Born: c. 1700 B.C.
Died: c. 1700 B.C.
Best known as: The Hebrew matriarch who gave birth at age 91
Name at birth: Sarai
Sarah and her husband Abraham were the progenitors of the Hebrew people, according to the biblical book Genesis. Various strains of thought honor Sarah as the matriarch of God's chosen people, a beautiful, persevering wife, a strong, active partner with Abraham, and even the bearer of a lost non-patriarchal religious system. Sarai, as she is known at the start of her biblical story, marries Abram in Ur, Babylonia (modern Iraq). God promises to make of Abram "a great nation" and sends them on an adventurous Middle Eastern journey. Unable to conceive and worried about God's promise, Sarai gives Abram her young slave, Hagar, who bears his first child, Ishmael. Soon God renames Abram and Sarai and, though she is 90, promises the two of them a child. A year later their son Isaac is born, beginning the biblical line of God's promised "great nation" of Israel.
Extra credit: The name Isaac in Hebrew is a play on the words "laughed" and "laughter," echoing Abraham's and Sarah's reaction to God's announcement that they will have a child. "God has brought laughter for me," Sarah says after Isaac is born. "Everyone who hears will laugh with me."
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