June 5, 2020

A Family Story from The Book of God

Abraham and Sarah, Chagall

Today, a story about the family, by Walter Wangerin.

• • •

Soon after the destruction of Sodom, Abraham struck camp and traveled south into the Negev. Near Gerar he found new pasture for his flocks, so he stayed a while.

In the fall he and his men sheared the sheep, causing a daylong bawling from the terrified creatures while the women washed the fleeces clean of dirt and oils. They combed the wool out and packed it in bales. During the winter Abraham’s household transported it to the city of Gerar and bartered for articles of copper and bronze, tools, utensils, weapons, pottery–and perhaps something pretty for one’s wife if she were about to have a baby.

In the spring the sheep dropped new lambs.

And then the Lord kept his promise to Sarah.

In the small, cool hours of a morning, Sarah bore Abraham a boy. The midwife brought the infant outside–a wiry, watchful child–and Abraham could not speak. the old man took the baby and gazed upon skin as fresh as petals–but he could not utter a word.

Eight days later, Abraham circumcised his son with a sharp flint knife. Then he made a great feast, gathering together his whole household to eat and drink and celebrate with him.

And before the day was over, Sarah’s joy grew too great to be contained. The old woman laughed. She covered her face and laughed soundlessly, so that the entire company fell silent thinking she was crying. But then she rose up and clapped her hands and sang: “God has made laughter for me! Oh, laugh with me! Let everyone who hears my story laugh! Sisters, sisters, where was your faith? Who guessed yesterday that Sarah would suckle a child today? Yet I have borne my husband an heir in his old age.”

Abraham stood to the side watching his wife. Now he went to her and took one of her hands in his own and held it until she stood still and returned his gaze. They were a small, wiry pair beneath the blue firmament.

Then Abraham looked down at Sarah’s hand, this cluster of tendons and bone. “Old woman, old woman, more precious than rubies,” he murmured, “we will name the child for laughter. We will call him Isaac.”

She was ninety years old. He was one hundred.

• • •

From The Book of God
By Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Zondervan, 1996

Comments

  1. On a related note – doing the math from Gen 17:17, 12:4, and 12:11 ff – remember when Abram thought his wife looked so hot that other men would kill him just to be with her? Sarah was 66 years old at the time.

  2. Hagar moved to and fro in the shadows of the firelight, filling her master’s cups. Ishmael sat in the corner, still and watchful. Neither could join in the laughter.

  3. The wonderful thing about the stories in the OT and New is that they are about real people. Not idealized card-board cut-outs but real people who succeeded and failed. And many of them somehow managed to follow God through it all. Of course, we all wish for more events in our story like the one above. But even that one came only after years of waiting, despair, and mistakes. And more pain waits for them in their future. But let’s let them enjoy their time of joy while they have it.

  4. This is such a good book to read along with the Bible source (whichever one). It trys to tell us the saga in words we can understand.

  5. Walter Wangerin Jr.’s writings ALWAYS take my breath away. His book titled, “Paul A Novel” is brilliant. If you want a commentary on today’s church, read chapter 67 of that book.

  6. “She was ninety years old. He was one hundred.”

    Geesh, they likely won’t be around to see the child graduate from college.” 😉

  7. Richard Hershberger says

    I was going to say that I had never read Walter Wangerin, but I see from Amazon that he wrote The Book of the Dun Cow, so I guess I have, but not recently. In any case I just ordered a used copy of The Book of God. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.