Genesis 21:5-7 (King James Bible):

5 And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have borne him a son in his old age.

I don't really understate what it says, neither grammatically nor semantically. Is there anybody who reads the King James version of the Bible and understands its language?

  • Did you try taking a look at a parallel bible or compare any other translations before asking this question? Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 18:18
  • @JamesShewey I hope I have not transgressed with my answer, since I formed it at Christianity.SE, during which time this question got migrated here. My approach was to compare various English language rendering of the same passage, rather than to build from the ground up from original (ancient) language as you all do so well here. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 19:57
  • My point is that we like to see at least some minimal research effort. I don't see any various English language comparisons in your question and we usually feel that the best questions will not be answered with a quick google search, regurgitating the introduction of a Wikipedia article, or just using a Parallel bible. I think the answer to this one is pretty obvious what is meant when one uses a more modern translation. Recently I have noticed an uptick in bad questions based on the KJV version that would be easily resolved by looking at different translation or two here. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 20:01
  • @JamesShewey I didn't write the question, but I did write an answer (begun at the other site) and if doing that when the question was not quite up to snuff was a foul, I apologize. I usually just read here. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 22:43
  • No, you are fine. We usually only recommend against writing answers when a question will be closed - this isn't technically off topic and will probably remain open, but see lots of down-votes. So answering was just fine. Especially for a migrated question. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


There are two ways to answer your question: directly and indirectly

Direct Answer:

Giving suck is an archaic English expression (in use during that time period in England when the KJV was published) that means to feed the child from the mother's breast. We now call that breastfeeding or nursing. (No, there wasn't infant formula in those days). Compare that rendering of the verses with some other translations into English:

New King James Version:

She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

New American Bible:

7 Who would have told Abraham," she added, "that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

New Revised Standard Version:

‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?

(Thanks @StuW for observing that the Hebrew reads as the New Revised Standard version.)

Indirect Answer

This reference to Sarah -- who was long past the usual child bearing age and who was previously barren -- nursing her baby after all of those years of being barren means that she had a baby, so it emphasizes the miraculous nature of Isaac's birth. In that sense, the deeper meaning of that passage is the miracle of Isaac's being her son with Abraham.

  • I'm a Jewiah to Catholic convert. If it makes a difference, the Hebrew reads as the New Revised Standard version.
    – Stu W
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 2:10
  • @StuW Should I edit that in to improve the answer? I don't have a Hebrew text of that verse at my fingertips at the moment. WIll have to dig to find one I can cite. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 13:21
  • 1
    I don't think that's necessary based on the question and answer. Just a piece of trivia. Hebrew is notoriously difficult to translate because (biblical) Hebrew has no tense (verbs are unconjugated), no "be" verbs, frequently skips pronouns, no indefinite articles, and -ly adverbs often appear as their adjective root. To do it right, you need to find people who REALLY know Torah. You know, the Pharisees. I'd recommend chabad.org for the gold-standard, side-by-side translation. Start with Exodus 3:14.
    – Stu W
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:49

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