Abraham's wife Sarah is the only female in Genesis for whom an age is ever mentioned. We can read the span of her life (127 years per Genesis 23:1). However, even in advance of when she became pregnant, Abraham notes she'd "give birth at 90" (Genesis 17:17).

Why might Sarah have had her age recorded in these passages thereby making her the only woman for whom an age is ever mentioned?

  • 1
    Specifying Sarah's age could be the author's way of underscoring the miraculous nature of the pregnancy. Who would ever have thought a 90-year-old woman could give birth to the son of promise, Isaac? The answer: no one, including Sarah, who laughed at such a preposterous thought (hence the name given the child--"he laughs")! When God makes a promise, however, He can be counted on to fulfill that promise, regardless of the seemingly impossible odds of its fulfillment. – rhetorician Dec 22 '13 at 21:28
  • I agree. One parallel with Sarah and her daughter-in-law Rebekah seems to be with Mary and her relative Elizabeth. Part of that is that none would have become pregnant without God's help. Sarah laughed at God, and Mary questioned it in a different way. Both were told anything's possible with God's help. They merely had to listen and accept. – John Martin Dec 22 '13 at 22:43

Sarah's lifespan was part of an elaborate numerology hidden in the story of the patriarchs. True, her age when she gave birth (90) might have inspired awe among the earliest audience of this story, as would that of Abraham (100) but these numbers were probably chosen mainly because they were easy for tradents to remember as they passed the stories down orally to the next generation.

Sarah's lifespan of 127 years fits into the formula for the three patriarchs, but at a secondary level:

  1. Abraham lived to 175 (5 X 5 X 7)
  2. Isaac lived to 180 (6 X 6 X 5)
  3. Jacob lived to 147 (7 X 7 X 3


  • The lifespan of each patriarch involves a perfect square (5, 6, then 7 in a numeric series)
  • the third factor also forms a series (7, 5, 3)
  • in each case the sum of the factors is 17.

Furthering the above formulas, Sarah lived to 127 years, which is the sum of these consecutive square numbers plus 17 (127 = 5 squared + 6 squared + 7 squared + 17). The early Hebrews found the number 17 to have mythic significance. Of all the people in the Book of Genesis, they saw the patriarchs as most important, and Sarah was the supreme matriarch.

  • 5
    This strikes me as rather speculative. For any given set of numbers it is usually possible to find some pattern that they all fit. Finding such a pattern doesn't actually mean the numbers were contrived to fit it. Where does this theory originate and who actually holds that it is part of the meaning of the text? – Caleb Dec 26 '13 at 12:48
  • Controversial perhaps, but be fair - this is not speculative. Statistically there would be less than one chance in a million that the patriarchs and Sarah alone would fit this particularly elegant pattern so well. Yet all the ancestors of the patriarchs also have ages that appear to be based on the number 17, except just two. One of these is Enoch, in Jewish tradition the inventor of the calendar, who is said to have lived to 365 years. – Dick Harfield Dec 27 '13 at 2:26
  • I would say this would fall under speculation simply because this is one's own views and not confirmed by any sources. For example, where do you see significance in 17? If anything, 18 seems more likely (gematria of חי- life). All 17 seems to be is 10 + 7 (two important numbers used throughout Sefer Yetzirah) but that would be as significant as 8 (7+1) or 13 (10+3). – PixelArtDragon Feb 6 '14 at 22:06
  • Having read EW Bullinger's book Numbers in Scripture, I find this interesting. I'll throw you an upvote if you can cite sources that early Hebrews found the number 17 of significance. – Bob Black Feb 21 '14 at 16:26
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    While there is a very low statistical chance (one-in-a-million) that the numerology in Genesis would fit that pattern, there is a very high chance that it would fit a pattern. For example, there is a very low chance that a given phrase would appear when applying the bible code, but a very high chance that some meaningful phrase will appear when applying enough variants. – James Shewey Nov 5 '15 at 19:03

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