In the end it was the miracle that laughed

Believing in the divine promise became increasingly difficult for this woman: its fulfilment was taking far too long and time was running out. The miracle that God gave her was all the greater.

It was a disaster. Childlessness in my time was associated with social distress and ostracism. At a time when the only way to survive in old age and live on after death was to have children, the life of an infertile woman was not only pointless, but also unloved.

Torn between promise and fulfilment

I wanted to believe in the promise that God had made to my husband and because of which we had moved from Ur, where we had had a good life, to the land of Canaan, where we were strangers.

But I did not have any children then either, and because of a famine we had to move on again. This time it was to Egypt. Here my husband started to worry because rulers could simply take any beautiful woman they desired. If these women were married, they would simply kill the husband. And I was beautiful. I had a lighter complexion than most Egyptian women, so the pharaoh immediately felt attracted to me. The statement that Abraham and I were siblings was basically true, because my husband and I had the same father. Marrying siblings was perfectly fine back then.

But we realised that this went against God’s plan and that we should have trusted God more when God sent plagues on Pharaoh and his house to free me from his harem—where I had been taken. Despite our failures, God did not abandon us and continued to protect us from danger and bless us. But I remained childless.

Stars in the sky

And God told my husband that He wanted to give him as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. By then I was past the age of childbearing and thought that I would not be the mother of nations and did what I thought was sensible: I gave my husband the young slave girl, Hagar, as a surrogate mother for our son. And although it was my idea, I discovered that I was quite jealous. And when she became pregnant she became arrogant and ungrateful towards me and seemed to enjoy her triumph. I was upset and treated her harshly. My husband did nothing to resolve the conflict and so Hagar fled into the desert with her unborn child. This meant certain death. But God saw them and sent them back. Hagar returned home to bear her child.

God remained faithful to us despite all the mistakes we had made. Ishmael was born and God told my husband that he would become the father of many nations and introduced circumcision as a sign of this covenant. God also gave us both a new name and I realised that He saw us both the same.

God has a sense of humour

Well, this trust did not last long. When God appeared to us in the guise of three men, whom we naturally entertained according to the rules of hospitality, we had to laugh at the statement that I would soon have a child. And when King Abimelech took a liking to me, we made the same mistake as we did at the time with the pharaoh. But God helped anyway.

And then, when I was ninety years old, I finally had my long-awaited son. We called him Isaac, which means “He laughs”.


‌Through my story, the Bible recounts the genealogical ties that united the Ishmaelites and the Israelites, but also their enmity. Although I had a child of my own, I was still jealous of Hagar. When I then saw Ishmael mocking my son, I finally took this as an opportunity to ask my husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham was very displeased about this, but God legitimised this desire of mine. He promised Abraham that He would make a nation of Hagar’s son because he was also Abraham’s offspring. My husband is the progenitor of the three great monotheistic religions.

I waited so long for this son and then God told my husband to sacrifice his beloved son. Terrible. It was a test to see how firm his faith was. At the last moment, God prevented Isaac from being killed.

God granted me the grace to see my son grow up for a few more years before I died at the age of 127.

Models of faith need not be perfect

Not only was God’s promise fulfilled after my death, but my husband and I had countless descendants: the people of Israel. What’s more, despite my many doubts and weaknesses, my name is associated with obedience (1 Peter 3: 6), faith (Hebrews 11: 11), and trust in the faith that truly sets us free (Romans 9: 8–9 and Galatians 4: 22–31) in the writings that would later come to be known as the Bible.

I am Sara, the woman to whom God gave the laughter of a mother, in spite of the laws of nature.

Photo: Maksim Bukovski -

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Katrin Löwen
Bible, People/Personalities