Did you know there are trophy wives in the Bible, women who were so beautiful that they were a status symbol? When a famine in Canaan forced Abram and Sarai to go to Egypt for awhile (Gen 12), Abram was so aware of Sarai’s beauty that he actually feared for his life. In fact, he even warned her, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. The men over there will kill for you.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Abram knew that as long as Sarai was married, she couldn’t be held hostage at Harem Headquarters—unless…
her husband was dead.
Sure enough. It wasn’t long before Sarai was spotted by Pharaoh. But Abram had a plan: If he was her brother instead of her husband, he would be given a place of honor if Sarai was taken into custody!
Hmmm. Which shall it be?
or a Haram wife…
“Say you’re my sister,” he pleaded.
Abram chose to sacrifice his wife rather than his life. So much for chivalry.
The most interesting thing about this story, however, is Sarai’s age. The Bible tells us that Abram was 75 years old when he set out for Canaan. A few chapters later, we get a hint at Sarai’s age—she was no spring chicken. At ten years younger than Abram, she would have been 65 when they fled to Egypt. That was old enough to make her a bona fide AARP member when she was swiped into Pharaoh’s harem.
Sarai wasn’t a 12-year-old Victoria’s Secret model. She was a proud member of the Geritol generation and her most bedazzled gown looked more like a hooded satin Snuggy than red-carpet wear. Women back then were so veiled they were lucky to have their eyeballs uncovered. A typical outfit may have taken ten yards of fabric, unlike today when some girls make do with a few triangles and a little G string. Nonetheless, Sarai was a woman who was prized for her beauty.
Girls, I think we can learn a thing or two about beauty from Sarai. Women back in the Bible bracket didn’t have Botox or liposuction. Sarai couldn’t run into Target and drop a little L’Oreal in her basket. Not that she wasn’t worth it. There was no plastic surgery, no nip and tuck, no lip enhancements or hip reductions, no Spanks, no miracle bras or 18-hour girdles. And gasp….not even high heels. But even though Sarai never had a breast augmentation, never visited a tanning bed or nail salon, and her hair color was naturally gray, she was beautiful and confident. At 65, she was still all cha-cha, voom-voom and boda-boda-bing!
There was something else they didn’t have back in Sarai’s day—the comparison crusade. Sarai didn’t have to stand at the grocery check-out and compare herself to anorexic magazine models and the latest tabloid gossip that touts five easy ways to drop 20 pounds in five days. She didn’t grow up with a Barbie doll that had a waist smaller than her thigh and hair bigger than Texas.
Sarai didn’t have to deal with a constant barrage of graphic images all around her constantly telling her she wasn’t pretty. She didn’t have to deal with the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Orange County or Miami. She didn’t have to content with Hollywood movie stars or vampy trampy airbrushed photo-shopped magazine models whose physical perfection seemed to insinuate she was too fat or too wrinkled or too old to be beautiful. At 65 years old Sarai was so beautiful men would kill to have her!
I think it’s time we redefine beauty!
Pharaoh’s official saw that Sarai was beautiful, but I think Sarai’s beauty was more than external. Something about her made it obvious that there was more to her than what was on the outside. She was confident, loyal and resourceful. She was a woman of influence and knew how to get things done. She was an effective communicator and negotiator.
Another woman the Bible calls beautiful was Abigail. The same Hebrew word for beautiful, yafeh, is used to describe both Abigail and Sarai. Yafeh means fair, fairest or fair one. I always wondered why the fairy tales described the beautiful princess as the most fairest in the land. A princess ought to be more beautiful than just fair. We don’t use that word today to describe appearance. If you told your friend, “You look very fair today,” it would probably be perceived as more of an insult than a compliment. But in the days of Abigail and Sarai, a woman considered fair in appearance was beautiful.
Obviously there is something important about the distinction the Bible makes about their beauty. Why does the Bible point out their beauty? In 1 Samuel 25:3 the KJV says this: Abigail was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.
What is a countenance? Literally, the dictionary reveals the word countenance is a derivative of contents. In essence, countenance is the contents of the body. It is the external appearance or manifestation of the contents of the inner person. What is expressed on the outside through our countenance is brought forth from the inner.
Countenance also means an air, a look, an aspect or an appearance of the face. In addition, it means favor, goodwill and kindness. So when scripture says that Abigail had a beautiful countenance, it means that she was not just physically beautiful, but that her beauty came from the inside out. Her inner beauty of favor, goodwill and kindness spread to the external and caused people to perceive her as having a beautiful air.
Have you ever met someone that didn’t meet the world’s standards of external beauty, but you perceived them as beautiful? Maybe you perceived a kindness about them, a tenacity to overcome life’s difficulties or a humble nature. On the other hand, have you ever met someone that was physically beautiful by the world’s standards, but you perceived them to be unattractive or even ugly? Maybe you sensed an air of vanity, dishonesty or rebellion that caused that person to appear unattractive.
Beauty and status are so much more than what is external, so celebrate the unique qualities that make you beautiful. No matter how young or old you are, no matter how short or tall you are, and no matter what the Hollywood fashionistas say, God made you beautiful. After all, he created you in his own image. You are a display of his splendor! He longs to be your husband and call you his very own trophy wife!
Prayer: Lord, the world has standards for beauty that are often unrealistic and many times do not bring glory to you. Help me to remember that you created me in your image. When I feel unattractive or unappreciated, may your Holy Spirit remind me that I am your treasure and will always be beautiful in your eyes. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 7:6
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalms 45:11
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:4
Abram and Sarai in Egypt Genesis 12:10-20
Abigail 1 Samuel 25