Sarai: Wives of the Patriarchs, Book 1
It is the time long before Jesus arrived on the Earth; before David, even before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. A young Sarai is happily married to her half-brother Abram, the only man she’s ever loved. Surrounded by family, they live in Ur, the homeland of their ancestors. Prior to their marriage, Sarai made one demand of Abram --- never to take another wife. To love only her. Abram agreed, despite the opposition of their father, who made Sarai promise, in turn, to give Abram a son and heir --- a promise she was certain would be an easy and joyful one to fulfill. But years go by, and Sarai’s womb remains barren.
"Using her gift for creating realistic characters, heartfelt emotions and rich imagery, Smith weaves decades of research into this beautiful story of love, heartache and faith."
Desperate for a baby, Sarai finally yields to her sister-in-law’s insistence that she pray to Ur’s patron gods. Though Sarai’s faith in the one true God doesn’t equal her husband’s, she is weighted by a sense of foreboding upon entering the false god’s temple. Abram would not approve --- of that she is sure. The little faith she has is enough to propel her from the temple. Soon after, Abram tells her that God spoke to him. They are to leave the land of Ur and go to a new land. They will be blessed by God, and He will make Abram a “great nation.” Abram tells Sarai about the divine encounter, saying, “To make me a great nation, He will have to give me a son, Sarai. We will have a child yet. Adonai promised.”
Anxious to obey, the two set out, along with their father, servants, and nephew Lot and his family. They live for nearly a year in Harran, without any sign of the much-anticipated son. After their father dies, they continue to Canaan, and eventually to Egypt, where Sarai’s beauty captures the Pharaoh’s attention. He takes her to add to his harem, but God curses the Pharaoh’s household, while protecting Sarai and Abram. When Pharaoh releases her back to Abram, he does so with many gifts and servants, including his own daughter, Hagar.
Years go by, and still Sarai’s womb remains empty, despite God again telling Abram he would bear a son. When Sarai is certain her aged body can no longer produce a child, she offers her servant, Hagar, to Abram. The gesture tears her heart in two, but she is sure there is no other way for Abram to have a son. Hagar’s quick conception angers Sarai, who mistreats her servant until Hagar runs away. But the Lord is keeping watch on Hagar and tells her to return, promising to bless her unborn son who is to be named Ishmael.
Years later, when Sarai is 90, the Lord appears and tells Abram that he and Sarai will be known from that point on as Abraham and Sarah. They will bear a son within the year. The promise makes Sarah laugh, and the Lord lovingly rebukes her. Despite a lifetime of longing, hurting and aching for a child, Sarah finally puts her full trust in God and knows, despite her age, that her prayer for a child will be answered.
In SARAI, the familiar Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah leaps to life with all the color and vibrancy that author Jill Eillen Smith infused in her Wives of King David series. The reader comes to know Sarai as a young wife, following her along the rocky journey into old age without ever bearing the child for whom she pines. Along the way, we meet Abraham’s nephew, Lot, along with his wife, Melah, destined to become a pillar of salt when she looks behind her during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Using her gift for creating realistic characters, heartfelt emotions and rich imagery, Smith weaves decades of research into this beautiful story of love, heartache and faith.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on March 20, 2012