Was Sarah Attractive at Age 90?

Posted on September 10, 2019


By David Ettinger

How Can it Be?
I hope the headline doesn’t sound chauvinistic; this is not my intention.

I am referring to Genesis Chapter 20, the incident regarding Abraham, his wife Sarah, and King Abimelech, ruler of Gerar, the city to which Abraham and Sarah had relocated.

In those days, heathen rulers would abduct beautiful women and make them part of their harems. If the woman was unmarried, fine. However, if the woman was married, her husband would often be killed and the woman taken.

We saw this in Genesis Chapter 12, when Abraham and the “very beautiful” (v. 14) Sarah moved to Egypt. Sarah was 65 at the time, but Pharaoh was nonetheless smitten with her. In Chapter, 20, the scenario is the same as Abimelech takes Sarah – but this time the much-desired woman is between 89 and 90 years old, and possibly even pregnant with Isaac.

(The age chronology, which is simple to calculate, is derived from Chapters 18 through 20.)

Focusing on the second incident – with Sarah age 89-90 – the question must be asked: How could Abimelech possibly be attracted to a 90-year-old women?

An Issue of Aging
Some Bible commentators have attempted to wrench this event out of its fixed place in the Bible and move it back several decades. In other words, they assert it occurred in Chapter 13 or 14 when Sarah would have been about 30 years younger.

However, there is no need to do this. This episode is placed in the perfect spot because this is where it chronologically occurred. It’s all a issue of aging.

For instance, by the time of King David, life expectancies had declined to approximately what they are now, 70 to 85 years. However, Abraham and Sarah lived 1,000 years earlier, and life expectancy was considerably longer.

Abraham died at age 175 (Genesis 25:7). His son Isaac died at age 180 (Genesis 35:28). His grandson Jacob died at age 147 (Genesis 47:28). And Sarah died at age 127 (Genesis 23:1). To reach those advanced ages, the aging process could not have been what it is today. You know what 90- and 100-year-olds look like today. What would 127, 147, 175, and 180 look like?

Most Bible commentators believe that during the time of Abraham, the body aged at half the rate it does today. In other words, though Isaac died at 180, he would look like today’s 90. Jacob, who died at 147, would have looked 75 today. And Sarah at 127 would have looked only 65.

This sheds great light on the Gerar incident. Though Sarah was almost 90, she would have had a 21st century appearance of but 45. Therefore, the woman Abimelech was attracted to did not have white hair, wrinkly skin, and decaying teeth; but was beautiful and vibrant with dark hair, mildly age-spotted skin, and bright eyes.

She would have been the beautiful woman the Bible describes her as, despite her age of 90. This is because 90, though the same time-wise as today, was not the same body-wise in 2000 B.C.

Please Remember
When reading passages in the Bible that don’t make sense today, please remember to always consider the passage’s context, and make the proper assessment based on that. If we apply this basic truth, reading the Bible will be so much more comprehensible and satisfying!