God tells Sarah she will have a son

Abraham was sitting outside at the entrance to his tent when he saw three men standing nearby.  He recognized the three men as God and two of his angels.  Abraham rushed to meet them and asked them if they would like to stay and eat.  He asked Sarah to make some bread while he gathered some of the best meat from the herd to serve to his guests.

God asked Abraham where Sarah was.  Abraham told him that Sarah was inside the tent.  God reiterated that he would return within a year and Sarah would have a son.

Sarah, who was listening at the entrance to the tent, heard God tell Abraham that she would have a son within a year.  Abraham and Sarah were very old at the time.  Sarah laughed to herself thinking, “Now that I am old and worn out, I will have a child?”

God asked Abraham why Sarah had laughed.  Did she think anything was too difficult for God?  Sarah heard this and was afraid so she lied to God and said, “I did not laugh”.

God said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

What the story means to us today

We must always recognize, and believe, that nothing is too hard for God.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Sarah’s laugh

In Genesis 17:19, only Abraham was told of the upcoming birth of a son.  In Genesis 18, Sarah is also told.  Abraham laughed when he received the news but his laugh was more in pleasure than disrespect.  Sarah laughed in disbelief, doubt, and mistrust which must have been disappointing to God.

The significance of Sarah’s reaction

From A Study Guide to the Book of Genesis: Consider God’s love, patience, understanding, and compassion. Imagine Sarah’s reaction when Abraham related the experience of 17:15–21 to her. Can you hear her say, “Abraham, don’t expect me to believe that! I will have to hear that for myself. I have heard about your visions and God talking to you for the past twenty-five years and all I see is that now I live in a tent, whereas once I lived in a fine residence. Now I have nothing but uncouth Canaanites around me, whereas once I enjoyed the finest society that Ur, the center of civilization, had to offer. Abraham, you say God promised you this land—show me title to one square inch of it. Abraham, you say God promised you a nation—all I see is Hagar’s solitary son, and he is obstinate, rambunctious, and difficult; I can’t imagine blessing coming to the whole world through him! Abraham leave me alone, let me enjoy what few pleasures are left me in my old age. And now to cap it all, you want to make me a laughing stock by changing my name.”  That Sarah laughed, most likely inwardly, and God knew that she did laugh must have proven to her that this was a divine presence making the prediction of a son.

The science behind the story

Geographic area

The Bible says that the three men met Abraham at his tent in Mamre.  Mamre is about 20 miles south of Jerusalem.

The custom of greeting strangers

The custom of greeting strangers in ancient times is well known and how strangers were greeted depended upon their superiority of the guest.  If the guest was an ordinary person, they would simply rise to meet them.  If the guest were a superior, they would advance to meet the guest and then bow.  Abraham knew who his guests really were and respected their authority.

Bible Text

NIV Version

Chapter 18

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.  2 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.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,a do not pass your servant by.  4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahsb of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then the Lordc 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.  11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my masterd is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”