Chai Sarah – Life of Sarah

Torah Portion: Genesis 23:1 through Gen 25:18
Haftarah: 1Kings 1:1-31, 46
New Testament: Mat. 13: 24-50, John 4:35, Heb 11:6-19, Heb 13:6

Abraham SarahThough our portion this week is curiously titled “Life of Sarah,” it gives few details other than her age at death in regard to the circumstances.  In Hebrew, the text reads that Sarah lived 100 years, 20 years, and 7 years.  The sages have deduced that at age 100 she was as beautiful as a 20-year-old and as innocent as a 7-year-old. In addition, over the centuries they invested much thought to the obvious question, how did Sarah die?  Because Sarah’s demise follows on the heels of the akeida [binding of Isaac], most believe that Sarah’s death was somehow attributed to it.

“Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep/bewail her.” (Gen 23:2)

From this verse, Jewish commentators perceive that Abraham was summoned to Hebron.  Whether he met a messenger on the road back from Moriah, we can only guess; but, there is no need to speculate as to the enormity and reality of Abraham’s pain upon learning about the loss of his beloved.

Hebron

For some reason, Sarah was not at home in Beersheba when she passed away; she was, instead, at Hebron.  While much has been penned in conjecture as to why she was there, perhaps the best thing is to simply believe that Sarah’s assignment was complete and that God had a reason to bury her at Hebron.

The couple had put down stakes in Hebron after Lot chose life among the wicked over life among the faithful and separated from them to settle in Sodom.

  • It was in Hebron where Abram built his fourth altar to the LORD. (Gen 13:18)
  • It was there, under the Oaks of Mamre, where Abram was informed that Lot and his family had been taken captive by the kings of the east, and, it was from there that, with the help of God, that Abram launched a miracle campaign and recovered not only his nephew’s family and goods; but all of the inhabitants of the wicked cities! (Gen 14:16)
  • It was in Hebron where the “smoking furnace” and “burning torch” sealed the covenant of the pieces (Gen 15:17)
  • 182b Hebronand where Abram learned that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years in Egypt.(Gen 15:13)
  • It was at Hebron where Sarai convinced Abram to take Hagar as a wife (Gen 16:3)
  • It was in Hebron that Abraham circumcised himself and all of the men in his household, including Ishmael (Gen 17:23),
  • and, where, three days later, “Vayera!” Yahweh appeared the second time, as we saw last week. (Gen 18:1)  On that “great day,” as we might call it, Sarah received the unbelievable glad tidings of great joy that she would bear a son “next year,” and Abraham was given the unbearable news that Sodom was about to be destroyed.  Further, on that “great day” Abraham, picturing the Bride, seized the opportunity to intercede for “the righteous” and was rewarded by the deliverance of the ancestors of Messiah!

These things portend much for Abraham’s seed; but, alas, we cannot go into them now.  For, at Hebron, Abraham’s help-mate and his faithful companion, twice abducted and twice delivered, lies still and cold as a stone.  Spirit returned to Heaven, her body must be returned to the earth, for with death comes decay, bringing defilement to all who touch it. The only remedy is to dig a hole,  cover the body with earth, and wait for the resurrection.  But, first, the grieving patriarch must to set aside his grief and negotiate with his neighbors for a burial plot.

Machpelah

“Abraham rose up from before his dead” (Gen 23:3) to pay a visit to the Hittites, one of the ten nations of whom God said Abraham’s descendants would receive their land. (Gen 15:20) Abraham presented his request to the elders at the city gates.

“I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” (Gen 23:4)

The irony of this request is that though Abraham has now lived in the Promised Land for more than sixty years, he possesses not even so much as a scrap for a burial plot.  Ah, but God will use this occasion to give Abram much more than that.  Though it will prove to be very costly, God apparently wants him to have an entire “field.” This is very curious.

The Hittites answered Abraham, “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.” (Gen 23:6)

Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. And he said to them, “If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.” (Gen 23:7-9)

cave-exit-into-fieldNow Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” (Gen 23:10-11)

When approached about the sale, Ephron effectively responds in the hearing of the locals, “It is my privilege to give it to you!”  Some commentators believe this is a ruse; others believe it is simply the model of Eastern negotiating. Regardless of Ephron’s intent, Abraham responds in the same vein as he had answered the king of Sodom, who offered to pay Abraham the spoils of war for freeing his subjects from the kings of the east.

“I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ (Gen 14:22-23)

Abraham proceeded to offer fair value for the field.

Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” (Gen 23:12-13)

Ephron saw a golden opportunity and seized it.  Without hesitating, he named his exorbitant price.

Ephron answered Abraham, “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” (Gen 23:14-15)

For some reason, Abraham saw Machpelah as the befitting place to bury his bride and did not bat an eye.

Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.  So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. (Gen 23:16-18)

Tradition says it was revealed to Abraham that Adam and Eve were buried in this cave and that was the reason that Abraham particularly desired this location.  The Jewish Encyclopedia reports that “Machpelah” means “the doubled one,” because it was a 2-story cave of four compartments that ultimately would contain the graves of four couples, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah.  Other sources point to it further as the gateway to the Garden of Eden, which brings to mind something that Yeshua said.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mat 13:44-46)

TreasureAccording to rabbinic sources, Abraham actually paid a total of one million shekels for the cave in the field of Machpelah.  The Scripture says, “four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.” (Gen 23:16)  The rabbis interpret this as a term for international currency rather than local currency. They believe that each of these shekels was valued at 2500 ordinary shekels, a fortune!  Consider that Jacob would later pay only 100 ordinary shekels for a plot of ground in Shechem (Gen 33:19) and Jeremiah paid a mere 17 shekels for a field in Anatoth at a much later date. (Jer 32:9)

After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites. (Gen 23:19-20)

 Even today in the land of Israel, the protocol of this Torah portion is emulated.  If at all possible, before sundown, a dead body is placed directly in the ground; and, in the vast majority of cases, coffins are not utilized.

And so, with hearts of gratitude for this “noblewoman” who taught us how to submit to our husbands, how to gracefully pack up and leave the place of one’s birth, even a glamorous city at age 65, and how to be a comfort to a nomadic shepherd bent on telling the world about his great God, we bid Sarah a fond and tearful goodbye.  Thank you, Sarah, for teaching us the value of being able to put together a meal at a moment’s notice, how to be modest and remain in the background, how to have a quiet and gentle demeanor, how to focus on inner beauty rather than fancy hair and gorgeous clothes, and, perhaps most important of all, to believe that nothing is impossible with our God!

Rebekah

With Sarah’s passing, a bride for Isaac becomes  a matter of urgency for Abraham.  How else can Isaac inherit all of the promises that God gave to Abraham?  No doubt this had been the subject of many a discussion between Abraham and Sarah, and, perhaps, Isaac was included.  No doubt the righteous couple made much ado about their presumptuous sin and made much pleading to Heaven on Isaac’s behalf, lest another “Ishmael” be the result.

This brings us to recall the utter “unitedness” exhibited by father and son on the day when they proceeded to Moriah.  Both were fixed on the promises.  As we said last week, Isaac’s faith in his father ran as deep as his father’s faith in God.  Therefore, Isaac waited upon Abraham to make a move to supply his need for a bride.  When, at last, Abraham perceived the time had arrived to take action, surely with much supplication beforehand, he released his trusted servant to be the instrument of God’s will. And, just as surely, Isaac waited, trusting in his father’s wisdom.

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.  And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had…” (Gen 24:1-2)

“Eliezer of Damascus”, a painting by William Dyce

This “servant” is most likely Eliezer, the one whom Abram had previously assumed would be his heir. (Gen 15:2) If so, he would have been in Abram’s employ for over sixty years.  The rabbis say he was far more than a servant; he was the “rosh yeshiva” or head of the school where Abraham trained disciples.  As such, he would have been a man dedicated to prayer, an excellent judge of character, and, therefore, the natural agent for such a task.  Before Abraham sends him out, he makes certain “the servant” understands the importance of the mission.

“Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” (Gen 24:3)

In Abraham’s day, it was customary for people to place one’s hand on a sacred object before making an oath.  The heathen would use symbols of their gods for such a purpose.  (This is the origin of people today placing their hand upon the Bible before giving testimony in court.)  But, because Yahweh allows no images of Him, Abraham sought for another way to underscore his servant’s assignment. “Put your hand under my thigh” is a euphemism. The patriarch actually asked the servant to place his hand on Abraham’s circumcised male organ as a reminder of the covenant, Abraham’s commitment to God, and, as well, to Isaac’s miraculous birth. His request, though perhaps shocking to our culture, may have been literal or figurative; but in any case it would have been quite meaningful to the trusted servant, who had been with his master through thick and thin.  Further, he was certainly among those whom Abraham had circumcised.

