“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude–innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (Hebrews 11:11-12).
Abraham’s wife Sarah presents us with a character study that offers several potential applications for modern-day readers of this epistle. We can begin our look at Sarah’s experience by first considering God’s promise to make Abraham into a “great nation” as described in Genesis 12:1-2. Genesis chapter fifteen then follows by documenting God’s oath to provide Abraham with a biological son to serve as his heir (Genesis 15:1-4).
Nevertheless, Abraham was still waiting upon God to fulfill those promises by the time we reach Genesis chapter eighteen. That brings us to Sarah’s experience as it relates to our passage from Hebrews 11:11-12…
“The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground…
‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘There, in the tent,’ he said. Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’ Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing” (Genesis 18:1-2, 9-11).
Before we continue, it is helpful to consider what God’s promise meant for Abraham and Sarah. First, the opportunity to have a child of their own was something they deeply desired. Then there was the lengthy period they had already spent in waiting for God to fulfill the promise of a child. It’s also easy to imagine the pain they must have felt as they watched other couples have children of their own.
Finally, we should consider the fact that God had earlier changed Abraham’s name from Abram (or “exalted father”) (1) to “Abraham,” a name that meant “father of a multitude.” (2) It certainly must have been difficult for Abraham to spend those years with a name that meant “father of a multitude” while he and his wife remained childless.
Yet God approached Abraham in Genesis chapter eighteen and essentially said, “I will give you a son around this time next year.” We’ll see Sarah’s response to that promise next.
(1) H87 “abram” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h87/kjv/wlc/0-1/
(2) H85 “abraham” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h85/kjv/wlc/0-1/