CHAPTER 23 

1. Now Sarah's lifetime [chayei Sarah] was 127 years—the years of Sarah's life. 

Milkah, another woman in her husband’s family, had just been given prominence in the Scriptural account, and now Sarah is given center stage. And her death is not recorded until the genealogy of Yitzhaq’s wife is established, as it is clear that Avraham can no longer have children through Sarah. At this time in history it was not common to place so much emphasis on women in the records, but after all, it is the woman who is promised that her seed would conquer the serpent’s. (3:15) The covenantal promises to the patriarchs cannot be fulfilled without their wives.  

2. Then Sarah died in Qiryath Arba (that is, Hevron) in the land of Kanaan. And Avraham came to beat his chest in mourning for Sarah, and to weep for her. 

Died: possibly from grief over Avraham’s not bringing her son back. Yitzhaq is conspicuously absent from the mourning. Qiryath Arba: "town of four”—the descendants of Anaq who had lived there (Num. 13:22; Y’hoshua 14:15). Beat his chest: a therapeutic act that brings physical release to the emotion that floods in on one upon such a loss. In our day of dealing with death in a distant and formal manner, we seem insulated from its reality. The typical mourning period in ancient Israel lasted 30 days (one complete lunar cycle), with loud wailing. One thus dealt with his grief realistically and honored the one whom he had lost by showing that she was worthy to shed tears for. When the Temple was built, a mourner could walk in through the exits and out through the entrances so the rest of the nation would know to offer them condolences. Why such recognition of such a negative circumstance, when the Torah is about life? Because, the rabbis say,  only when one has lost connection to another soul has he truly lost anything; other things can be replaced. And the liturgy for mourners is not about self-pity but about blessing YHWH for what we still have. It is a blessing on all Israel, for one who has been bereaved is closer to YHWH’s heart, and thus has special authority to bless others.  

3. When Avraham rose up from over the face of his dead [wife], he spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 

Rose up: There is a limit to how long one may focus on his loss; then he must get his mind back onto his other responsibilities. Avraham had gone back to Be’er-sheva, where he had forged connections to both of his sons, neither of whom was with him at present. Sarah, possibly unable to look into the eyes of someone who had offered up the son she had waited so long for (though it was YHWH’s command), had gone back to another place they had once called home. Heth means “terror”, from a root meaning “to shatter” or “cause dismay”. They were later known as the Hittites, who indeed came to be an empire that terrorized other nations. But this particular clan had a peace treaty with Avraham. (14:13)

4. "I am a stranger, yet a sojourner with you. Please permit me [to acquire] a title to a holding among you, so that I may bury my dead away from my presence.” 

Stranger: an outsider. He had lived with the sons of Heth a long time, yet recognized that he was not one of them, and did not pretend to be, just to fit in. Even in the places of our birth, we do not fit in once we recognize that we are Israelites in exile. Sojourner: one who is looking for a place to settle. We are foreigners until we get back to our true home, which is why it is important to find and support others who share our position. As a guest he has no right to make demands; he does not yet own the Land. But there is something he needs that they have. Strangers and aliens were usually buried in a common grave, but this was not worthy of one who came from such an auspicious family. He also wanted a permanent burial place to show that in faith he claimed the Land for his descendants. In that culture their form of trade was giving each other gifts of equal or greater value. Away from my presence: It was not healthy to keep her body with him for very long after her death.

5. But the sons of Heth responded to him by saying to him, 

6. "Listen to us, my master. You are a prince of Elohim among us! Bury your dead in the best of our burying-places! Not a man of us will withhold his own burial ground from you or keep you from burying your dead there!”

Not a man will withhold: compare Yesh./Isaiah 53:8; Matt. 27:57-60. Avraham was held in very high esteem here. He was not a troublemaker; he was a man of shalom. When surrounded by those who are not part of our people, we must do our job without compromise, but should not be a screech in their ears or a foul odor to those around us. Because he is very wealthy, they wish to claim him as their own, or at least want to sell him something, but he understood that he was different from them, and their flattery did not affect him. Such flamboyance is common among Yishma’el’s descendants today, a dramatic legal proceeding to show that they accept and honor him. (He had been living here when he took his 318 men to retrieve his nephew from four armies.) Yet it is not to be taken at face value. “The righteous say little and perform much; the wicked promise much and perform but little.”  

7. But Avraham stood up and bowed to the people of the land—the sons of Heth. 

Bowing to them does not mean he belongs to them, but he is not so proud that he will not show them common courtesy. While he lives in their place, he follows  their laws and ordinances. He shows them respect as long as they do the same for him.

8. And he spoke to them, saying, "If it is truly your wish [that I may] bury my dead from before my face, heed me: use your influence with Efron the son of Tsohar for me, 

They were trying to show how generous they were to someone known for his hospitality. But he knew they would not actually just give it to him. They said this to save face by showing that they valued friendship above financial dealings, as most non-Western cultures still do. Yet he cannot count on their descendants remembering him, so he wants to make the place legally his. He would not just take whatever they might offer; he has a particular place in mind. Part of maturity is dealing with the possibility that they will say “no”, so once he has established some rapport, he gets straight to the point:

9. "that he may grant me the Cave of Makhpelah, which is his, on the edge of his field; Let him grant it to me for its full price, as a burial estate in your midst." 

We know exactly where this site is, because 2,000 years ago Herod the Great built a building over it that is still intact. (It is of the same architectural style as the Temple he refurbished in Yerushalayim.) Many Jewish pilgrims go there the week this Torah portion is read, though it is again in foreign hands.  Makhpelah means "doubled" or "pairs". Rabbinic tradition says an important “pair”--Adam and Chawwah--were also buried there, and possibly Noakh and his wife as well, which may be another reason the town was named for “the four” (v. 2) and why he would be willing to pay a high price for it. He and his wife were linch-pins in the restoration of what Adam and Chawwah had broken. A cave is a natural burial chamber, but in Hebrew, the root word from which “cave” is derived means “to expose or lay bare”. It is a place where She’ol (the “underworld”) is not concealed. Burial in a cave—an open door OUT of the place of the dead—expresses the belief in the resurrection, and indeed Jewish tradition says this cave is the very place the resurrection of the dead will begin. Full price: This way no one would have any excuse to question his right to it or accuse him of cheating anyone.

