Milkah is not a very well-known Biblical figure, but she is the sister-in-law to quite a popular one – Sarah (formerly called Sarai). Sarah was married to Abraham (formerly called Abram), who also had a brother who was not very well-known. This brother was Nahor. When Abraham and Sarah married, Nahor and Milkah also married. According to Genesis 11:29:
Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah.
Terah was the father of Abraham and Nahor and they also had a third brother called Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, but he later died, so Abraham took Lot into his home. At first, they all lived together in Ur of the Chaldeans, but after Haran’s death, Terah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and Haran’s wife left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. On their way to Canaan, they come to a place called Harran and decide to settle there. While in Harran, Terah dies after living 205 years. God then calls Abraham to leave his country and his people and his father’s household and go to the land of Canaan. He promises to bless Abraham and make of him a great nation. So once again, Abraham, Sarah, and Lot pack up their possessions and set out for Canaan.
Meanwhile, Nahor and Milkah remained in Ur of the Chaldeans. Somehow, across the large expanse of desert and sky, Abraham and Sarah and Nahor and Milkah kept in touch. Genesis 22:2 says,
Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor.”
While Abraham and Sarah waited for years and struggled to have just one child, their brother and sister-in-law had quite a large family. Milkah gave birth to eight sons (!): Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. The youngest son, Bethuel, became the father of Rebekah who years later became the wife of Abraham and Sarah’s long-awaited promised son, Isaac. Milkah is specifically mentioned four other times in the book of Genesis (23; 24:15, 24, 47). Milkah’s youngest son, Bethuel, is also our link to what we can learn from her life.
1. Milkah played a role in bringing God’s promise to fruition. It really is amazing to read about the family ties of Abraham and Sarah and Nahor and Milkah and see how they remained connected to one another. Despite being separated for years and years, they were later reunited in a way through the marriage of their relatives, Isaac and Rebekah. Of course, we know, that Sarah didn’t live to see the marriage, and it doesn’t appear that Nahor and Milkah did either, but it wouldn’t have happened without them.
Milkah could have spent years wondering why God hadn’t called her and her husband to go to the land of Canaan. She could have become envious that it was Abraham and Sarah who were promised great things and not her and Nahor. “God, why can’t you make us into a great nation? Look, I have eight sons, and Sarah doesn’t even have one,” she could have said. “What about blessing us? What about making our name great? Why can’t all the families of the earth be blessed through me and Nahor?” Almost all of Abraham and Sarah’s life story is recorded in the book of Genesis, while Nahor and Milkah are mere footnotes. But Milkah never gets angry about their seemingly less important role. She is content with the plans that God has for her life.
The twelve tribes of Israel would have never come through Jacob if Rebekah hadn’t given birth to him and his brother, Esau. And Rebekah never would have been born to Bethuel if it wasn’t for Milkah giving birth to him. So we see that Milkah and Nahor played a major part in helping to bring God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah to fruition. Because Milkah was content to quietly raise her eight sons in Ur of the Chaldeans, we can remember her today as one of the great grandmothers of the great nation that God promised to make.
The role that we play in God’s story is not always obvious. At the moment, what we’re doing may not seem as important or as big as what others are doing. But God needs each and every one of us with our different skills and our different gifts and our different personalities for His story to be written and for his plan to be completed. Why else would He have made us? Why else would He want to write our story into His never-ending story? Milkah was just as important to God as Sarah, and her role in bringing His promise to pass was just as important as Sarah’s role. From the different amount of space that is allotted to them in Scripture, this doesn’t seem like the case, but it’s true nonetheless. God will fulfill each and every one of His promises, and the great thing about this is that He chooses to accomplish His purposes and plans through people – people like you and me and Milkah.