It is in Genesis 23 that we read the Bible’s record of the death and burial of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. When she passed from this life, Sarah was one hundred twenty-seven years old (Genesis 23:1).
Abraham was ten years older than Sarah. He was seventy-five years of age when they first entered Canaan (Genesis 12:4,5), and they already were married at the time. Thus, at a minimum, Sarah was Abraham’s wife for over sixty years.
When Sarah left this world, Abraham lost his devoted companion. Sarah left their homeland in Ur to travel with him to Haran, then Canaan, then Egypt, then back to Canaan again. Abraham was blessed to have her by his side as he faced challenges and trials in a variety of circumstances.
When Abraham lost Sarah, he became a widower. It cannot be an easy task for one who has lost his spouse to make the transition from calling himself “a happily married man” to saying, “I lost my wife, so I am a widower now.” Let us learn to be considerate of and show compassion for those who face the challenge of adjusting to life without a spouse and dealing with some aspects of life which are new to them (Romans 12:15).
When Abraham lost Sarah, he did not deny that she was “gone.” Multiple times he described her as “dead” (Genesis 23:4,8,13). Abraham could hold on to the memories of his wife, but it would be silly, even harmful, for him to continue to tell himself that Sarah still was among the living and things would go on as they always had. Part of the healing process is acknowledging that a person has left this world and will not be returning. It is not an easy admission, but it is an essential one.
When Abraham lost Sarah, he was saddened. The Bible says he “came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:2). It is natural to grieve over the loss of a loved one, especially a spouse with whom one has lived for an extensive period of time. There is no shame in crying. Jesus wept in connection with the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). How one deals with such a devastating loss is a personal matter, and we should allow people to grieve in a manner that comes natural for them. There is no biblical “book, chapter, and verse” on how to grieve or how long to exhibit signs of grieving. Each person does it in his/ her own way. Abraham did, too.
When Abraham lost Sarah, he quickly made plans to have her buried. Read the emotion-packed statement Abraham made as he attempted to buy a burying plot: “Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight” (Genesis 23:4). How descriptive: “. . . bury
my dead out of my sight.” Being able to have a funeral service, or even without a funeral service, just having the body buried or cremated is part of the closure process. The pain in the heart of losing a loved one may remain for the rest of one’s life, but getting the body buried and out of sight is a key element in moving on with our lives.
When Abraham lost Sarah, he picked out a place to bury her. After buying the property, “Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah” (Genesis 23:19). Where and how a body is to be buried or placed varies from culture to culture. There also are legal matters which must be considered. Let us keep in mind that there is no “Thus says the Lord” when it comes to burial customs or locations, so it would be wise for us to avoid trying to force our own personal preferences on others.
When Abraham lost Sarah, he acknowledged that he was “a foreigner and a visitor” in the land of Canaan (Genesis 23:4). Each time we learn of someone’s death, especially when we endure the passing of a loved one or close friend, we are reminded that our sojourn on earth is a temporary one. We all are sojourners and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11). That fact should cause all of us to reflect soberly on the meaning of life and what lies beyond the grave. It is a foolish person, indeed, who in advance makes meticulous preparation for a funeral service and burial, but gives no attention to the eternal destiny of his soul!
After Abraham lost Sarah, he married another woman. Her name was Keturah, and from their union six sons were born (Genesis 25:1,2). God does not require that a widower or widow enter into another marriage after the passing of their former spouse, but it is acceptable in His sight (1 Corinthians 7:39). The Bible specifies no time frame in this matter, so we should refrain from trying to dictate to others how and when it is acceptable for them to move on to another relationship.
There is no indication in the Scriptures that Abraham became bitter with God when he lost Sarah. Many of us have witnessed a spouse who out of deep-felt pain spoke blasphemous words against Jehovah. While we can sympathize with their hurt and despair, it is never appropriate to curse God (Job 2:9).
When Abraham lost Sarah, he lost his spouse, but not his faith in and commitment to God. May we all learn to put our trust in the Almighty at all times and in all circumstances, even when our heart is hurting.
— Roger D. Campbell