10. And Efron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Efron the Hittite answered Avraham in the ears of the sons of Cheth, to all those entering the gates of the city, saying, 

Sitting: possibly as a magistrate, for a city’s gate is where all legal and economic transactions took place. The rulers had to judge whom they trusted to enter within its walls, and who was a threat.

11. "No, my master, you listen to me. I have given the field to you, and I have given you the cave that is in it. Before the eyes of the sons of my people, I have given it to you. Bury your dead!" 

Despite such an offer, he expects the buyer to be honorable and offer to pay. The transaction was made before the proper witnesses so that no one could question the integrity of his dealings.

12. And Avraham bowed before the people of the land,

13. but spoke to Efron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "If only you would listen to me! I have paid the silver for the field; take it from me, so that I may bury my dead there." 

For the second time Avraham turned down a valuable gift (as in 14:22-24), because sons of terror may not be permitted to retain a stake in what is important to YHWH’s people. 

14. And Efron answered Avraham by telling him, 

15. "My master, hear me: the land is worth 400 sheqels of silver; what is that between me and you? Now bury your dead!" 

400 sheqels: a laughably high price compared to Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah 32:9, in which a tract of land of much greater value was purchased for 17 sheqels. The average yearly wage for a worker was 6 to 8 sheqels! So this is 50 years’ wages! It is a custom in the Middle East that if someone expresses an interest in the beauty of a particular object, the owner should give it to him. An offer of money would have to be repeated at least three times before it was taken seriously. But when they saw that the place was worth something to Avraham, they priced it accordingly. Israel Koschitzky writes, "The provision of the burial plot …as a gift will actually undermine Avraham's attempt to secure undisputed legal deed to the land … Therefore, Avraham refuses. …By attaching such an outrageous price to it, though, [Efron] is in effect again attempting to dissuade Avraham from trying to attain deed through purchase. But Avraham is undeterred and immediately agrees to the terms of the sale, thus succeeding in establishing an eternal connection with the land that can never be severed." YHWH had promised him the whole Land, but he reached out and claimed it, taking possession of it in an indisputable way. Ironically, this site is one of the most hotly-disputed pieces of property in Israel today. Similarly, King David purchased the Temple Mount for money from a foreigner, yet today its ownership is contested. Dell Griffin writes that this type of place is probably what is referred to by "Elohim’s precious possessions" in Psalm 83:12. The Temple Mount, Hevron, Yosef’s tomb, Beyth Lekhem, and even Yerikho, the first city Y’hoshua conquered, have been given to today’s “sons of terror”. Indeed, the “West Bank” (which includes even the old city of Yerushalayim) is historically more important to Yehudah than other parts of Israel, yet this is forgotten by many because the coast is more important in the modern world. A smart conqueror starts by making people forget the connection to their ancestors (Mal. 4:6) so they can be more easily controlled as docile “citizens” of another nation. 

16. So Avraham listened to Efron, and Avraham weighed out to Efron the silver of which he had spoken in the ears of the sons of Heth: 400 silver sheqels, which passes [as currency] with the merchants.

Listened: rather than dishonoring them by paying only what he assumed it was worth. They really “ripped him off”, but he gave them what they wanted to complete the deal so he could leave. In order to get local supermarkets to carry kosher foods, we often have to show them how it will be profitable for them. When we must deal with outsiders, we should pay them in full so we do not owe them anything more. 400 is also the total numerical value of the letters in Efron’s name, so he could not have asked for more than he was “worth”. But the first word in Scripture with the numerical value of 400 is nashim, which means “wives”. His wife is why he bought it.

17. Thus the field of Efron, which was in Makhpelah facing Mamre—the field and the cave that is in it, and all the trees that are in the field, and all its surrounding territories—was certified [with a deed] 

Mamre: the same place he was living when the three messengers came and told him about Yitzhaq’s impending birth. (18:1) Since Yitzhaq still has not shown up again, even to help bury his mother, this may be Avraham’s way of reminding YHWH of His promise to bring descendants through Yitzhaq. Trees: including the particular one they had been under with the three messengers. He also bought a buffer zone to keep anything else from encroaching on this valuable place.   

18. to Avraham as a purchase before the sons of Heth and all who enter the gates of his city. 

19. Then after this Avraham buried his wife Sarah at the cave of Makhpelah facing Mamre (which is Hevron in the land of Kanaan). 

This would become a family burial ground for three generations. Hevron has the highest elevation of any city in Israel; he chose the highest place he could. The root of the name Hevron means "deep friendship" or "greatest connection". As a picture of the Messiah's reign, King David would be crowned there (in the highest place, symbolic of the heavenly realm) and reign seven years, then the rest of his reign would be from Yerushalayim. (Between them is Beyth Lekhem, the birthplace of them both.)

20. Thus the field was certified (along with the cave that is in it) as the burial possession of Avraham [purchased] from the sons of Heth. 


CHAPTER 24 

1. Now Avraham was old, having entered into the days, and YHWH had blessed Avraham in everything. 

Entered into the days: when one no longer assumes he has long to live. (Qoh./Eccles. 12:1) Moshe prayed, "Teach us to number our days, that we may acquire a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90; cf. Eph. 4:26) The Hebrew day begins in darkness but gets brighter. Even if his physical vision may be waning, due to the depth of understanding YHWH had given him, he can see things more clearly than ever, partly because he learned not to trust what his eyes tell him. His son Yitzhaq seems to be gone, but he believes what YHWH promised. And he sees what he must do to set things in order to put YHWH’s promises on their best footing for the covenant to be upheld for generations:

2. And Avraham said to the senior servant in his household, who managed all that was his, "Please put your hand under my thigh,

3. "and I will make you swear by YHWH, the Elohim of the heavens and the Elohim of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Kanaanite, amidst whom I dwell. 