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter. (Gen 24:5-9)

Abraham’s instructions were implicit; Isaac must not go to Babylon. Rather, his bride was to “come out from among them.”  If the woman refused, the mission was to be abandoned.   Abraham had no “Plan B.”  If the bride refused to come, there would be no marriage, no consummation, no descendants.  The promise that Abraham would be a blessing to all the families of the earth would be aborted.

Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia [later called Babylon] to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Gen 24:10-14, brackets mine)

Note the devoted servant’s prayer for chesed (loving kindness, mercy, favor, good deeds) for Abraham! Note that, like Gideon, this man of faith understands how to use a “fleece” to determine God’s will in a particularly important or difficult assignment.

The servant was quite diligent. He did not leave anything to chance; but fully entrusted himself and his master into God’s very capable hands.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

“For the eyes of the LORD roam to and fro throughout the whole earth, seeking how to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.” (2 Chron 16:9)

His faith was not in vain; nor did he even have to wait.  So eager was the LORD to answer this prayer that before it was even out of his mouth, the bride appeared!

Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. (Gen 24:15)

These names present quite a picture.  Nahor, Rebekah’s grandfather (Abraham’s brother), means “snorer.”   His wife Milcah’s name means “queen” or “ruler.”   Milcah was sister to Lot, whose name we learned last week means “veiled.” Bethuel, Rebekah’s father, means “destroyed of God” and there is no mention of a wife.  Rebekah means “ ensnarer.”   Yikes! Who would give their children such names!   Don’t forget that Rebekah will tempt Jacob into pretending to be Esau and, indeed, cause him to fall into the snare of the fowler. Parents, be very careful what you name your children!!!

The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, myRebekah waters camels lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not. (Gen 24: 16-21)

Like Gideon’s “fleece,” the servant’s  scenario would be utterly impossible without God’s intervention. The Sages say that it would have taken ten “pitchers” (or large jars) of water for EACH of the ten camels.  National Geographic reports that a thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons in minutes.  This was no small feat.  Eliezer knew that no ordinary woman would offer such service and, without the power of God, no woman could have done it alone.  God supernaturally empowered Rebekah in order to answer the servant’s specific prayers and to demonstrate that she is HIS choice.  Note that Rebekah is just as eager to serve a stranger as was Abraham and Sarah.

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. (Gen 24:22-28)

As there is no other mention of Rebekah’s mother, the text is undoubtedly speaking of her grandmother with the phrase “her mother’s household.”   Milcah will attempt to delay her leaving, as we will see.  When brother Laban “sees” the ring and bracelets, he rushes into action.

Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD [Hebrew: YHWH, commonly pronounced Yahweh].  Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” (Gen 24:29-31)

We have to stop here and consider that these people know Yahweh by name!  Remember, Abraham’s father, Terah, was an idol maker.  Now we see that his great-grandson uses the name of Yahweh. Somehow, the gospel, or at least part of it, has made its way into this household.

bridal-nose-ringThere is much symbolism in the gifts for the bride-to-be. The nose ring indicates the Bride will be taken to places she does not necessarily want to go.   She is called to suffer with her husband.  The weight of her nose ring is a half shekel.  This was the weight in silver that each person numbered among the tribes of Israel was to give as an acknowledgement of redemption. (Exo 30:15)  Perhaps the gold of Rebekah’s nose ring represents true faith as Peter sees it,

“…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

In addition, Rebecca received two bracelets, each ten shekels of gold. These, I believe, represent the Ten Commandments, which were written on two tablets, to which she would willingly bind herself.

The servant of Abraham refuses any refreshment for himself until he repeats almost word-for-word the earlier drama of his master’s instructions, his own prayers, and the answers thereof when he finds Rebekah.  He closes his speech by saying,

“Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” (Gen 24:49)

See how the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is pictured by this faithful servant!  He speaks nothing of himself, he seeks nothing for himself.  He speaks only good and true things about his master. He is expedient and diligent.  He does everything possible to grant success to his master’s mission, including giving “gifts” to the bride.  He follows his master’s instructions implicitly.  He finds the perfect bride for Isaac and brings her to the Promised Land.

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken.” (Gen 24:50-51)

Again, on the surface, these people appear to know God and to walk by faith. Hearing their consent, the servant bowed himself to the ground before the LORD to offer praise; then he distributed more jewelry and clothing to Rebekah, as well as gifts to her relatives, before finally eating and drinking himself.

