Scripture Portion of Week 5: Chayei Sarah

Genesis 23:1-25:18

Abraham’s wife Sarah lived 37 years after giving birth to Isaac, and died at the age of 127 (17:17; 21: 5; 23:1). Abraham performs the traditional mourning (23:2-3), and after many days, purchases a tomb for her body from the residents of Hebron in Canaan, who were called Hittites. We can see that Yehovah blessed Abraham as the local people called him neshi elohim (Hebrew נְשִׂיא אֱלֹהִים ), which means prince of God or mighty prince. Yehovah had financially blessed him, and he was able to use merchant silver weighing 400 shekels (perhaps 4,400 grams) worth $2,332 in 2016 US dollars.

Silver and precious metals continue to be a valued savings option.

Silver and precious metals continue to be a valued savings option.

Abraham’s purchase of the tomb is historical evidence of Israel’s right of ownership to this portion of the land, though this area of Hebron continues to be a disputed part of the region between Israel and Palestine, which is called the West Bank region.

Israel and the disputed West Bank, showing the location of Hebron.

Israel and the disputed West Bank, showing the location of Hebron.

The location of the the tomb that Abraham’s purchased was apparently still known 2,000 years after the event during the reign of Herod I (37-4BCE?). Herod I, called the Great, built a structural enclosure around the tombs that still stands today. While the tomb still has bodily remains, an investigation has not taken place due to political instability of the region.

Hebron Cave of the Patriarchs

Hebron Cave of the Patriarchs

After Sarah’s passing, Isaac found comfort in his marriage to Rebekah (24:67). The marriage was both officiated and consummated at the same time. That is, there was no marriage license, marriage certificate, known wedding ceremony, or intermediary priest presenting them before God. There was only the consummation. It has often been said that since God created Adam and Eve as husband and wife, that the institution of the family is a fundamental human right give by the Creator that cannot be infringed by any other institution, governmental or otherwise. Marriage at this time was a bilateral agreement, meaning the wife also had to agree and consent to the consummation, as Rebekah did (24:57-58).

How Isaac found his bride sheds light on the way people of that day made solemn oaths. Abraham’s servant made a vow with Abraham that he would find Isaac a wife from Abraham’s extended family in Naharayim (Hebrew נַהֲרַיִם), which is often translated as Mesopotamia, but is actually in the area of the Euphrates River in what is modern-day Syria. Abraham did not want his son to inter-marry with the Canaanites who surrounded him; later when God gave the Law to Moses, we learn that this is due to differences in faith and religion, and not due to difference in ethnicity (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). In making the oath, the servant swore on Abraham’s male genitalia to show the severity of breaking the oath (24:9; see also 46:26).

Perhaps more interesting than that, though, is that invocation of God’s name in making oaths. Abraham’s servant swore in Yehovah’s name (24:3). This was a common occurrence in Israel (Joshua 2:12; 1 Samuel 24:21; 2 Samuel 19:7; 1 Kings 2:42; Jeremiah 4:2). In fact, it was a commandment to swear in Yehovah’s name when making covenants, contracts, or testifying (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20). They even greeted each other in Yehovah’s name (Ruth 2:4; 1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 20:13; likely 2 Thessalonians 3:16). The use of His name was a blessing on the people (Numbers 6:24; 1 Chronicles 22:11, 16; Psalm 128:5; 134:3; Jeremiah 12:16; 31:23). However, later in Israel’s history, they used His name in vain by swearing but not keeping their oath, or by swearing falsely (Isaiah 48:1; Jeremiah 5:2; Zephaniah 1:5; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 23:16-22). “And although they say, ‘As Yehovah [יְהֹוָה] lives,’ Surely they swear falsely” (Jeremiah 5:2). Because of this falsehood, Yeshua and his disciples instructed people not to swear at all (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12).

Before Abraham’s death, he remarried after Sarah died and had many other children, including Midian (25:2), who grew into a tribal nation in west Saudi Arabia where the real Mount Sinai is located (Exodus 3:1), from whom Moses would take a wife approximately 600 years later (Exodus 2:21). When Abraham died, he was buried with Sarah in the tomb that is now called the Cave of the Patriarchs (25:10). Before his death, he had given rise to many nations through his nephew Lot, whom he saved from the Mesopotamian kings (Genesis 14), through Ishmael, Hagar’s son (25:12-18) through Isaac the promised one, and through his other children. And so Yehovah fulfilled his promise to Abraham in abundance and overflowing because of Abraham’s faith (Genesis 15:5-6).

1 Kings 1:1-31

Matthew 2:1-23

About Jonathan Lankford

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Jonathan has provided education and training services to organizations and individuals in Vietnam since 2007.
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