Sarah and Abraham created a perfect balance of the divine masculine and feminine. We often overlook their experiences — perhaps due to losses in ancient records and alterations of texts. Women were not scribes. And patriarchy was the lens from which to view life. Thus, stories of women were lost or hidden.

However, we find relics of some of the women of the Bible. Sarai, wife to Abram is one. I’ve compiled some of the information and in doing so, have found that Sarai and Abram save each other.

Abram and Sarai gather souls

About 1900 BCE, God told Abram to leave his homeland of Ur. With his wife and family, he headed out to Haran, where they lived before God asked them to leave again. While there, Abram and Sarai gathered others to their family–

“And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan;” (Genesis 12)

According to Jewish traditions from the Midrash Rabbah, Sarai was active in gathering other believers of God:

“And the souls that they had gotten in Haran” refers to the proselytes: Abraham converted the men and Sarah the women. (Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, compiled by John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, John Gee p. 102)

Abram dreams, Sarai responds

The story of Sarah deceiving the Pharaoh to protect her husband, Abraham has some interesting backstory:

“And I, Abram, dreamed a dream during the night of my entering the land of Egypt. I saw in my dream one cedar tree and one palm tree, [a very beautifu]l one, and huma[n] figures came and tried to chop down and uproot the cedar in order to leave the palm by itself. But the palm restrained (them) when she said, ‘Do not chop down the cedar, for both of us are from o[ne r]oot!’ And the cedar was left alone thanks to the protection of the palm and was not [chopped down].”(Genesis Apocrophon)

Palm tree in Abram's dream

Palm Tree

Cedar tree of Abram's dream

Cedar Tree near Lebanon

An uprooted Cedar Tree

I woke up from my dream in the night, and said to Sarai, my wife, ‘I have (just) dreamed a dream, [and I] am afraid [on account of] this dream!’ And she said to me, ‘Tell me your dream that I might know (it), and so I began to relate this dream to her. [And I revealed] to [her the meaning of that] dream, and I [said, ‘… …] for they will seek to kill me, but you they will spare [… …] this, every favor [do for me] in every where [we are, say] of me that “he is my brother,” and I will remain alive by your protection and survive thanks to you.’ [… … ‘they will try] to remove you from me and to kill me!’

Abram and sarai save each other

x1952-88, Abram’s Counsel to Sarai, Artist: Tissot, Photographer: John Parnell, Photo © The Jewish Museum, New York

And Sarai wept over my words that night. [… … … …] and Pharaoh Z[oan … … …] Sarai to go to Zoan [with me, for she was v]ery [careful] with her person so that no [one] would see her […]. But after those five years, three men who were princes of Egypt [came … …] of Pharaoh Zoa[n] about my affairs and about my wife, and they presented [me numerous gifts and aske]d m[e to teach them] values, wisdom, and truth. So I read in their presence the the words of [En]och (Translation Of 1Q Genesis Apocryphon II-XIX)

Sarai saves Abram's life

x1952-91, Sarai is Taken to Pharoah’s Palace, Artist: Tissot, Photographer: John Parnell, Photo © The Jewish Museum, New York

“Three agents reported to Pharaoh ‘singing the praises of Sarah’s beauty…mentioning that ‘with all her beauty there is much wisdom in her’ (G.A. XX7) lauding her ‘goodness, wisdom, and truth’ even above her other qualities… Her beauty had already caused a sensation at the customs house, according to a famous legend of the Midrash. If nothing else her blondness would have attracted attention among the Egyptians.

Pharaoh sought the hand of Sarah [Sarai], the true princess, in order to raise up a royal progeny by her. Upon a royal bed identical in form with the [royal] altar…, she too prayed for deliverance and was rescued by an angel…” (Nibley, ERA, Apr 1970)

The Lord commanded Abraham – to ask his wife for this. But Abraham did not command Sarah. No one commanded Sarah – the whole thing is left up to her as a matter of choice. It is she alone that is being tested on the lion couch. He explained the situation to her and it was her choice to do this. And he did not like the idea at all – “And I wept, I Abram, with grievous weeping” (Genesis Apocrophon)

According to the Midrash,”Abraham made himself of secondary importance…he really became subordinate to Sarah.” (Midr Rab 40:4) Everything was done for her sake: “the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah”(Nibley)

At God’s command, Abraham humbled himself to ask Sarah as a favor to declare herself to be his sister, eligible to marry another and thus save his life. This is only part of the deference that Abraham had to make to his wife, and it left no place for his male pride.

Sarah, on the other hand, with equal humility, went to Abraham confessing God’s hand in her childlessness and actually begging him to have children by another woman. Can one imagine a greater test of her pride?”(Nibley)

Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. (Genesis 16)

Sarai is barren

Sarai gives Hagar to Abram

Abraham gives Sarah to Abimelech

“And Abraham journeyed…and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?”(Genesis 20)

Sarai saves Abram again

Abimelech returns Sarah to Abraham

Everything indicates that Sarah was a princess in her own right – they wanted to raise a royal lineage thru her. Sarai means “Princess of her own people” according to the Midrash, and Sarah means ”princess of all people” and before she ever married Abraham she was well-known by the name of Jiska, “the Seeress” either because she had the gift of prophecy or because of her shining beauty or both”(Nibley)

“Abraham and Sarah kept the whole law … not by compulsion but with delight” (Midrash)
Why is it we never hear of the God of Sarah Rebecca and Rachel, but only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

The answer is given in Abraham 2:22-25, where Abraham obeys a direct command from God, though he is free to reject it if he will, while Sarah receives it as the law of her husband, being likewise under no compulsion. It is indeed the God of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel to whom they pray directly, but they covenant with him through their husbands. – when the man and woman are joined together and are called by one name, then the celestial favor rests upon them…(Nibley)

This is an example of the vassal king relationship and protection covenant. Abraham keeps the law of God, and Sarah chooses to keep Abraham’s request. They both are delivered. Sarah delivers Abraham from death by the Pharaoh and King Abimelech, and then Sarah is delivered from creating a new lineage with Pharaoh and King when the angel of the Lord comes to her rescue – at the request of not only Sarah, but Abraham. Together they save each other through their difficult trials.

References