The readings for this week are called Chayeh Sarah—“Sarah’s Life”:
*Genesis 23:1. “Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” Abraham was ten years older than Sarah—he was 137 years old at her death. Perhaps the supernatural rejuvenation granted Abraham enabling him to conceive Isaac remained in his body long afterwards. After the death of Sarah he was to live another 38 years and to have more children.
*Genesis 23:5-6 (NKJ). “And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places.” The Hebrew words for “mighty prince” are n’si elohim which might more literally be translated “Prince of God.” Abraham’s relationship with this God, whom he had believed and worshiped, had developed into a friendship. The very city of Mamre where God confided in Abraham (Genesis 18) would come to be called Hevron (Hebron), related to the Hebrew word for “friend” or “associate”. Centuries later, God would, in Isaiah 41:8, still refer to Abraham as “My beloved” or “My friend.” Through this holy association the authority and splendor of God Himself rested in favor upon His servant, and the blessing promised in Abraham to all families and nations of the world (Genesis 12:3; 22:18) was already shining into the darkness of Canaan.
*Genesis 23:12-18. “Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, ‘If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.’…And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants. So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.”
It is significant that the locations of three carefully recorded transactions involving the purchase of land by two Patriarchs and a great King of Israel today encompass the most hotly contested area (both physically and spiritually) on earth:
- A field and cave in Hebron (which Abraham purchased for 400 shekels of silver) Genesis 23
- A parcel of land in Shechem (modern-day Nablus) where Joseph would be buried (which Jacob purchased for 100 pieces of money) Joshua 24:32
- The top of Mount Moriah, what would become the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (which David purchased for 50 shekels of silver) II Samuel 24:24; II Chronicles 3:1
These three locations today comprise the length of the so-called “West Bank” upon which a permanent Muslim Palestinian state is being demanded: To the north, Samaria (Shechem/Nablus); In the center, Jerusalem (The Temple Mount); To the south, Judea (Hebron—the Cave of the Patriarchs). Each of these locations were legally purchased by Hebrews in ancient times, and all fall within an area which God would repeatedly promise as an inheritance to the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob forever.
*Genesis 24:3: “And I will make you swear by YHVH, Elohei-haShamayim (“The Heavens-God”) v’Elohei-haAretz (and “The Land-God”).” As often happens in the Torah, new aspects and attributes of this YHVH (Yehovah), who had first appeared to Abraham in Ur, are revealed to us through the new Names given to Him by the Patriarchs.
*Genesis 24:5-6. “And the servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Beware! that you do not take my son back there. YHVH God of Heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, , and you shall take a wife for my son from there” (Emphases ours).
Abraham continued to Believe YHVH (Yehovah—“The LORD”) his God (Gen. 15:6). “Believing God” meant not looking back—Hebrews 11:15 makes clear that “truly if they (Abraham and the other Patriarchs) had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.”
Please Pray: for immigrants whom God brings back to Israel. It can be frighteningly hard, especially for the older ones who will have difficulty mastering the language (if at all); who likely will not be able to get a job related to what they’ve done all their lives before immigrating. It is their children who will take root and sprout. Pray that they will not listen to the temptations to “go back to America,” or to “go back to Russia,” or France. Pray for grace and mercy for absorption into the society in the land of their Fathers…but more importantly, into the God of their Fathers. Pray for the Body of Messiah here—that it also will not look back, but rather fare forward into “a better, that is, a heavenly country.”
*Genesis 24:12. “Then he [Abraham’s servant] said, ‘O YHVH God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show loving kindness with my master Abraham.”
The literal Hebrew for the phrase “please give me success this day” reads, “Please make it happen before me today!”
*Genesis 24:27. “And he said, ‘Blessed be the YHVH God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His loving kindness (Hebrew: hesed) and His truth (Hebrew: emet) toward my master.”
Hesed and Emet
Hesed (the beginning letter pronounced with a slight rasp in the throat) is one of the most precious words in the Hebrew language. It is difficult to translate exactly into English—loving- kindness, mercy, goodness, steadfast love. It is a wonderful attribute of God which He desires to see operating in his children. Hesed appears over 245 times in the Hebrew Bible. On certain special occasions it is found together with the word emet which means truth (Gen. 24:27, Exodus 34:6, II Sam. 2:6; 15:20, Micah 7:20, and Psalms 25:10; 26:3; 40:10-11; 57:3; 61:7; 85:10; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 117:2; 138:2). The Modern Hebrew translation of John 1:17 says, “For the Torah (Law) was given through Moses; and the hesed and the emet (i.e. lovingkindness and truth) came through Yeshua the Messiah!”
*Genesis 24:31. “And he [i.e. Laban, Rebekah’s brother] said, ‘Come in, O blessed of YHVH!” During the long years between YHVH’s call to Abram and the death of his father in far-away Haran, his testimony of this new and wonderful God whose name was YHVH had obviously born lasting fruit. At least some knowledge of YHVH had lingered in Haran through the many years after Abram had moved on to Canaan, so that when his servant arrives, he finds that Abraham’s brother’s son and grandchildren are still very knowledgeable of this God (24:31, 50).