The next morning, as he was preparing to leave, Laban and Milkah said together,

“Let the young woman remain with us for a while; at least for ten days. After that she may go.” (Gen 24:55)

While this might seem a reasonable request to us today, Laban will later prove in response to a similar request by Jacob, that ten days might well turn into ten years.  When the servant wisely insisted on immediate departure, Rebekah was summoned and asked, “Will you go with this man?” (Gen 24:58)  Surely, her family must have reasoned, she will beg for time to prepare herself to leave her country, her family, her father’s house, and her comfort zone!  But, to their great surprise, I’m sure, Rebekah readily agreed to leave immediately.  Selah!  My children, selah!

So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. (Gen 24:59-61)

How quickly one’s status can change!  It reminds me of Joseph’s being in prison, when Pharaoh sent someone to fetch him. In the twinkling of an eye, he was made second-in-command to Egypt.  Could it be that Rebekah was also in captivity of sorts?  Did God, in response to Abraham and Sarah’s intercession, open Rebekah’s blinded eyes to see her dangerous state?  Did He enable her to perceive that her father’s house was soon to be destroyed because of the sleeping grandfather and the ruling queen?  Were her eyes opened to see the “ensnarer” crouching at the door of her home in Babylon?  Had the LORD been preparing her to lech lecha (go out for yourself!”), even as he had done for Abraham and Sarah?  Did He whisper the words He would later speak through Jeremiah and Isaiah and Paul?

The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. called to be holy“Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 52:10-12)

And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed. The nations shall no longer flow to him; the wall of Babylon has fallen. “Go out of the midst of her, my people! Let every one save his life from the fierce anger of the LORD! Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful at the report heard in the land, when a report comes in one year and afterward a report in another year, and violence is in the land, and ruler is against ruler. “Therefore, behold, the days are coming when I will punish the images of Babylon; her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.  Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the LORD. Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. (Jer 51:44-49)

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corin 6:17-18)

HAFTARAH

The Haftarah for this week’s portion is about another beautiful virgin, who was sought to serve King David.

Now King David was old and advanced in years.  And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service.  Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.”  So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4)

There are people who appear to be close to God and who serve Him and even call Him by name; but who do not enjoy the intimacy that He freely bestows to those who keep His commandments. “The king knew her not.” This phrase makes me shiver as I recall Yeshua’s own words.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  (Mat 7:21:23)

“Lawlessness” means not keeping His Father’s commandments. The Bridegroom says to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” echoing the words He spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai Exodus 20:6. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:6)

Abishag’s name means “my father is in error” or “my father is a wanderer.”   According to Abarim Publications Online Dictionary, the root of this word means “unintentionally.” Says the publisher:

As verb this root occurs only four times – in Leviticus 5:18 and Numbers 15:28 it’s tied into the word meaning “unintentionally”. Psalm 119:67 speaks of a going astray that was rectified by getting subsequently afflicted (or an affliction contracted from going astray), and Job 12:16 speaks of the misled and the misleader… Originally this noun must have meant something like an error or deviation, but in the Bible it’s one of the words for sin, occurring nineteen times. The principle word for sin is חטא (het), which occurs thirty five times. But the root of the latter, חטא (hata), meaning to miss or miss the way, is used about 580 times. That means that in the Bible the concept of sin was seen as missing the point or missing your purpose, much rather than deviating from an ethical or moral standard, or making a blunder of some sort.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray [in error, wandering], but now I keep your word.” Psalm 119:67

To me, the purpose of the Haftarah portion is to warn us to examine ourselves to make sure we are not unintentionally in error but that we are tawmeem (blameless, perfect, spotless, whole, mature, and complete).  For a complete study on this idea, see last week’s lesson.

Isaac

And what of Isaac?

It had been about 3 years, according to the sages, since the akeida and Sarah’s death, when we read that Isaac had come from Beer-Lahai-Roi, the place in the wilderness that Hagar had named “The well of the God Who Sees.”  Did Isaac, still grieving for his mother and intensely yearning for a bride of his own, recall that TWICE God had met Hagar there and comforted her? Was it there, at the same well that would quench Ishmael’s thirst, where Isaac’s owns pleas were heard?

Note that at Rebekah’s appearing, Scripture employs the exact phrase used to describe Abraham’s utter amazement in last week’s parsha, Vayera! when Yahweh re-appeared to him after three days.

Sunset_in_the_Negev_Desert_near_Yeruham,_Israel
Sunset in the Negev Desert near Yeruham, Israel. (Photograph by Matthew J Parker, posted at Wikipedia, “Negev”)

Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb.  And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold! (Gen 24:62-63)

Notice also that Sarah’s departure and the bride’s arrival are curiously connected with a “field.”  In His Parable of the Sower, Yeshua teaches that the world is “the field.”  (Mat 13:38)   He told His disciples that the “field” is “white unto harvest” (John 4:35) and that the “field” contains the “pearl of great price.” (Mat 13:44)  The purpose of the Bride, according to Yeshua, is to “go therefore into all the field/world and make disciples, teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you.”

