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Sara from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "

Sarah or Sara (Hebrew: שָׂרָה, Modern Sara Tiberian Śārāh; pronounced /ˈsɛərə/[1]; Latin: Sara; Arabic: سارة) was the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. Her name was originally Sarai. According to Genesis 17:15 she changed her name to Sarah as part of a covenant with Yahweh after Hagar bore Abraham his son Ishmael.

The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank and is sometimes translated as "princess". It also means "lady."

Sarah in rabbinic literature

Sarah was the half-sister of Abraham, being the daughter of his father Terah (Genesis 20:12). The Talmud [2] identifies Sarai with Iscah, daughter of Abraham's deceased brother Haran (Genesis 11:29), so that Sarah turns out to be the niece of Abraham and the sister of Lot and Milka. She was so beautiful that all other persons seemed apes in comparison.[3] Even the hardships of her journey with Abraham did not affect her beauty.[4] She was superior to Abraham in the gift of prophecy.[5] She was the "crown" of her husband; and he obeyed her words because he recognized her superiority.[6] 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). She was originally called "Sarai". Later she was called "Sarah" i.e., "priestess" because she was the priestess of her house and of her tribe.

In Pharaoh's harem

On the journey to Egypt, Abraham hid his wife[7] in a chest in order that no one might see her. At the frontier the chest had to pass through the hands of certain officials, who insisted on examining its contents in order to determine the amount of duty payable. When it was opened a bright light proceeded from Sarai's beauty. Every one of the officials wished to secure possession of her, each offering a higher sum than his rival [8]. When brought before Pharaoh, Sarai said that Abraham was her brother, and the king thereupon bestowed upon the latter many presents and marks of distinction ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). As a token of his love for Sarai the king deeded his entire property to her, and gave her the land of Goshen as her hereditary possession: for this reason the Israelites subsequently lived in that land (Pirḳe R. El. xxxvi.). He gave her also his own daughter Hagar as slave (ib.). Sarai prayed to God to deliver her from the king, and He thereupon sent an angel, who struck Pharaoh whenever he attempted to touch her. Pharaoh was so astonished at these blows that he spoke kindly to Sarai, who confessed that she was Abraham's wife. The king then ceased to annoy her ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). According to another version, Pharaoh persisted in annoying her after she had told him that she was a married woman; thereupon the angel struck him so violently that he became ill, and was thereby prevented from continuing to trouble her (Genesis Rabbah xli. 2). According to one tradition it was when Pharaoh saw these miracles wrought in Sarai's behalf that he gave her his daughter Hagar as slave, saying: "It is better that my daughter should be a slave in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house"; Abimelech acted likewise (Genesis Rabbah xlv. 2). Sarai treated Hagar well, and induced women who came to visit her to visit Hagar also. Hagar, when pregnant by Abraham, began to act superciliously toward Sarai, provoking the latter to treat her harshly, to impose heavy work upon her, and even to strike her (ib. xlv. 9).

Relations with Hagar

Banishment of Hagar, Etching. À Paris chez Fr. Fanet, Éditeur, Rue des Saints Pères n° 10. XVIIIth century. Sarah is seen on the left side, looking

Sarai was originally destined to reach the age of 175 years, but forty-eight years of this span of life were taken away from her because she complained of Abraham, blaming him as though the cause that Hagar no longer respected her (R. H. 16b; Genesis Rabbah xlv. 7). Sarah was sterile; but a miracle was vouchsafed to her (Genesis Rabbah xlvii. 3) after her name was changed from "Sarai" to "Sarah" (R. H. 16b). When her youth had been restored and she had given birth to Isaac, the people would not believe in the miracle, saying that the patriarch and his wife had adopted a foundling and pretended that it was their own son. Abraham thereupon invited all the notabilities to a banquet on the day when Isaac was to be weaned. Sarah invited the women, also, who brought their infants with them; and on this occasion she gave milk from her breasts to all the strange children, thus convincing the guests of the miracle (B. M. 87a; comp. Gen. R. liii. 13).


