Collection Israel Museum/Great Women of the Bible

In the devil’s clutches, Sarah, in the panel at right, raises her arms in horror as Abraham, in the panel at left, prepares to fulfill God’s command to kill their son Isaac. In this illumination from the Regensburg Pentateuch, a Hebrew manuscript made in Bavaria around 1300, a bird-headed angel (perhaps reflecting a Southern German reluctance to portray heavenly creatures as humans) stays the patriarch’s knife. Apparently oblivious to his narrow escape, Isaac crouches on the altar, while the ram that will be killed in his place struggles among the branches of a nearby bush.

Sarah is absent from the story of Isaac’s near-sacrifice as told in Genesis 22, and she dies soon afterward. But according to Jewish tradition preserved in the midrash, or commentaries elaborating on biblical events, the Devil tells Sarah that Abraham has slaughtered Isaac. When Sarah realizes Isaac still lives, she is overwhelmed by joy and dies.