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St. Sarah


Commemorated on December 17

Sarah was the wife of Abraham as described in the Old Testament (the Book of Genesis). The Hebrew word for “Sarah” indicates a woman of high rank, and is sometimes translated as “princess” or goddess, or “high holy one”.

Sarah lived with her husband, Abraham, in the city of Haran. When God told Abraham to leave his homeland and journey to an unknown land (later identified as Canaan), Sarah accompanied him. However, when they arrived they were met with a famine and decided to take refuge in Egypt. Fearing that Sarah’s beauty would put his life in danger if their true relationship became known, Abraham proposed that she pass as his sister.

As Abraham had feared, Sarah was taken by the pharaoh, who rewarded Abraham richly. However, God struck the Pharaoh and all his house with severe plagues, after which Pharaoh discovered Sarah’s secret. He punished Abraham and ordered him to take his wife and depart. However, the Pharaoh was impressed with Abraham’s righteousness, and sent his own daughter, Hagar, to be a handmaiden to Sarah.

God promised Abraham that he would yet be a father of nations, but Sarah remained childless. To help her husband fulfill his destiny, she offered Hagar to him as a concubine. Hagar became pregnant immediately, and began to despise Sarah. Sarah began to treat Hagar in a harsh fashion, forcing the handmaiden to flee to the desert, where she encountered an angel who announced that her children would be numerous and urged her to return to her mistress. After Hagar returned, she bore Abraham a son whom he named Ishmael.

God sent three angels in the guise of men to inform Abraham and Sarah of the impending birth of Isaac. Abraham laughed with joy at the news, as he would be 100 years old at the time of the birth, but Sarah laughed with doubt, as she would be 90 years old and the ways of women had long since ceased for her. When Sarah bore Isaac, God instructed Abraham to name him after the laughter which Sarah had made when her son’s birth was prophesied by the angel.

Sarah died in Hebron at the age of 127 years. Her death prompted Abraham to purchase a family burial plot, and he approached Ephron the Hittite to sell him the Cave of Machpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs). Ephron demanded an exorbitant price of 400 pieces of silver, which Abraham paid in full. The Cave of Machpelah would eventually be the burial site for all three Jewish patriarchs and three of the four matriarchs – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

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