Genesis 21:1-7 Sarah’s Laugh


What kind of laugh is yours?

Finally, the child of the promise has arrived. The heir through Sarah for Abraham. No more making due and helping God.


While I was reading our section for today I started thinking about one of the words that is used twice; laugh. This same word was used earlier when Sarah learned of her portion of the promise. And it will be used again by Ishmael during Isaac’s weaning feast. I was wondering about this laughter. To me they would, or could have different meanings and flavors. So I looked up each reference using the Strong’s Concordance. ALL four references are from the same root word. ALL four mean:

  1. to laugh, mock, play
    1. (Qal) to laugh
    2. (Piel)
      1. to jest
      2. to sport, play, make sport, toy with, make a toy of

So I started wondering why this is. The first time we are told that Sarah “laughs” it is in response to overhearing the angel say that she will bear a child HERSELF. I can certainly get behind this meaning in that instance. If you remember our study on that reading this was Sarah’s “yah-but” response. I can see the eye roll that went along with that response. “Sure, now tell me how I’m going to walk to the moon.” She was mocking the prophecy. She was doubting it and laughing at the absurdity of it.

When Sarah references laughing in today’s reading, I would expect it to be laughter filled with joy, but it is the same root word as her laugh. Is she saying that God made everyone to mock her? To some extent I can agree with her here. I will even admit to some “mocking” attitudes towards Sarah. Mine have more to do with her not having faith in God’s promise than in her actually having that promise come true.

God promised Abram an heir and for more than twenty five years He held off on fulfilling that promise. He didn’t include Sarah’s name in His promise until right before He made good on it. So, honestly, how was she to know exactly what God had in mind? But on the other hand, didn’t she recognize that He is God of all the universe and really didn’t need her help? I laughed at her plans to help God. I also laughed at her reaction when that plan blew up in her face. “You should have been patient.”

SO easy for me to say! But VERY hard for me to live. I’ve found myself “waiting” on one or another of God’s promises and behaved just like Sarah. I put MY plan in motion instead of waiting on His to be fulfilled. And I have laughed at my own attempts and their ineffective results. Maybe that is what Sarah is laughing about. Maybe she is laughing at her own inability to wait and the mess that resulted.

Something else she could have been laughing about is how she was going to keep up with this child. She is 90 years old. Yes! He is the desire of her heart for MANY years. But he is also a child who will run her 90 year old body ragged. So many of us, BEFORE having children, envision the joys of motherhood. We have no clue about the sleepless nights, the chasing after a toddler, the walking the floor with them when they are sick, the holding your breath as they leap from their first height, the demands of consistent discipline, and the incredible amount of time and energy they require from you every day. Sarah will most certainly have help from all the servants in Abraham’s camp, but I can see her wanting to do as much of the care of Isaac as possible. We know for certain that she nursed him herself instead of seeking out a servant for that task. My hat goes off to her for this.

Because of Sarah’s age, I wonder if she thought about what she would miss in Isaac’s life. Did she wonder if she would still be around when he became a man? Did she envision seeing her grandchildren? Did she make extra preparations in case she wasn’t there for him? We will see later on that she didn’t see her grandchildren but she was able to watch her son grow into adulthood and marry a wife. For those things I’m betting she was VERY grateful!

Just imagine yourself in her shoes for one moment. From the day she got married until the day Isaac was conceived, she longed for a child. She probably cried every month. She may have even cursed her own body as it betrayed her yet again. After she had finally resigned herself to the inevitable, she is offered the one thing she always craved; a child of her own. No way possible, by man’s standards. But God isn’t bound by man’s standards. And that one heart’s desire is finally realized! I can see her hovering over her “answered prayer” for the rest of her life.

Father God, THANK YOU that You aren’t bound by man’s standards. Thank You that You DO answer prayer and You ALWAYS keep Your word. Forgive me for “laughing” at Sarah. For laughing at her unbelief and her impatience. I have done so much more myself. I wonder what the story would read like if my life were included in You book. Would people shake their heads at my unbelief? Would they rejoice with me at the triumphs? Would my story balance with more good reports than bad? I’m sorry to say that Sarah’s seems the opposite to that. We don’t hear much of her good days, but this story was certainly one of those few and far between reports. Thank You for sharing it with me.

Thank You for the laughter, whatever the reason. Please redeem the ones that are mocking. Don’t let me hurt anyone with that kind of laughter. Let me laugh with JOY! Joy at what You have already done. Joy for the promises waiting to be fulfilled. And joy at the knowledge that You ALWAYS keep Your word! Even in the hard times, and there are sure to be several of those, let me experience Your joy. Let that joy wrap me as a blanket, insulating me against the pain of this world. Help me always hold onto at least a thread of Your joy; even when it looks like my blanket is unraveling. Knit it back together with me in its center.

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