For an oath, one's hand is commonly placed on a sacred object. Since this oath was related to the continuation of Avraham's line, and circumcision had been the first sign of YHWH's covenant with both Avraham and his descendants, he selected his procreative organ (for which “thigh” is sometimes a euphemism, as in Ex. 1:5), which was separated unto YHWH by this ceremony. His continuance is in his servant’s hand. This servant would lose his inheritance if Yitzhaq married and had a son, yet Avraham shows absolute trust that he will remain loyal. It is even an eastern custom for a master to sit on his servant's hand as a symbol of the latter's fidelity; when equals are party to an oath, they only clasp hands. Kanaanite: the teachers of the ways of the flesh. (See 15:16; note on 9:27; Deut. 20:17). He knows he can never be fully dedicated to these hosts among whom he lives, because of what they represent. He must hold the connection with them in great reserve, so it does not influence his students and children. Sarah understood long before Avraham did that Yishma’el could not qualify as the seed of promise as long as his Hamitic mother retained claim to him. YHWH would later tell Israel to make no covenant at all with the Kanaanites, since they were likely to turn our sons away from YHWH. (Deut. 7:1ff) He set parameters for whom Israelites could marry, and the priests, who were to give final decisive answers to controversies in the Land (Deut. 17:8-9) had the strictest standards. (Lev. 21:7; Y’hezq’el 44:21ff) Marry only someone who already has a heart for the Kingdom and will not deter you from fulfilling YHWH’s calling.

4. "Rather, you shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son—for Yitzhaq. 

You go: Avraham himself could not, for he was a Hebrew, having crossed over once and for all. He had come to a place in YHWH’s promise from which he could not go back. Relatives: or birthplace. While both societies were idolatrous, the Kanaanites also had corrupt morals. He has already mixed his seed with a descendant of Kham once, and that offspring had to be cast out; the seed of promise must not be watered down too. He has learned what the three sons of Noakh represent, and recognizes that only those from Shem, the teacher of righteousness, can uphold the covenant in the purest way. If his line is to do the difficult job of influencing the world without being influenced by it, the right woman can only come from there.  

5. But the servant said to him, "Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land; in that case should I bring your son back into the land from which you came out?" 

He realized that a woman fit for a prince was unlikely to willingly opt for the rugged life of a bedouin, so he made sure he was not making a rash vow. We, too, are being called to a level of holiness that we are not used to. Being stricter, it seems more severe, but is necessary if YHWH’s dwelling place is to be built properly. 

6. But Avraham told him, "Be very careful that you do not take my son back there. 

Yitzhaq had been "elevated" as an "ascending" dedicated to YHWH; for his whole life he never left the Land of Promise, for he could not thus "descend" across the Yarden River.

7. "YHWH, the Elohim of Heaven—who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and swore to me, saying, 'I will give this land to your seed'—shall Himself send His messenger before you, and you shall take a wife from there for my son. 

It was time for another woman to take Sarah’s place in the household, which had been founded on a righteous man and his wife. Why must she come from the place he left? There is something important and even royal about these women in particular. (See 22:20ff) Milkah was given more prominence than even Rivqah’s father because she has a royal name. (Deut. 7:1; Ex. 34:13ff; Y’hoshua 23:12ff; Judges 3:5ff.) He is not told to go all the way back to Ur, but only to Kharan, the colony of others who had left Ur. Yeshua, also offered on Moryah because of the will of YHWH, has been gone for a long time, but is still seeking someone to belong to him, though he himself is nowhere to be found. An ancient servant has gone on his behalf to find among his Father’s people those who love him without ever seeing him. (1 Kefa/Peter 1:8)  

8. "But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you shall be cleared of this oath of mine. Just don't take my son back there!" 

9. So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Avraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. 

By remaining nameless in the text, the servant is a picture of the one who does not glorify self (Yochanan/John 16:13f), but acts on YHWH's behalf and in his authority.  

10. Then the slave took ten of his master's camels, and left, with all of his master's pleasantries in his hand. And he arose and walked to the city of Nakhor in Aram of the Two Rivers. 

His master's pleasantries: samples of his wealth. But some who "taste the power of the age to come" still refuse the offer. (Heb. 6:5) Why is it important that he took ten camels? The Hebrew word for camel is based on the root for “weaned”, "fully dealt with", or "ripened"—those who have put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11ff) and have learned how to teach others. (Heb. 5:12) A minyan (quorum) of ten mature men makes a congregation (see note on 18:32). The congregation that is to retrieve the bride also carries gifts; they rest within us. Walked: an idiom for living out YHWH’s commandments; if we stay on His path, we are sure to encounter the bride He wants us to retrieve. Nakhor means “snoring”. The bride is to be taken from among those who, though capable descendants of Shem, are sleeping. (Compare Mat. 25:5.) The one who has been resurrected must be complemented by one who is both awake and willing to come—a rare find. Our job is not to wake the others up, but to identify those who have already awakened and bring them into a context where they can be fruitful. (Compare Mark 13;36.) Aram of the Two Rivers: the part of Mesopotamia that is in Syria today.

11. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city, by a well of water toward evening, the time when women who draw water go out. 

“Well” is from a word meaning to clarify or make plain. Water is a picture of YHWH’s instruction. The congregation of mature ones does indeed kneel in submission to the water at the place where the Torah is clarified. The servant sought the bride only among those who were worthy. (Mat. 10:11) Drawing water symbolizes learning YHWH's instruction. Paul, when seeking to bring the message of Yeshua to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, sought them in the synagogues, though they were not Jewish, for that is the only place outside of the Land of Israel that the “water” of Torah could be found, and those who were already thirsty for YHWH—whom He had already begun drawing back--would be there seeking Him among His son’s relatives.

12. And he prayed, "YHWH, Elohim of my master Avraham, I beg you, let me have an encounter today, and show kindness to my master Avraham. 

Encounter: an arranged meeting. By asking so specifically, the servant showed that he knew that not just any woman of Avraham's people would do. She had to be the right one. Kindness was Avraham’s chief trait, so he asked YHWH to return the same to him.  

13. "Here I am, standing by the source of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 

14. "Moreover, let the girl to whom I shall say, 'Please let down your pitcher that I may drink' and she says, 'Drink, and I will water your camels also'—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Yitzhaq. And by this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master." 

If she was hospitable like Avraham, she could be a matriarch in Israel. Many are willing to serve Y’shua, but the test for a true bride is whether she will also care for his whole congregation (see v. 10), selflessly, and keep teaching Torah to those who are already part of Israel until all are refreshed.

15. And before he had finished speaking, it came about! Out from the city came Rivqah, who was born to B'thuel the son of Milkah, the wife of Avraham's brother Nakhor, with her pitcher on her shoulder. 

