaking, but not to God. God only speaks with Abraham, with one possible exception. How did Sarah herself relate to God in the often difficult circumstances of her life?

Finally, I want to think through the time in her life when God's promise is fulfilled and she finally gives birth to Isaac. We have a few pieces of information that speak about this, and the touching final record that she is buried at Mamre, where the holy messengers promised his birth within a year and she laughed.

Stay tuned! There is a lot of really valuable stuff here I suspect.

Since this is an overview, I will save the takeaways and questions for the next posts, where we will dive deeper into Sarah's life.

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