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A. Hebrews 11:11 (ESV) says, "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised."

This sounds as if Sarah is not only a woman of faith, but this scripture is often used also saying that Sarah was such a Godly woman, whom other women should aspire to be like.

B. 1 Peter 3:5-6 Sarah is praised for, she,"...obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord."

Calling someone Lord, and then going against God and telling your husband to also not believe God and go against Him, by doing things your way, is not something to be praised for. (See D.)

C. Genesis 18:12-15 Sarah laughs at God when he promises she will have a baby, then lies and denies laughing.

These are the actions of someone, not faithful or believing, and is just plain rude in behavior.

D. Genesis Chapter 16, tells of Sarah telling Abraham, and then him doing it, to have a child with Hagar. Sarah (Sarai) then deals "harshly" with Hagar when Hagar "looks at her with contempt".

Not only is Sarah, and Abraham, proving with both their actions that they didn't believe/have faith but they did what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it, and how they wanted to do it. This is not the heart or actions of someone faithful, nor even Godly. (Human, of course, but someone Godly to emulate/aspires to be) absolutely not.

E. Genesis 21:9-10 Sarah, tells Abraham to cast out Hagar and Ishmael (Hagar and Abraham's son), when she sees Ishmael laughing...and after she had Isaac.

These are the actions of a jealous, vengeful, and spiteful woman, not a loving, caring, humble, God-fearing faithful woman.

F. Genesis 21:6 Sarah is happy over her birth of Isaac, stating, "God has made laughter for me", seeming to show joy and surprise for everyone and herself being a witness to God's gift.

God tells you something will happen that seems impossible, and believing in Him is faith. Not believing Him, doing what you want to show you don't believe Him, then being happy when He fulfills His promise to you is NOT faith, it is gratitude.

So my questions are:

  1. Why does Hebrews state Sarah is a woman of faith?

  2. Why are Christian women told we should admire Sarah, calling her a Godly woman of faith? What am I missing? Are there other scriptures to clear this up? Is she, as she acts, and appears to be, which is a regular fallen woman such as I and many others like me, or is she, as widely depicted in secular Christianity a woman to admire?

  3. If she is the latter, a woman to admire, please tell me, from the bible, how and why you got to that conclusion, because I just don't see it.

Please help me to understand these Bible questions.

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  • welcome to the group and thanks for your question. I'm afraid you've misunderstood some of the biblical passages.. See my answer for my interpretation but... With regard to B., Peter praises Sarah as the example of modesty, not merely because she calls Abraham "lord." With regard to C. Sarah did lie, but in her defense she laughed inwardly while Abraham also doubted and laughed out loud. About D, I see no lack of faith but a sacrificial commitment to perpetuate Abraham's lineage. About E., Sarah did this to protect the child that the Bible calls Abraham's "only" son. You are right about F. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:59

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By all human understanding, Abraham and Sarah were too old to conceive and had probably suspended marital relations because of their great age (she was 90, he 100). Paul writes that "that Sarah’s womb was dead." (Romans 4:19) Rabbinical tradition holds that she believed from experience that Abraham was impotent. In any case the fact that she even tried to conceive Isaac at the age of 90 shows that she had changed her attitude. It therefore stands to reason that the author author of Hebrews would see the attempt to conceive Isaac as indeed an act of true faith. This issue is addressed further in this question and answers.

Sarah is rightly thought by Jews and Christians alike to be the mother of faith. She risked her life twice to protect Abraham by saying she was his sister and entering the harem of the Pharaoh (Gen. 12) and Abimelech of Gerar (Gen 17). In order to perpetuate the chosen lineage, she sacrificed her role as sole wife to provide a surrogate mother for their child (Gen. 16:2). When this course failed because of Hagar's arrogance and Ishmael's threatening attitude toward Isaac, Sarah protected Isaac by urging her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away. As harsh as this may seem to some, even to Abraham, Sarah's viewpoint was strongly supported by God:

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. (Gen. 21)

Summary: Sarah thus showed herself to act courageously to protect her husband; she acted sacrificially to ensure the continuation of his lineage; and she sensed God's providence for their lineage even more clearly than Abraham did.

Other scriptures praising Sarah

Other scriptures that testify to Sarah as the mother of both Jewish and Christian tradition:

  • Is. 51. “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; 2 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth... 3 The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

  • 2 Pt 3: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Addressed directly by God

Rabbinical tradition points out that in the Bible, Sarah was the only woman ever addressed directly by God rather than through angels. Indeed, she was actually a more gifted prophet than Abraham himself:

She was superior to Abraham in the gift of prophecy (Ex. R. i. 1.). She was the "crown" of her husband; and he obeyed her words because he recognized this superiority on her part (Gen. R. xlvii. 1). She was the only woman whom God deemed worthy to be addressed by Him directly, all the other prophetesses receiving their revelations through angels (ib. xlv. 14).

Jews in general had - and still have - a high regard for Sarah as the mother of Israelite faith, not just as Abraham's wife but on the basis of her own behavior. The author of Hebrews, who was well acquainted with Jewish tradition, was right to praise her faith; and Christians do well to join him. The Bible clearly testifies to her as one of history's great women of God.