​Rivqah means “captivating”, so she was like-minded with the one sent to “hunt” her out. Pitcher: from a Hebrew word for “to go deep”, thus symbolic of the bride bringing teaching that has depth.

16. And the girl was very fine-looking—a virgin, whom no man had known. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. 

A virgin: She must have worn something that distinguished her as such.

17. Then the slave ran to meet her and said, "Please let me sip a little water from your pitcher." 

18. But she said, "Drink deeply, my master!" And she hurried to let down her pitcher by hand, and gave him a drink.

She did much more than he asked for, and approached him with humility, even though he had humbled himself before her in his neediness. By hand: Torah is meant to be brought forth not just by our words; that it passes through our hands (our deeds) is what makes it truly alive.

19. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, "I will also draw some for your camels until they have drunk their fill." 

An impressive offer, but would she really follow through? This was no token gesture of hospitality; after a long trip, ten camels can easily drink 140 gallons between them. If they are very thirsty, one camel can even drink up to 35 gallons within 6 minutes! One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. So this would be a huge job.

20. And she hurried and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and again ran to the well to draw, and she drew water for all his camels!  

She is obviously a strong woman. She did not just do it, but hurried to do so—proving that though she lived among the “snorers”, she herself was far from asleep! The answer to Proverbs 31’s question of “Who can find a capable woman?” is, “The man who goes to the well!” (R. Webster)

21. Yet the man kept silent, watching her to see whether YHWH had prospered his journey or not. 

Watching her: staring in wonderment. Yet despite all these amazing traits she showed, he still listened for YHWH’s confirmation: was this seed that would spring up quickly but have no root, or was it fruit that would remain? She did not pass the test until the camels were actually watered, and there were still more tests to come before he would be cleared to return.  

22. But when the camels had finished drinking, the man took a golden ring, its weight a beqa, and two bracelets for her arms, weighing ten [sheqels] in gold. 

beqa: half a sheqel, the donation later required of each member of the congregation as the price of a person killed in war, to atone for unavoidable blood-guilt. Per Levite Reuven Prager, as half it represents the fact that we are not complete without the rest of Israel. Ten makes a complete congregation, so she bore the weight of the whole congregation of Israel. These items may have been payment for the job she had already done, but a nose ring and bracelets were also placed on slaves captured in battle. A nose ring is used to lead an animal around and make it conform to its master’s will. So they symbolize service, though they meant freedom from the house that held her. YHWH’s treasures are for those who serve the congregation. 

23. And he said, "Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to stay in your father's house?" 

Despite her obvious high morals, humility, and a servant’s heart, he is testing her to see if she has the hospitality that would prove she is Avraham’s kin as well as showing that she is fit for his camp.  

24. And she told him, "I am the daughter of B'thuel, the son of Milkah, whom she bore to Nakhor." 

B’thuel’s is the first tree out of which branches to be grafted into Avraham were taken. Milkah means "Queen”. Sarah (a princess) came from the same family, but it is interesting that none of the men have names relating to royalty.  

25. And she said to him, "We have plenty of both straw and provender, and also a room to stay in." 

Someone living at a crossroads where trade routes met would have many occasions to be hospitable, but not everyone saw the possibilities; her family did and were prepared. Rivqah went above and beyond what he had asked; that is how he knew she was really from Avraham’s family.  

26. Then the man bowed and was worshipping YHWH, 

27. saying, "Blessed be YHWH, the Elohim of my master Avraham, who has not abandoned His faithfulness and His truthfulness with my master. And [as for] me, while I am on my journey, YHWH has guided me to the very house of my master's brother!" 

YHWH did not let go of His end of the rope, so the servant was bound to his end of the agreement. The servant must certainly have heard many stories about Nakhor from Avraham, but he was still “floored” by how quickly YHWH brought about this encounter, and now he knew not just from their names but from their hospitality that they were truly kin to Avraham.

28. So the girl ran and told these things to her mother's household. 

Why her mother's, when her father was still living as well (v. 50)? Probably because her father’s name means "one whom El has destroyed"; Avraham's relatives were idolaters. Milkah—“the queen”—sounds more noble than Nakhor—“the one who snores”. There may have also been a strong matriarchal leaning in this region. Her mother seems to represent the purer side of the Bride's mixed heritage.

29. Now Rivqah also had a brother, whose name was Lavan, and Lavan ran out to the man at the well. 

The servant remained by the water-source (i.e., the Torah) until summoned into the house. He was calling a bride out of that house, not settling into it, and would only enter it when it was time to do his job.

30. That is, when he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister's arms, and when he heard the words of his sister Rivqah—"This is what the man said to me..."—he came to where the man was and saw him attending to his camels at the spring. 

He perked up when the objects of gold caught his eye, and was eager to have the camels' cargo. 

31. So he said, "Come in, O you who are blessed by YHWH! Why are you standing outside? I have gotten the house ready, and I also have a place for the camels." 

He claims credit for what Rivqah actually offered. Lavan means "white"; we get the word "albino" from this root. White is a symbol of righteousness; we would thus expect him to be that way. But this greed would turn out to be a characteristic of Lavan throughout his whole life (ch. 28-31). Rivqah had already told the story (v. 28), so he knew YHWH was who the “bride-hunter” served, and so, like any pragmatist, used His name to get on his “better side”, though he himself still worshipped idols many years later. (31:30)  

32. So the man came into the house, and unloaded the camels, gave them straw and fodder, and washed his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 

The men: This is the first they are mentioned. Ten camels would have needed more than one attendant, but YHWH had told Avraham He would send His messenger on ahead. The last time YHWH had sent him a messenger, he had been accompanied by two others.

33. And food was set before him to eat, but he said, "I will not eat until I have said what I need to say." So Lavan said, "Say it, then!" 

He would not partake of anything else this household offered until he knew whether they would accept his mission to claim one of theirs for Avraham’s house. (Compare Mat. 10:13.) 

34. So he said, "I am the slave of Avraham. 

Avraham was already known in their household. One way to recognize those we are called to retrieve is that they are glad to hear of the welfare of those who are known to be Avraham's children:

35. "And YHWH has greatly blessed my master, and he is wealthy. And he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys. 