*Genesis 24:55-56, 62-64. “But her (i.e Rebekah’s) brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.’ And he (i.e. Abraham’s servant) said to them, ‘Do not hinder me, since the LORD has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.’…Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi (i.e. “Well of the Living One who Sees Me”), for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel…”
Being in the timings of the LORD is essential in entering into destiny—or even assisting those to whom we minister in entering into theirs. Ecclesiastes 3:11 teaches that God makes everything beautiful in its time (It does not teach that He does so if something is out of its season). If the servant had waited—even another hour—the perfect kairos meeting God had arranged for Rebekah and Isaac would have been compromised—which could have affected the very course of God’s redemptive plan for all humankind. “Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi (i.e. “Well of the Living One who Sees Me”), for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.” Dwelling and meditating in the Presence (before the face) of the “One who sees us,” prepares and times us to lift our own eyes for to see and recognize when provision for our destiny is approaching.
*Genesis 24:59. “So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men…” This nurse (whose name was Deborah) must have been a holy woman–obviously she had a very special significance in the life of Rebekah. Might she have been one on whom the “light” of the testimony of Abraham decades before had most truly “caught” and continued to glow? May she have been learning to walk with this wonderful God in Haran and to know His ways, even as Abraham was undergoing the same schooling in far-away Canaan? Besides being a blessing from childhood to Rebekah, she must have had an equally strong influence upon Jacob, both as a child and as a young adult. Perhaps she accompanied him during his sojourn to her former homeland in Aram. If not, he must have contacted her shortly after his return to Canaan, for she is apparently with him when he returns to Bethel to build an alter to the God Who had appeared to him years before whilest running from Esau. It was here that she died and was buried, obviously greatly loved; the tree beneath which she was buried was named, “The Oak of Weeping” (Gen. 35:8). It may be that the prophetic judge Deborah took her name from this holy woman.
*Genesis 24:65. “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
In 24:32, we see that Rebekah had lived with her family in a “house” in Haran. Her great-uncle Abraham had himself once lived there—but God had moved him on—into a destiny in which he and his immediate sons and grandchildren lived in tents as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13-16). By moving in obedience to the word of YHVH to leave, as had Abraham (Gen. 12:1), Rebekah demonstrated herself possessed of that same faith:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God!”
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:8-10, 16b)
*Genesis 25:1-5. “Abraham again took a wife (or “woman”), and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah…And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Eopher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.”
This passage and I Chronicles 1:32-33 are the only places where Keturah and other possible wives or concubines of Abraham (apart from Sarah and Hagar) are mentioned. After Isaac and the death of Sarah, a renewed and strengthened Abraham lived on for 38 years. God gave him other children whom he loved. Yet the Covenant was to be established through Isaac (17:21). And this covenant involved first of all, who would be granted stewardship of the physical land of Canaan (12:7; 15:18; 17:7-8). God would bless these other children of Abraham—but their ultimate inheritances would have to be outside of the land of covenant.
According to the NASB English translation of Genesis 16:12 (a sentence of difficult certain meaning in the Hebrew), the Angel of YHVH prophesied over Hagar concerning Ishmael that, “he shall live to the east of all his brothers.” Here (25:5) we see that Abraham eventually felt led to send his other sons “eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east” (after giving them each special gifts to sustain them on their way). There is no indication in the Scriptural account that there was any sort of cruel “banishment” involved here. By this time Abraham’s sons were probably grown and had families of their own (The phrase, “while he was still living” implies that Abraham was nearing the end of his life at the time, 38 years after the death of Sarah). Perhaps they had grown up knowing that since God had promised it to the descendants of Isaac, Canaan would not always be their home. It appears that just as Ishmael was sent away at God’s command (Gen. 21:12), so too were the children of Ketura; and as He had done with Ishmael so would God also bless and care for them (over 600 years later, Moses would marry Tziporah, daughter of a Midianite descended from Keturah). Through Abraham’s obedience, there would remain within the covenant land none of his lineage to contest the inheritance which God had decreed must go through his son Isaac (their inheritance must be elsewhere). Through Isaac’s lineage would come a Saviour, not only for the Jews, but for all humankind—One who will one day reign from a throne in the center of that same land over the entire world.
The Bible doesn’t record great discord between Isaac and Ishmael—in fact, Genesis 25:9 records that they together buried their father in the cave in Machpelah which he had purchased as a burial place for Sarah. Later, Ishmael’s descendants would include “twelve princes” as had been promised by the Lord (17:20).
– Your Friends in Jerusalem
[The readings for next week are called Toldot—“Generations”. TORAH: Genesis 25:19–28:9; HAFTARAH: Malachi 1:1—2:7.]