Sarah: What’s in a Name?

Sarah shows us many different sides of the lives of being a woman. She was beautiful, faithful, loving, courageous, jealous, and strong willed, yet a loyal wife and a giving mother. There are many things we can learn from Sarah. First we shall look at the name change from Sarai to Sarah.
Genesis 11:20 – 12:20

Sarah was born with the name Sarai. Sarai was married to Abram. They lived in Ur of the Chaldees. The city of Ur in Sumer was what now southern Iraq is. It was magnificent city full of riches and trade. The Chaldeans were of the learned class and were interested in science and religion which worshipped heavenly bodies. Terah, the father of Abram, Abram, Sarai, and Lot the nephew of Abram and moved into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. (Genesis 11: 29-31).

It was after the death of Terah when Abram got Word of the LORD telling him to leave the land he knew and go to the land that the LORD would show him. Genesis 12:3 tells us “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his nephew and all their property, possessions including livestock and servants and went into the land of Canaan the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. This is the time when the LORD appeared to Abram and told him this in the land that He gives unto Abram. They then continued to travel in the direction the LORD wanted Abram to go. (Genesis 12: 3-9).

Sarai had lived in affluence in Ur with luxuries and comforts now she was following the voice of the LORD God to live a nomadic life. She traded prosperity for a life of tents; herds, and flocks. The social society was traded for herdsmen and servants that were suitable for a nomadic life. Sarai was probably about sixty years old at this beginning with her travels.

Sarai is a great example of faith and courage in following her husband and the voice of the LORD God. Sarai knew that her husband was going to be the “father of a great nation, and would be blessed and his name would be great” she knew she would have a place in this blessing it bothered her greatly that she was barren. It certainly can be understood that the plight of Sarai was not unusual. All ancient societies saw that bearing their husbands children was not only their duty but also a privilege. Even in today’s society woman have that need to bear their husbands children out of love and respect for them.

There was a grievous famine in Canaan so Abram journeyed south into Egypt to sojourn there. It is in Genesis 12:10-20 that we find out a great deal about Sarai. We know she was beautiful. She was so beautiful that Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him if they found out that she was his wife. Abram ask her to lie and say she was his sister. He was right about her beauty because the princes of Pharaoh saw her and commended her to go before Pharaoh. Abram was paid well for Sarai with sheep, oxen, and donkeys, camels and men and maid servants.

This could not have made Sarai happy with her silly husband who had done such a stupid thing. She didn’t try to circumvent his authority or his position. She did what he had asked because she trusted in her husband and in her God and went through with the request. This is a great example of love, trust, faith and courage.

This act did not make the LORD God happy either. He plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai. This Pharaoh must have recognized these plagues as being from the LORD God and that it had to have something to do with Sarai and Abram. The Pharaoh brought Abram to him and questioned him on why he lied by saying Sarai was his sister and not his wife.

Abram said he had not lied because Sarai was his half-sister. The Pharaoh commanded his men that they sent Abram, his wife, and all that he had away. You and I can only imagine the conversations that Abram and Sarai had in that tent after the encounter with Pharaoh.

Genesis 20:1- 18 reminds us that this happened again when Abraham journeyed toward the south county and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. The name change occurred in Genesis 17:15 and we will return there but we will deal with this sister issue with Abraham. Once again Abraham told Abimelech king of Gerar that Sarah was his sister not his wife. Why didn’t he learn?

Abimelech king of Gerar took Sarah. But the LORD came to Abimelech in a dream and said he would be a dead man, because the woman Sarah he took was the wife of Abraham. Abimelech was told if he touched Sarah then he would be sinning against the LORD. Needless to say Abimelech was really afraid called Abraham and asked him why he did such a thing to him.

Abraham said he did not think Gerar feared the LORD and that they would slay him because of the beauty of Sarah. Abraham continued to say yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and women servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.