36. "And my master's wife bore him a son when she was old, and he has given him all that he owns. 

The firstborn son is the one set in charge of the household.

37. "And my master made me swear, saying, 'You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Kanaanites, in whose land I live, 

38. "'but you shall go to the house of my father and to my family, to take a wife for my son.'" 

39. "And I said to my master, 'What if the woman will not follow me back here?' 

40. "And he told me, 'YHWH, before Whom I walk, will send His messenger with you, and prosper your journey. And you shall take a wife for my son from my family, from my father's household. 

41. 'Then you will be released from my oath, if, after you have come to my family, they do not give you one. In that case, you will be released from my oath.' 

If we are faithful to bring the wake-up call to the snorer’s household, it is not our fault if the bride remains asleep. But though she herself passed all the tests, she was still under another authority, who had to agree to it.  

42. "And today I came to the well, and I said, 'YHWH, Elohim of my master Avraham, if it is Your desire to make the journey I am taking successful, 

43. "'look, I am standing here at the spring of water, so when the girl comes out to draw water, and I say to her, "Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher", 

44. "'and she says to me, "Both you drink, and I will draw water for your camels"—may she be the woman whom YHWH has appointed for my master's son.' 

45. "Well, before I had even finished speaking within my heart, lo and behold, there came Rivqah, her pitcher on her shoulder, and she went down to the water and drew some. So I said to her, 'Please let me have a sip.' 

Within my heart: he added this detail to show that the girl did not just overhear him asking for such specifics.

46. “But she rushed to lower her jar from her shoulder, and said, 'Drink up, and I'll give your camels water, too!' And I drank deeply, and she watered the camels, too! 

47. "So I questioned her: I said, 'Whose daughter are you?' And she said, 'Of B'thuel, the son of Nakhor, whom Milkah bore to him.' So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 

He changed the order of these events in his recounting, possibly to emphasize to them the fact that they were related to the bridegroom already, which might be more important to them.

48. "So I bow down and worship YHWH, and bless YHWH, the Elohim of my master Avraham, who has guided me in the true path, to procure for his son the daughter of my master's brother!

49. "So now, if you are going to deal kindly and truthfully with my master, tell me, but if not, tell me now, so I may turn to the right hand or the left." 

Truthfully: Lavan indeed had to be asked this directly. Right hand or left: start looking for an alternative, wherever it may be found. If they refused, YHWH could raise up sons of Avraham from among the stones. He would not settle for a bride who would not make herself ready. 

50. Then Lavan and B'thuel both answered and said, "The thing has come from YHWH; we are not able to tell you [if it is] painful or pleasing. 

I.e., it is clearly not for us to decide; YHWH has made it obvious already.  

51. "See, Rivqah is here before you; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as YHWH has said." 

52. And when Avraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself on the earth to YHWH. 

53. So the servant brought out articles of silver, vessels of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rivqah. He also gave costly things to her brother and her mother. 

There were no gifts for her father (cf. vv. 24, 28). But he has no real place in this story. Lavan has spoken for him all along, possibly having taken up his role as the firstborn already to relieve his aging father of some responsibilities. But only the bride received the garments. (See Rev. 3:5; 19:8) The family was not even invited to come back to the wedding with her. They have a calling, but are not the chosen. Their job is to preserve the pure seed of Shem; they have even become somewhat inbred for this purpose. They will again have a role to play when Rivqah’s son has a need, but they are not worthy to live in the Land; the “snorers” would be a negative influence there on those who have paid a higher price. As our King has said, blood relations must sometimes be given lower priority if we are to follow him fully.  

54. Then they ate and drank together, he and the men who were with him, and they stayed the night. When they got up in the morning, he said, "Send me away to my master!" 

55. But her brother and mother said, "Let the girl stay with us some days, maybe ten, and after that she may go." 

56. But he said, "Do not delay me, for YHWH has prospered my journey; send me off, that I may go back to my master. 

He did not come here for the purpose of socializing. He was “on a roll” and did not want to rest on his laurels and assume this would continue. Rivqah was a hard worker; they did not wish to lose her so quickly. But they—and he--may have thought that given some time to think about all the implications, she might get “cold feet”.  

57. Then they said, "We will call the girl and ask the answer from her mouth." 

I.e., we will see if that is what she wants. They expect her to cry and want to stay longer, though they had already given the servant leave to go. They want to play on a woman’s emotions, thinking they might drain the servant of even more of a bride price. Such manipulation is really a form of witchcraft.

58. So they called Rivqah and said to her, "Are you going to go with this man?" And she said, "I will go." 

Though it was an arranged marriage--arranged by YHWH!--they still gave her a choice in the matter. And she had to make the hard choice, because a family will usually want to remain together. But she decided to leave much behind in order to be who she was meant to be.

59. So they gave Rivqah their sister a sendoff, with her nurse, and Avraham's servant and his men. 

Someone from her home accompanied the bride to her husband's home.

60. And they blessed Rivqah, saying to her, "Our sister, may you become myriads of thousands, and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them!" 

I.e., may you multiply greatly and dominate your enemies! This is a very ancient blessing. Israelite girls are still blessed by their parents each Sabbath with the words, "May you be like... Rivqah...!" (among the other matriarchs).  

61. So Rivqah and her attendants got up, mounted the camels, and followed the man. And the servant took Rivqah and went. 

62. Now Yitzhaq had come from having gone to the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. (He too had still been dwelling in the land of the Negev.) 

The well: see note on 22:19. This is the same well that had saved Yishmael's life (16:14). Land: or earth. In Yesh./Isa. 18:3, “those dwelling in the earth” refers to those who are being resurrected. Negev: the "parched" land of the south, i.e., near Be'er-Sheva, where Avraham had also been living. But with true orientation toward the east, the south is on the right-hand side. “Dwelling” can also mean “sitting” in Hebrew, so Yitzhaq, who has not been seen by the world for many years, has been “sitting on the right hand”. It took great faith for the servant to find a bride for one who had not been seen for so long, and for the bride to follow him back to marry such a man. All of these things also add up to an allegory for those of us who believe in Messiah, our Bridegroom, though we have not yet seen him. (1 Kefa 1:8)

63. And Yitzhaq had gone out into the fields to meditate as evening was nearing. And he lifted his eyes and looked, and—lo and behold—some camels were coming! 