Legends connect Sarah's death with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac,[9] there being two versions of the story. According to one, Samael came to her and said: "Your old husband seized the boy and sacrificed him. The boy wailed and wept; but he could not escape from his father." Sarah began to cry bitterly, and ultimately died of her grief.[10] According to the other legend, Satan, disguised as an old man, came to Sarah and told her that Isaac had been sacrificed. She, believing it to be true, cried bitterly, but soon comforted herself with the thought that the sacrifice had been offered at the command of God. She started from Beer-sheba to Hebron, asking everyone she met if he knew in which direction Abraham had gone. Then Satan came again in human shape and told her that it was not true that Isaac had been sacrificed, but that he was living and would soon return with his father. Sarah, on hearing this, died of joy at Hebron. Abraham and Isaac returned to their home at Beer-sheba, and, not finding Sarah there, went to Hebron, where they discovered her dead.[11] During Sarah's lifetime her house was always hospitably open, the dough was miraculously increased, a light burned from Friday evening to Friday evening, and a pillar of cloud rested upon the entrance to her tent.[12]

New Testament references

The First Epistle of Peter praises Sarah for obeying her husband.[13]. Other New Testament references to Sarah are in Romans,[14] Galatians[15] and Hebrews.[16]


In Islamic tradition, Sarah is the wife of Abraham (Ibrahim), a major prophet. Auda quotes Imam Al-Razi, Imam Al-Suyuti, Imam Al-Kamal Ibn Al-Humaam, Ibrahim married Sarah as she showed uncompromising commitment to God, after the rest abandoned Ibrahim. After marriage Ibrahim traveled with Sarah to Ur, then later to Haran, Palestine and finally to Egypt.[17]

After their marriage, Sarah and Ibrahim had no children. Sarah, knowing that Ibrahim desired a child, gave Hajar to Ibrahim in marriage.[17] Sarah and Ibraham received some guests one day who brought them two prophecies: the destruction of the people of Lot and that Sarah would bear a son, despite her and Ibrahim's advanced age. The promise was fulfilled in due time,[18] and Sarah bore Isaac.[19]


  1. Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 621. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Sarah"
  2. Sanhedrin 69B
  3. (B. B. 58a)
  4. (Genesis Rabba xi. 4)
  5. (Exodus Rabba i. 1.)
  6. (Genesis Rabba xlvii. 1)
  7. Sarah is the sister of Abram by another mother and wife of Abraham as described in the Hebrew Bible (the Book of Genesis) and the Quran. In Genesis:17:15 God changes her name to Sarah (princess) "a woman of high rank") as part of the covenant with El Shaddai after Hagar bears Abram his first born son Ishmael. (Hebrew: שָׂרָה, Standard Sara Tiberian Śārāh ; Arabic: 'سارة, Sārah‎; The name Sarai uses the semitic root Šarai or law and like El has the sense of power, authority, lord, deity, natural law, law as might be expected for the lady of the house. The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank (less than that of 1st wife) and is sometimes translated as "princess" .
  8. (Genesis Rabbah xl. 6;."Sefer ha-Yashar," section "Lek Leka")
  9. (ib. lviii. 5)
  10. (Pirḳe de Rabbi Eliezer xxxii.)
  11. ("Book of Jasher," section "Wayera")
  12. (Genesis Rabba lx. 15)
  13. 1 Peter 3:6, cited in This article incorporates text from the entry Sara in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.
  14. Romans 4:19 and 9:9, cited in  "Sara". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  15. Gal 4:22-23
  16. Hebrews 11:11
  17. 17.0 17.1 Ibn Kathir, QASAS AL-ANBIYAA, The story of Ibrahim. Retrieved 18 July, 07.
  18. Griffiths, William (May 1891). "Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Gabriel in the Quran". The Old and New Testament Student 12 (5): 273. doi:10.1086/470738. 
  19. Ali, Kecia (2006). "Hajar". in Leaman, Oliver. The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. Great Britain: Routeledge. pp. 287–289. 

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