This is such a wonderful important lesson we women of Christ have to learn. Sarah was protected by the LORD God, not Abraham who was a righteous man of God. It is so important to know we need to find a righteous man who serves the LORD God. If you both serve the same LORD then even if the righteous man is foolish and makes silly mistakes and have a lack of faith then we will be protected by the most powerful loving LORD God.

Sarai was still upset because of the promise the LORD had given her husband and she still could not give him children. Sarai had a lack of faith in herself, her husband and even in the LORD and decided to take matter in her own hands. Genesis 16:1-16 gives us another clue as to the character of Sarah and what she can teach us.

Sarai told Abram that she would give her hand maid, and Egyptian whose name was Hagar, to bear children for her. Verse 2 we find that Sarai was blaming the LORD because she had not had children for Abram. They had dwelt for ten year in the land of Canaan and Sarai thought that was enough time for her to conceive. She did not take into consideration the timing of the LORD. How often do we take things into our own hands and our own timing and speak for the LORD?

Abram was more than happy to listen to Sarai. Hagar conceived and was probably pretty happy about being pregnant and also pretty haughty about the fact that she, a servant, could produce a child when her mistress could not become pregnant. Sarai told Abram that she despised Hagar. Sarai blamed Abram and that she was wrong to give her maid to him and that the LORD them both.

Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and this caused Hagar to flee from Sarai. It must have been really hard to see that a slave could have something that she was so desperate to have. So we see that Sarai had a cruel streak in her. Is it wrong to mistreat her slave? Sure but it is human and very understandable. This does not mean Sarai is right in being cruel to Hagar and we should do the same thing when we are upset and do not get our way.

Abram took his concerns to the LORD. The LORD reminded him that there was a covenant between them and that Abraham would be a father of many nations. This is when there was a name change. Geneses 17:15-19 shares that now Abram is Abraham and Sarai is called Sarah. Sarah will be blessed and will give Abraham a son and she will become a mother of nations, kings of people shall come from her.

The laughter and the doubting started with Abraham. Sarah was ninety years old. The LORD continued to tell Abraham that Sarah would bear a son and his name should be Isaac; and the LORD will establish His covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seeds after him. We know the rest of the story is that it is through Isaac that the Jewish nation was established.

The LORD knew Abraham was worried about his son he had with the Egyptian slave girl, Ishmael. The LORD also blessed him, and made him fruitful, and he would multiply him into twelve princes and he also will be a great nation. However; the covenant established between the LORD was with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear at the same time in the next year.

Names in Biblical times had a huge significance and often reflected the emotions of the parents for the child. Sarai in Hebrew means princess. Sarah in Hebrew means noblewoman. With the name change given by the LORD God Sarah became a noble woman. The name change of Sarai came before she gave birth to Isaac. With this name change also came a change in the life of Sarah. She became the mother of a nation because she gave birth to Isaac.

This look at Sarah is an illustration that all things are possible with the LORD God. Not with Man but with the LORD. It is easy for us to look upon Sarah and say you know you should have trusted the LORD and not lose faith with Him. But when we look in our lives we see that we lose trust and faith with the LORD on things that are a “no brainer”. There are things that we have seen over and over again in our lives to be in the control of the LORD.

Sometimes we think we know what is best for us in our lives. We then take control to make it happen. We do not take into account the time table of the LORD. We need to learn patience and to wait for the timing of the LORD to bring about the changes in our fives. We need to learn, as Sarah had to learn to allow the Will of the LORD to be our will.

Cite Article Source

MLA Style Citation:

Holstein, Joanne “Sarah: What’s in a Name?.” Becker Bible Studies Library Feb 2015.<,>.

APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015, February) “Sarah: What’s in a Name?.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from,.

Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015) “Sarah: What’s in a Name? .” Becker Bible Studies Library (February),, (accessed).

Joanne Holstein is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She is a graduate of Psychology/Christian and Bible Counseling with Liberty University. She is well-known as a counselor to Christian faithful who are struggling with tremendous burden in these difficult times. She is a leading authority on historical development of Christian churches and the practices and beliefs of world religions and cults.

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