Isaac wasn’t the only one who was stunned and amazed.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.  (Gen 24:64-65)

I am told the Hebrew literally says that Rebekah “fell off her camel!”  Never in her wildest dreams did Rebekah imagine such a husband. Modestly, she veiled herself until she could prepare for a proper meeting and recover from the 17 day-long trip.  Meanwhile, the servant had the extreme privilege of recounting Abraham’s instructions and all that ensued afterwards.

“Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen 24:66-67)

No doubt, Isaac was as captivated (shall we say “ensnared”?) by the servant’s report as he was with Rebekah’s beauty.  But, it was only when he saw the Bride operating in Sarah’s place and gifting that “he loved her” and was comforted in his loss.

Let us stop now to reflect upon the similarities of Isaac and Yeshua which I have gathered with the help of other bloggers.

*     Both were miraculously conceived.

*     Both were the “only son” according to Scripture.

*     Both are identified as “son of Abraham.”

*     Both were born at a mo’ed (set time).

*     Both were offered at a mo’ed.

*     Both were persecuted by their brothers.

*     Both were “bound” and both “carried the wood,” (Yeshua carried His cross).

*     A donkey was seen in both stories.

*    Both were accompanied by two men, Isaac on the way and Yeshua on the cross.

*  Both were offered on a mountain, actually it was the SAME mountain.

*     Both submitted to the will of their father.

*     Both fathers were willing to sacrifice their son.

*     Both sons willingly offered themselves.

*     Both were obedient unto death (though Isaac survived, he was willing to die).

*     Both asked questions of their father. “Where is the lamb?”/“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

*     Both of their fathers believed in the resurrection of the dead.

*     Both sons were given back to their fathers on the “third day.”

*    The LORD provided the lamb Himself in both stories.

*    Blood was shed, the ram’s and Yeshua’s.

*     Both were perfected by their testing.

*     Both prayed in the wilderness.

*   Isaac makes seven statements in all of Scripture; Yeshua makes seven statements from the cross.

*     In both cases, all that the father has is the son’s.

*     Both were buried in a cave for a tomb.

*  Both were impacted by Egypt, Isaac with Hagar/Ishmael, and Yeshua’s parents fled there from Pharaoh.

*   Both are pictured at a well, Isaac at Beer-Lahai-Roi, Yeshua at Jacob’s well in Shechem.

*   In both cases, someone was “sent” to get a bride for the son, Eliezer and the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit).

*      Both wait for a bride to come to them in the land of Israel.

*      In both cases someone tries to restrain the Bride: Laban and his mother, and Satan.

*    Both their brides are given “gifts”:  Yeshua’s bride receives the gifts of the Spirit.

Aveinu Abraham Enters His Reward

The bride having made her entrance, Abraham’s mission is nearly complete.  But, first, he marries Keturah, whom some believe was actually Hagar with a new name, indicating a new heart.  Keturah’s offspring will be both friend and foe to Israel, as we shall see.  That Keturah bore Abraham six sons demonstrates his restored virility extended far beyond Isaac’s conception.

Abraham died at 175 years of age, having spent 100 years in the Promised Land, except for side trips to Egypt. Before his death, Abraham sent Keturah’s sons away “to the east country.”

brothers
The brothers – reconciled!

Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the cave at Machpelah. The sages propose that the enmity between them was thus put to rest. Could that be a picture for the future?  Does Ishmael’s circumcision portend a change of heart for the Egyptians at the end of days?

And, so, we say goodbye also to Abraham aveinu (our father).   What a truly remarkable life!  The author of Hebrews sums it up:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him…By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

faith and actionTherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Heb. 11:6,8-19)

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend Isaiah 41:8

Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my lawsGen 26:5

And so, Abraham’s life also comes to a close in this Torah portion, which amazingly is named in honor of his wife.  I’m certain Abraham and Isaac would be very pleased with that indeed.

Dear children, a question should be ringing in your mind as this lesson comes to an end.   It is the question posed to the Bride:

“Whose daughter are you?” (Gen 24:23)

May it be that when we meet Abraham and Sarah, and Rebekah and Isaac, that they “lift up their eyes, and see and behold!” and even fall off their camels when they see us appearing!

Until next week,  shalom!

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