In Genesis 18:12 Sarah says,

After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?

The word "lord" is Strong's Hebrew 113, אָדוֹן.

1 Peter 3:6 suggests that her calling her husband "lord" indicated submission and obedience. What did the word mean in ancient Hebrew culture?

4 Answers 4


My Hebrew is basic, but I do read Greek.

Sarah refers to Abraham as her kurios in Genesis 18:12 in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament.) Yet she does not address him directly with that word

in her commentary of 1 Peter, Karen Jobes (2005:205) notes that "This noun [kurios] is the only lexical connection between the story of Sarah and Peter’s claim.”

Interestingly, Rebekah calls Abraham’s servant kurios (Greek) אָדוֹן (Hebrew) in Genesis 24:18. I strongly doubt that Rebekah was calling the servant "lord" or "master".

The Greek word kurios is used in many contexts in the Old Testament and New Testament and can simply be a polite term of respect much like "sir". Perhaps this is also true of the Hebrew word אָדוֹן.

Following on from what Bruce wrote in his second paragraph: Sarah did not always go along with what Abraham wanted. For instance, Sarah wanted to dismiss Hagar and Ishmael, but this idea distressed Abraham. On this occasion, God said to Abraham: “. . . in everything, whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice.” (Genesis 21:12b, translated from the Septuagint).

In Genesis 16:2 it says that Abraham obeyed Sarah’s voice. The Greek word hupakouō used in this verse is a common word in the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament and is usually translated as “obey”.

Conversely, nowhere in the Genesis narratives of Abraham and Sarah does it actually state that Sarah “obeyed” her husband. “Nevertheless, the submission of Sarah to Abraham was a long-standing element of Jewish traditions.” (Jobes 2005:205)

I hope this helps.

  • Gen 24:18 presents what many a drunk considers the ideal wife: ""Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink." :)
    – Ruminator
    Aug 25, 2017 at 20:47

Jewish commentaries don't dwell on her use of the word אדוני in that verse because it is clear from the context that she is referring to her husband. In fact, I searched all of my books and found no comment at all on the use of the word there. Everyone is much more interested in the rest of the sentence, where she laughs at the possibility of her and Abraham becoming youthful enough to bear children.

To suggest that Sarah was completely subservient to the whims of Abraham, her husband, ignores evidence to the contrary. When Sarah tells Abraham that Haggar and Ishmael had to go (Gen. 21:9-21), Abraham gives in, even though he loved both. Moreover, God even tells him to do whatever Sarah tells him to do. Gen. 21:12.


Part of the reason for her use of the word "lord" is likely linked into the Symbolic and prophetic nature of Abraham and Sara's relationship.

As with later prophets it is inferred that God uses the life of Abraham and his family to prophetically foretell future events. The symboloy of their marriage relationship is very similar to that of the Prophet Hosea and his wife where by the prophet represents "God" and his wife represents the nation of Israel. The marriage represents the "covenant" agreement they enter into together.

In the book of Hosea this is explicitly stated:

Hosea 1:2 When the lord began to speak through Hosea he said "Go and marry a permiscuous woman and have children with her." For like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

Here it is made explicitly clear that the marriage between the prophet and the permiscuous woman represents the broken covenant agreement between God and Israel. The prophet Hosea represents God - the permiscuous woman the unfaithful Israel. The children they have are named to prophetically describe punishments that would be sent on the future generations as a result of the unfaithfullness to God.

In the story of Abraham it is not explicitly stated but is strongly inferred through symbology that continues through the old testament that Sara - the Barren Woman - represents Israel in the same way as the permiscuous woman did in the book of Hosea. There are recurring referrences to the symbology of Israel as the "barren woman" and Gods wife - such as in Isaiah 54 which explicitly uses this symbology describing Israel as a "barren woman" and his wife whom he briefly abandoned before forgiving and inviting back with compassion.

“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. 7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Once we understand this symbology it becomes clear that the prophet Abraham just like Hosea is playing the role of "God" and Sara the role of Israel. And the key events that take place in their marriage are prophetic foretellings of things that will take place between God and Israel and thus her referring to him as "lord" likely is linked to Abraham in the story is essentially "role playing" God.

Abraham handing handing Sara over to the Egyptian Pharoah in Genesis 12:10-20 is a prophetic foretelling of the events that take place several hundred years later in the book of Exodus. Where God hands Israel over into slavery in Egypt then Moses brings them out with great posessions.

Abraham handing Sara over to the King in Phillistine/Babylon in Genesis 20:1-18 is a prophetic foretelling of the Babylonian Exile which happens around 1500 years later which begins in the book of Jeremiah 39.

Then lastly we have the birth of Isaac and his mock sacrifice on the mountain which prophetically foretells when Israel would bring forth a true spiritual son - born of the Isralite blood line and Gods holy spirit. Jesus / Yeshua. The "barren woman" of Israel gives birth. The mock sacrifice of Isaac Abrahams son symbolically prophecising Jesus future atoning death on the cross.

Short summary - Lord is likely used because Abraham is prophetically role playing "God" over the course of his story in Genesis and Sara role playing "Israel".



From the above link, we can learn that "lord" Strong's Hebrew 113, אָדוֹן, comes from an older, unused root which means "to rule".

From Gesenius's Lexicon at the same link, we can learn further that in addition to ruling is added the meanings of; to judge, to command, to lead, to control, and is a title of respect toward one who is noble and deserving of the respect, and is applied to princes, kings, rulers, and fathers.

To say that this word might mean Sarah was subject to the whims of her husband, would be to belittle the meaning of this term. Her use of the word in context implies respect toward her husband, and that she is subordinating herself respectively.

This is in keeping with what Eve was told would be the result of the fall, and how it would effect her, in her relationship toward her husband. (from the Genesis account 'your husband will rule over you, and your desire will be toward him'.)

Sarah's expression about Hagar and Ishmael being sent away, may have been extreme, and out of character for her. Hebrew scholars speculate from the text that describe's Ishmael's behaviour toward Issac, what it actually entailed, which Sarah observed, that upset her. Some write there may have been a plot afoot by Hagar and her son, because of jealousy and competition; the text clearly bearing out that Sarah had problems with Hagar before Issac's birth, as well.

Abraham did not 'give in' to a whim of Sarah's, nor did he subordinate himself to her. He received divine direction from God about his household war, and he obeyed the Lord in how to resolve it. This resolution from God considered much more than restoring harmony to the home. According to some Hebrew scholars, it may have saved Issac's life.

It is interesting to note the choice of wording from the text, the Lord telling Abraham to go along with what Sarah requests. This does not indicate that Sarah usurped her husband's authority, nor does it indicate the Lord's approval of usurping.


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