The Relationship Between Sarai and Milcah
In Scripture we learn that Milcah is married to Nahor and that Sarai is married to Abram. We also learn that Milcah has eight children (at least listed in genealogy form) and that Sarai was barren.
What is not clear is the relationship between the two. Were they simply sisters-in law, or were they more?
Well, according to some Midrash text, Sarai and Milcah were not only sisters in law, but it is believed that they were sisters.
According to Genesis 11:29, Milcah is the daughter Haran (yes, Lot’s father). Milcah marries her uncle, Nahor. In the same verse, we are told that Milcah has a sister named Iscah. According to some rabbinical texts, Iscah is another name for Sarai, meaning that Milcah and Sarai are sisters, and that both married their uncles.
Furthermore, “According to Genesis Chapter 22, Milcah and Nahor have eight children: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. Targum Jonathan says that Providence granted Milcah conception in the merit of her sister Sarah. Milcah’s son Bethuel moves to Padan-aram (also called Aram-Naharaim) and fathers Rebekah. Milcah’s granddaughter Rebekah eventually marries Milcah’s nephew Isaac and gave birth to Jacob who became Israel. There is a midrash that Milcah was the forbearer of all prophets in the non-Jewish world.”
Now, why is all this important? Because two of the major themes of the book of Genesis is sibling rivalry and barrenness. And what we will see is that Rebekah will be barren, ultimately giving birth to Issac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, who will become rivals. Continuing down that line, Jacob will marry two woman, Leah and Rachel, who will compete against each other, with Rachel being barren. And of course, if you continue to follow these themes, you end up at the end of Genesis with the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Therefore, if Sarah and Milcah are sisters, it is setting the reader up to remember the Cain and Abels, as well as look forward to the story of Leah and Rachel.