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The Woman's Bible
Chapter VI - Comments on Genesis, to xxiii
by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
[Ed. Note: The Bible used in the preparation of The Woman's Bible is the 1888 edition of the Julie Smith translation of the Bible - a literal translation - one of FIVE translations by this brilliant woman. See the appendix for more information.]
THE BOOK OF GENESIS - CHAPTER VI.
1 And the Lord visited Sarah as
he had said.
The great event of Isaac's birth having
taken place, Sarah is represented through several chapters as laughing,
even in the presence of angels, not only in the anticipation of motherhood,
but in its realization. She evidently forgot that maternity was intended
as a curse on all Eve's daughters, for the sin of the first woman, and
all merry-making on such occasions was unpardonable.
In this scene Abraham does not appear in
a very attractive light, rising early in the morning, and sending his child
and its mother forth into the wilderness, with a breakfast of bread and
water, to care for themselves.
Does any one seriously believe that the
great spirit of all good talked with these Jews, and really said the extraordinary
things they report?
-- E. C. S.
1 And Sarah was a hundred and seven
and twenty years old.
It is seldom that the age and death of any woman, are recorded by the sacred historian, but Sarah seems to have been specially honored, not only in the mention of her demise and ripe years, but in the tender manifestations of grief by Abraham, and his painstaking selection of her burial place. That Abraham paid for all this in silver, "current money with the merchant," might suggest to the financiers of our day that our commercial relations might be adjusted with the same coin, especially as we have plenty of it.
If our bimetallists in the halls of legislation were conversant with sacred history, they might get fresh inspiration from the views of the Patriarchs on good money.
Some critics tell us that there was no coined money at that time; the Israelites had no written language, no commerce with neighboring tribes, and that they could neither read nor write.
Whilst we drop a tear at the tomb of Sarah, we cannot recommend her as an example to the young women of our day, as she lacked several of the cardinal virtues. She was undignified, untruthful, and unkind to Hagar. But our moral standard differs from that of the period in which she lived, as our ideas of right and wrong are not innate, but depend on education. Sarah probably lived up to the light that was in her.
-- E. C. S.
The cruelty and injustice of Abraham and Sarah, as commented on by Mrs. Stanton, doubtless stand out much more prominently in this condensed account than their proper proportions to the motives which actuated the figures in the drama.
If we take any part of the story we must
take it all, and remember that it had been promised to Abraham that of
Ishmael a great nation should be born.
Abraham loved and honored his wife very
greatly, probably admiring equally her beauty and strength of character.
Abraham was ten years older than Sarah and we read that he was seventy-five
years old when he started from Haran for the land of Canaan.
Sarah's strength of character is shown all through her history. Wherever she is mentioned the reader is made to feel that she is an important part of the narrative, and not merely a connecting link between two generations. In this story she carries her point, and Abraham follows her instructions implicitly, nay, is even commanded by God to do so.
Notwithstanding that Abraham mourned Sarah so sincerely, within three years after she died, and when at the ripe age of a hundred and forty years, he married again and the six children he begat by Keturah he took quite as a matter of course, although half a century before, when told that a son should be born to him, he laughed incredulously.
Abraham had his failings, some of which are shared by the moderns, yet doubtless he was a moral giant compared with other men of the land from which he came and of the nations around him. As such he was chosen as the founder of a race whose history should promulgate the idea of the one true God.
Certainly the descendants from this remarkable trio have retained their own peculiar characteristics and have ever been worshippers at the shrine of Jehovah.
A singular fact may be mentioned here that Mrs. Souvielle in her book The Sequel to the Parliament of Religions has shown that from Midian, one of the sons of Keturah, came Jethro or Zoroaster.
Western thinkers are so matter-of-fact in
their speech and thought that it might not have occurred to them that the
true value of this story of Sarah and Hagar, like that of all else, not
only in our own Bible but in the scriptures of other faiths, lies in the
esoteric meaning, had it not been for Paul, that prince of occult philosophers,
who distinctly says, according to the old version, that it is an allegory;
according to the revised, that it contains an allegory: "for
these women are two covenants," one bearing children unto bondage,
the other unto freedom.
Acting according to the customs of the day,
Sarah connived at her own degradation. Later, when her womanly dignity
was developed by reason of her motherhood she saw what should be her true
position in her home, and she made her rightful demand for unrivaled supremacy
in that home and in her husband s affections.
And these later women are to be Sarah's daughters, we are told, if like her, they "are not afraid with any amazement," or as the new version hath it, if they "are not put in fear by any terror."
Even as mere history the life and character
of Sarah certainly do not intimate that it was the Divine plan that woman
was to be a subordinate, either in person or in her home.
The woman who does not claim her birthright of freedom will remain in the wilderness with the children that she has borne in degradation, heart starvation, and anguish of spirit, only to find that they are Ishmaels, with their hand against every man.
They will be the subjects of Divine care and protection until their destiny is worked out.
But she who is to be the mother of kings must herself be free, and have surroundings conducive to maintaining her own purity and dignity. After long ages of freedom shall have eradicated from woman's mind and heart the thought habits of the slave, then will she be a true daughter of Sarah, the Princess.
--C. B. C.
Abraham has been held up as one of the model men of sacred history. One credit he doubtless deserves, he was a monotheist, in the midst of the degraded and cruel forms of religion then prevalent in all the oriental world; this man and his wife saw enough of the light to worship a God of Spirit.
Yet we find his conduct to the last degree reprehensible. While in Egypt in order to gain wealth he voluntarily surrenders his wife to Pharaoh.
Sarah having been trained in subjection
to her husband had no choice but to obey his will. When she left the king,
Abraham complacently took her back without objection, which was no more
than he should do seeing that her sacrifice had brought him wealth and
When Pharaoh sent him away with his dangerously beautiful wife he is described as, "being rich in cattle, in silver and in gold," but it is a little curious that the man who thus gained wealth as the price of his wife's dishonor should have been held up as a model of all the patriarchal virtues.
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