The Bible Says What? Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when Isaac was born?!
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The Bible Says What? Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when Isaac was born?!

Rabbi Danny Rich reflects on a controversial subject in the Torah

Miracles may happen and, having been present at the birth of all of my four children, the birth of a child still seems something so awesome.

But the record of the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:2) to a centurial Abraham and his 90-year-old wife, Sarah is especially impressive, though unremarkable by Biblical norms.

The age of Isaac’s parents at his birth receives little comment, perhaps indicating that this was not as remarkable as we might consider it today, or that the birth of children at any time is an expression of the Divine will.

Of course, the whole concept of time, as it is understood in the modern age, may have had little or no relevance to the authors of the Bible and the societies from where they came.

Light and dark and seasonal changes were clearly pertinent, but as the Creation story itself in the opening chapter of the Book of Genesis indicates, it was the process of time rather than its individual details with which the Bible is interested.

Thus a ‘day’ in Creation may not mean a period of 24 hours, but rather a stage in the development of the natural world in which God, the creative power behind the world, oversaw the miracle of our bountiful world, beginning with light and dark and ending with the human being, the ‘Crown of Creation’.

My four children were all born before by 32nd birthday, but in my congregation I encountered many older parents, some of whom had previously given up the hope of bearing children.

The biblical account reminds us of Sarah’s distress at not seemingly being able to bear a child and her laughter at the prospect.

Perhaps the Genesis story is not so much a comment on the parents’ physical age, but on the length of the wait and how Isaac would become a much-loved inheritor of parental aspirations with all the challenges that this would bring.

Rabbi Danny Rich is senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism

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