To meditate: muse, examine himself, think things over (ruminate), and listen in prayer. Yeshua says the fields symbolize the world; when he returns there after an absence to meet his bride, it will be the time for harvest. Evening was nearing: a new day was about to begin. Camels: related to the word for “mature” in Hebrew. His father had sent for the bride when he knew the time was right. (cf. Mk. 13:32) But the presence of a mature congregation is the sign that she is drawing near.

64. And Rivqah raised her eyes and saw Yitzhaq, and she fell from the camel.

Was she shocked at his appearance? She was coming from the place of sleep, but looking beyond herself; during the season to wake up (Yom T’ruah), it is said that the King is in the field, looking to meet His people there—as Yitzhaq was.

65. And she asked the slave, "Who is this man who is walking in the field to meet us?" And the servant said, "It is my master!" So she took a veil and covered herself. 

Veiling was a sign of betrothal. Normally she should have been veiled since she agreed to come. But now she actually sees the man under whose authority she has come. The veil symbolizes her being presented as a virgin (2 Cor. 11:2), because one word often translated “virgin” (almah) actually means “veiled one”. There is still a treasure hidden behind it. Prior to this the servant had called only Avraham his master. Now Rivqah dwells in the tent of his master’s wife, so her husband is also his master. 

66. And the slave told Yitzhaq all the things that he had done. 

Yitzhaq is near Hevron, where his mother had died. Avraham was apparently living in Be’er-Sheva’ again. So Yitzhaq is back, but Avraham has not seen him yet.  

67. And Yitzhaq brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rivqah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Yitzhaq was comforted after his mother died. 

It is like having his mother back. Rivqah now “becomes” Sarah as the keeper of the covenant seed. The Torah no longer rules over them, yet she is there in total freedom. It is the difference between "I've got to do this" and "I get to do this!"  


CHAPTER 25 

1. Then Avraham took another wife, and her name was Qeturah. 

Qeturah means "burning as incense" or “perfume”. This marriage symbolizes the prophet being intimate with prayer, which incense often symbolizes. But there is no indication where Qeturah was from, so there is no sense of holiness to her sons as there was with Yitzhaq. In contrast to Sarah’s apparent royalty, incense, if burned, is not something one can keep to himself, but rather is experienced by all of those around and sometimes for a great distance around. Qeturah’s children are not meant to stay in one place like Yitzhaq, but spread abroad.

2. And she bore to him 
  Zimran ["musician"], 
  Yauqshan ["one who lures into a snare"], 
  M'dan ["contention"], 
  Midyan ["strife"], 
  Yishbaq ["he releases"], and 
  Shuakh ["weighed down with wealth"]. 

Midyan, who settled just east of the Reed Sea, would be the ancestor of Moshe's wife, the daughter of a Midyanite priest. That people may have retained some knowledge of YHWH as taught by Avraham. But later they became predators on Israel, and Gid'on had to defeat them. Later still, the city of Medina, so pivotal in the beginnings of Islam, continued to reflect the name of this ancestor.

3. Then Yauqshan fathered Sheva and Dedan, and Dedan's sons were 
  Ash-shurim ["guided, blessed"], 
  Letushim ["hammered sharp, whetted"], and 
  Le'ummim ["for peoples" or "nationalist"]. 

Only her second and fourth son are listed as having descendants. Sheva means "Seven" or "an oath" (as in Be'er-Sheva); he may be the ancestor of the queen who came to visit King Shlomo, having heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 10) Sheva and Dedan appear to have settled in southern Arabia.  

4. And Midyan's sons were 
  Eyfah ["gloomy"], 
  Efer ["a calf"], 
  Hanokh ["dedicated"], 
  Avida ["my father knows"], and 
  Eldaah ["Elohim has known"]. 

All of these were the descendants of Qeturah. 

5. But Avraham gave all that he had to Yitzhaq, 

Avraham had many descendants, but only one heir to the covenant. Yitzhaq was the seed of promise, who inherited everything when Avraham died. The others helped fulfill the promises that he would be a father of multitudes. But the only ones who came through Yitzhaq can lay claim to the Land of Israel (28:4; 35:12).  

6. though to the sons of his concubines, Avraham gave gifts, and sent them away eastward, away from his son Yitzhaq, to a land of the Orient while he was still living. 

Concubines: secondary legal wives who did not receive an actual inheritance. The word is related to “division” or “streams”, indicating several streams of descendants, but division of interest for the man who has them, since he can no longer concentrate all his energies on one family. So he sent them away so there would be no strife of the type that his servants had with Lot's, or the trouble he had from Yishmael. In Hebrew, "east", "ancient", and "antiquity" are the same word, so since he had come from the east and was not going back there, he was “putting them behind him” so he could focus on Yitzhaq. He was also making sure no one else would try to lay claim to the Land. Sarah had taught him to send away what could corrupt the covenant. But “east” also means “forward” in Hebrew, so in a way he sent them on ahead to be there when helpe might be needed. But since all his inheritance was given to Yitzhaq (v. 5), what would he have left to give these other children? How could he give all to one son, yet some to all? There are some kinds of gifts that can be given more than once, or which one can give and still have to give again: a sense of what is right or wrong, some of his insights and abilities, knowledge and wisdom, and some of his longing for closeness to the Creator. The Rabbis say he taught them mystical arts and the understanding of the stars. Some of them may have been founders of eastern religions, which have bits of truth in them, but not the completeness and balance found in the Torah. Rabbi Lebel Wolf has found much evidence for connections between the Hebrew language and concepts known among the peoples of India and China, largely through Hinduism and Buddhism. In the local language, the Indus River means “the one from the other side”—the same meaning as “Hebrew”. The name Brahman requires only a minor rearrangement of the name Avraham, suggesting some ancestor worship. In Aramaic, the name Ash-shurim is interpreted as “a camp”, and in India an ashram is a spiritually-oriented commune.  Ram means “high and lifted up” in Hebrew, and a major deity of the Hindus bears this name. The term Veda is related to the Hebrew term da’at (knowledge). A Hindu term for ritual impurity is tamas—very similar to the Hebrew tamei. Avraham was a hospitable man and would not send them out empty-handed. But to Yitzhaq he gave the things that mattered most—his friendship with YHWH, his position as His particular servant, and his right to spiritual priesthood. If the others wanted these blessings, they would need to come under the authority of Yitzhaq. There are many who pray and who mercifully receive gifts in YHWH’s grand scheme, but the right of mediator he has given only to Israel. Their gifts are valid and profitable to some extent, but they lack a covenant that teaches them to focus not only on one’s own soul, but also of all the others who are in the covenant. Our work to perfect ourselves individually must be for the purpose of the whole community.


