189 They said to him, “Where is Sarah, your wife?”
And Abraham said, “There; in the tent.”
10 Then he said, “I will surely return to you at this season next year and Sarah, your wife, will have a son!” Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were both old, advanced in years. Sarah no longer had her woman’s flow. 12 So, Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “I’ve become worn; is pleasure still available to me? My husband is old.”
13 YHWH said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I really give birth in my old age?’ 14 Is anything impossible for YHWH? I will return to you. At this same season, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was not honest and said, “I did not laugh!” for she was frightened.
But he said, “Yes, you laughed.”
Having completed the dance of host and guest, we come to the purpose of this gathering—Sarah. This is a first encounter with the newly renamed Sarah. The story is finding traction.
Abraham’s first act after receiving his new name is circumcision. Sarah’s will be birth. Both of these will take us back to Eden. Circumcision will be an unclothing, a return to nakedness. Birth hearkens back to fruitfulness and multiplying. Before birth, there is here a similar word to Eden that suggests sexual pleasure, including sexual moistness. Naked pleasure is prologue to fruitful multiplication.
The storyteller begins with a question of Sarah’s whereabouts. She is in the tent (a Red Tent? at her age?).
One of the differences between a typical narrative sequence of barrenness, annunciation, and birth is that this announcement comes to Abraham, with Sarah overhearing it from within the tent.
For Abraham, this moves the long-promised promise of a son into a manageable timeframe—less than a year. This is the second time he has heard about this timeframe (see 17:21). It may have passed by him the first time while he had his laughing fit. Now it begins to sink in. It is time to uncover his potency.
For Sarah, this is sheer lunacy. She knows how long it has been since her monthly flow shriveled to a stop, how dry her body is, and Abraham—talk about shriveled! This is the stuff of fall-down laughter.
When the guest (now one; not three) reports Sarah’s response to their host Abraham, only the first part of her self-thought is reported—the realities of old age and physical pleasure. The part about Abraham’s lack of virility was not mentioned, lest he not even try.
There is a return to a focus on laughter and how its dismissive quality need not be a last laugh.
This annunciation has been a long time coming. Perhaps it is wise not to expect a speedy denouement as a lot can happen in 9 months.