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Human is nowhere perfect to God. If one mistake will mark as final failure, then no one will be saved. Instead, we should be grateful God always forgive, and take away our sin when we turn to Him.

1. Why does Hebrews state Sarah is a woman of faith?

Reading the original script in Genesis,

11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.

12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:11-12 NIV)

The phrase 'will I now have this pleasure', indicate Abraham and Sarah no longer did sexual intercourse. They did it again by faith. Sarah reaction to the Lord's prophesy should not be taken as unfaithful or rude. It was her deep feeling and her feeling was true. We all probably be the same. She didn't explicitly show her feeling just the Lord knew it at once.

2. Why are Christian women told we should admire Sarah, calling her a Godly woman of faith? What am I missing? Are there other scriptures to clear this up? Is she, as she acts, and appears to be, which is a regular fallen woman such as I and many others like me, or is she, as widely depicted in secular Christianity a woman to admire?

Referring to the argument in B, was Sarah worth to be praised when she did her way giving Hagar to Abraham?

So let first deal with argument B. When the Lord gave the promise to Abraham that he will have a heir (Gen 15:4), Abraham was about 75 years old. 10 years had passed (Gen 16:3), Sarah couldn't give Abraham a child (Gen 16:1), so she gave her slave Hagar to Abraham hopefully she could bear her husband a heir (Gen 16:3). It should be noted that the Lord's promise was giving Abraham a heir of his own, didn't explicitly say who was the mother. Sarah was actually made her sacrifice in order to give her husband a heir. It was her faith in God and her love to her husband that she was willing to sacrifice her marriage.

In 1 Peter 3:1-6, Peter was handling an issue that commonly exist to this day. It is often the wives convert to Christian while their husbands hesitate. Thus a conflict of belief created amongst them, and unfortunately, the man had the dominant power at that time. Peter conciliate the wives submitted to their husband, save them by their inner beauty as the daughters of God (vv3:1-2) and not from external beauty (vv3:3), for the beauty of inner self is unfading, which is of great worth in God's sight (vv3:4). They will be like the daughter of Sarah when they submit to their husbands (vv3:5), and they need not to fear their husbands for God is with them as God is with Sarah (vv3:6).

3. If she is the latter, a woman to admire, please tell me, from the bible, how and why you got to that conclusion, because I just don't see it.

The way Sarah treated Hagar, in modern day is absolutely cruel and unfair (Gen 16:6). It also found Abraham was weak to handle two women, though he was a brave soldier to fight. Since the scripture did not gave much details, some hypothesis have to be made by the limited clues.

It may be worth noting that though Isaac was younger than Ishmael by 14 years, Isaac was still deemed as first born for Sarah was the wife, and Hagar was the concubine. Hagar despised Sarah when she was pregnant, probably thinking that Sarah was cursed barren. So both women were not innocent, but both still received God's blessing. Hagar fled and returned to Abraham (Gen 16:6-16), there was no detail how these two women got along in the next 14 years.

There is no clue when Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac (Gen 21:9), how old were the two kids. But Hebrew Rabbi Rashi interpret the word מצחק (mocking) has a kind of malice intention. Perhaps Sarah was suddenly alerted, afraid the grown up kid Ishmael was a threat to her son, that she requested Abraham to sent Hagar and Ishmael away. The Lord did not judge Sarah was wrong, and so we should not judge the opposite, for we should trust the judgement of the Lord.


As afore said, no one is perfect. We should take this as the cornerstone

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6 NIV)

Paul requoted it in Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6, James also requote it in James 2:23. For thing that doesn't exist in the scripture, let's believe how the Lord judged, for the Lord is righteous.

Rashi commentary - sefaria.org

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I understand that Sarah was blessed by God to bear Abraham's son, Isaac. I do not understand the Bible to include her in the Heroes of Faith listed in Hebrews 11. First of all, each of those heroes is identified by "By faith Abel, or Enoch, or Noah, or... . There is no "By faith, Sarah." She became a woman of faith when she saw that God did indeed fulfill his promises and do the impossible by blessing her with a healthy child at age 90. There is no biblical evidence that she had faith that God would fulfill His promises until she saw it happen. She does not exhibit a faith that is comparable to the other Heroes (including Noah, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob). Their faith fits the definition in Hebrews 11:1 - faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Her faith did not exhibit confidence in what she hoped for (she tried to use her power rather than trust God), and it appears she did not believe in what she could not see (that she could have a baby at her age) until she saw it come true. She became a woman of faith, but is not worthy to be included with Noah, Moses, and others.

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  • You made some observations that are hard to argue against, but also opinionated. Unless there are other scriptures to address this question will be speculative.
    – RHPclass79
    Commented Jan 10 at 20:52
  • Men may not think about this, but it was an act of life-risking faith to give birth to Isaac at age 90. Both Abraham [Genesis 17:17] and Sarah doubted and laughed so why single her out? She risked her life twice to save the fearful Abraham by entering a pagan king's harem. That was an act of great faith an courage. Later, she also saved Isaac's life by sending away Ishmael, an incident in which God supported her will, not Abraham's. Without her faith and courage, there would be no Isaac, no Jacob, no Moses, no king David and no Jesus. She is rightly called the "mother of faith." Commented Jan 11 at 0:19
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    Commented Jan 11 at 4:05

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