7. Now these were the days of the years of Avraham's life: he lived 175 years. 

[c. Year 2125 from creation; 1875 B.C.E]

8. Then Avraham expired and died at an appropriate old age—an old man and contented—and was gathered to his people. 

Expired: i.e., breathed out. He released his spirit. There was no longer enough space for it in his body. Contented: He was satisfied that his life had been complete. What more could one wish for? Old age: or "gray head". Gathered to his people: not his “fathers”, as is so often said later, because his ancestors did not advance as far as he; he was now the father. At this point he was gathered to his wife, and (per tradition) Adam and Noakh.  

9. And his sons Yitzhaq and Yishmael buried him at the cave of Makhpelah in the field of Efron Ben-Tzochar the Chittite, which is before Mamre— 

This is the first time Yishma’el shows up again, but this shows that he was not among those sent away to the east. Here we see the ancestor of the Arabs and the ancestor of Israel cooperating with one another. This is possible only when they are put in the order this verse puts them in. The tomb of Avraham is one of the few places the Arabs let Jews come freely today. Yet if they relinquished their control over it and let Israel invite them back as the guests (the order we see here), we could see peace on a much wider scale between these estranged brothers.  

10. the field which Avraham had bought from the sons of Heth; Avraham was buried there with his wife Sarah. 

11. And it came about that after the death of Avraham, YHWH blessed his son Yitzhaq, and Yitzhaq remained by the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. 

Remained: the tense suggests that he "continued to dwell" there. Yitzhaq never left the land of his inheritance as both his father and son did. There is deeper spiritual meaning here than simply identifying the location where he settled. He stayed by the source of water. (See Psalm 1) But this well in particular is (as far as the direct text is concerned) where he had been from the time he was offered up  until his marriage. As we have seen above, “well” means a place of clarification. This is the place where everything makes sense—the place his father’s other children are seeking but cannot find unless they approach it through him.


12. Now these are the genealogies of Yishmael, the son of Avraham, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maidservant, had borne to Avraham, 

This record was probably written by Yishmael and added to the archive that the patriarchs had apparently preserved, handed down from Adam through Noach.

13. and these are the names of the sons of Yishmael—by their names, according to their genealogies: 

Yishmael's firstborn was Nevayoth [flourishing or fruitful heights, father of the Nabateans], 
  then Qedar ["dark"—and his descendants continued to use black tents], 
  then Adbeel ["chastened by Elohim"], 
  then Mivsam ["sweet, balsamy fragrance"], 

14. then Mishma’ ["a rumor that is heard"], 
  then Dumah ["silence"], 
  then Massa ["burden", "load borne", or "that to which the soul lifts itself up"]; 

15. Chadad [or Chadar, "honor"]
  and Theyma ["desert"], 
  and Yetur ["enclosed or a row of jewels"], 
  and Nafiysh ["refreshment"], 
  and Qedmah ["original, or coming in front"]. 

16. These were the sons of Yishmael, and these are the names in their settlements and camps: 12 chiefs according to their peoples.

The word for "peoples" means "those springing from a common mother". (Compare note on 24:24.) Their mother was Egyptian, not a Shemite. Like Nakhor, Edom, and Israel, the Yishma’elites also have twelve tribes. Several of these peoples will show up again later, and this gives us a point of reference to where they fit into the picture.

17. And these are the years of the life of Yishmael: 137 years, then he expired and died, and was gathered to his people, 

And the general trend is that lifetimes continue to get shorter.

18. who lived from Havilah to Shur, which faces Egypt as you come toward Assyria. He settled in the presence of all his brothers. 

Settled: if taken this way, it partially fulfilled the prophecy of 16:12, and the Midrash does relate the two passages. But the word basically means "fell", and could also mean "lie prostrate" or "die violently". Targum Pseudo-Jonathan renders it, “dwelt opposite (or in opposition to?) all his brothers”.

Portion Khayey Sarah 
("Life of Sarah")
Genesis 23:1-25:18
INTRODUCTION:  Women take the forefront in this passage, from the name at the start to the “peoples”—descendants of the same mother—at the end. Here we see Sarah given her due mourning and the importance of finding the right matriarch to carry on the all-important line of Avraham’s firstborn, for the women, as King Akh’av knew well, can make or break the household. Women are given a prominence in Israel that few other ancient cultures knew, yet without getting out of balance like the modern feminist movement, which strives for a blind equality, just keeping score, rather than freedom to fulfill what one does best in a context where it is protected and honored. As with its position geographically in the world, Israel finds the equilibrium of the path down the center, without either extreme. 

In the process we see an excellent example of prayer for guidance and exercise of wisdom in a choice that will have ramifications for millennia. We see several models for negotiating with people who do not share the same goals, in order to provide an advantageous and safe environment for what really counts most to thrive and flourish. Here we also see the life of Avraham come to an end, but already with the promise of great fruitfulness fulfilled and his influence spreading far and wide, even as the line which focused on his primary task of being a light to the nations takes its place for its next chapter. It starts out much smaller in scale than the other prolific lines, but goes deep—in more ways than one, both putting down roots and carrying Avraham’s tradition of digging wells (“places of clarity” in Hebrew) to “new depths”.   
“The Servant’s Secrets of Success”

Sometimes we are called on to take on a bigger task than we commonly have to face, and at such times we feel a great need for guidance and direction. And at such times we are grateful that we are not left to only our own resources, but that we have access to the One who is called a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Avraham’s servant was given such a task in chapter 24 of Genesis. He knew his own limits, and he asked for help from the One who could engineer circumstances without his having to manipulate them—which in itself would render any outcome questionable anyway. So much was depending on this turning out right, so he did not “lean on his own understanding”, but “acknowledged YHWH in all of his ways”.

But Avraham clearly already did trust the judgment of his senior servant—probably the one he considered the wisest, or he would not have sent him. So what can we see in his methodology that can also help us make the right choices?

He took the initiative. Beyond just going to the general region to which Avraham had sent him, he started “fishing” where he thought he would be most likely to find the most “fish”. (v. 13) But, lest he be unduly influenced by the appearance of any of the women who might come, he formed a particular picture in his mind of the type of woman he was looking for. He knew she would have to be someone hospitable to fit well in Avraham’s household. So he not only went to a crossroads where people would be used to hospitality; he went to the place where all the young ladies would congregate, so he would not have to go looking from house to house.

He was assertive—running over to where Rivqah was—but not pushy. He let her finish her own work first, so she would not be preoccupied with doing what she was expected to do, but then did not hesitate to move as soon as it was appropriate. (vv. 16-17)

Nor did he hesitate to be very specific in what he asked of YHWH. Like Gid’on with his fleece, he dared to ask something pretty unlikely, so that he could be sure this was really from YHWH. And when, to his relief, YHWH vindicated his boldness and fulfilled even the hardest test, he immediate gave Him the credit He was due.

But even when speechless with amazement, he still did not jump to conclusions. He waited to see if his first impression was really going to prove to be right. (vv. 18-21) And since he had asked Rivqah for such a huge task—each of the ten camels could drink 14 to 35 gallons!—he paid her up front before getting down to his real business. Even if she did not choose to go marry Yitzhaq, she deserved the reward she was given for her hard work. But the fact that he treated her so fairly might also predispose her to trust him and also to be generous again at the next level.  

Then, to further “inquire who was worthy”, he tested his hypothesis even further (v. 23). He wanted to be sure she was from a prepared people, because this is what Avraham’s household needed-- especially to be the wife of one who would take over as the patriarch of the clan. 

Because he used his knowledge and influence in an honorable way so that not only he but she, too, would make the right choice, YHWH again surprised him by giving him even more than he had asked for. And He does not change.

Study questions:

1. What interpersonal and intercultural skills did Avraham utilize in negotiating for Sarah’s burial place? (Gen. 23:3-20)

2. Why was it important that Avraham buy the land rather than receiving it as a gift? (23:13) What potential problems could this solve later?

3. Why was it important that Yitzhaq not marry a Kanaanite? (24:3)

4. Why was it important that Yitzhaq not go back to where Avraham came from? (24:5-8)

5. What strategies did the servant use to find a wife for Yitzhaq? (24:10-25) Why traits did she have that made her suitable for Avraham’s household? 

6. Why was he afraid to delay leaving? (24:56)

7. How can you reconcile verses 5 and 6 of chapter 25?

Site of the city of Kharan
Companion Passage:
1 Kings 1:1-31
The Sidewalk
for kids

Avraham had given his servant a difficult job to do: find a woman who was willing to travel a long distance to marry a man she had never seen. How would he know how to find such a woman among all those he might see in the place Avraham sent him? It was a crossroads, where there would be lots of people—a needle in a haystack, if such a woman even existed! “Who can find a capable woman?” says Proverbs 31. I’m sure that is exactly what he was thinking.

Well, he worked with the little information he already had. He picked a place where he knew lots of women—and pretty much only women—would come: the well, where they had to get water, because that was the job of women, in that culture, at least. Avraham and those who were with him were nomads. They depended on wells to water their flocks. Yitzhaq’s wife would have to be somebody who knew how to get water from a well. So this would also be an ideal place to find someone who was used to getting water this way.  

And a nomad’s life is not easy, so he knew this woman would have to be tough. And he had ten camels—the perfect test of toughness, because do you know how much water ten camels who have just traveled about 200 miles can drink? Just one of them could drink up to 35 gallons. It’s not always that much, so let’s go with even a low estimate: 20 gallons. That’s still 200 gallons for ten of them. If she had a two-gallon bucket, it would weigh 16 pounds, and she would have to not just get it in the right position in the water but then pull it up a long way—100 times, and maybe a lot more!

But people were tougher in those days; there still might be a lot of women there who could pass the fitness test. But the servant knew Avraham was known for his hospitality, so he knew that the wife of the next generation’s leader would have to be the same way. So this woman would have to be one who not just worked hard when she had to, but took the initiative—was eager to get the job done. But how could he tell?

There was another question in his mind: how would he know for sure that this was not just a capable woman, but the right one—the one YHWH knew would be a good influence on all those people Avraham’s family was teaching? He would need something unmistakable, though couldn’t be explained as just a coincidence. So he asked YHWH in a way to prove it was really Him making the choice. Again, how would you tell?  

Now, we’re not supposed to put YHWH to the test—like when haSatan told Yeshua to do something stupid and then trust YHWH to get him out of it by a miracle. But he really needed to know YHWH was the one leading him to the right person, and not just his own eyes—because, after all, the woman who caught his eye was dazzlingly beautiful. A lot of people have made big mistakes when they saw someone like that.

So he asked YHWH to show him by having the woman say and do something that was not likely to occur by accident—like Gid’on with his fleece. All he would do was ask her for a sip of water, but if she then offered to give water to all his camels—all ten of them—he would know this was the woman YHWH had hand-picked for this very special place in His plan. Then he asked if her family had a place for them to stay—another test of whether she was used to hospitality.

Yeshua gave his students the same kind of job: go out among not just one, but all the nations, and find the lost sheep of the House of Israel. How would they know how to find these people that had been mixed in with all the others they lived among? The first place they would always go was to the synagogues—often the only places people who were already “thirsty” could go to find “water”, because YHWH’s words are often compared to the water that we need even more than bread. If they were already looking for water, they would then offer them bread too. They wouldn’t throw their valuable pearls to people who would not only not appreciate them, but even trample them under their feet.

Finding those people is still our job today—and even more intensely than it had been for centuries, as the job is almost ready to be wrapped up, but still the world’s population has more than doubled in just the last fifty years, meaning there are more than ever to find. So in a way the job is harder than ever. But YHWH has also given us more tools in these days by which to not only find them but communicate with them—computers and faster transportation and better roads. Also, there’s the backdrop of a world that is getting more evil, with injustice and hate and what looks like love but proves to be fake. So people are more thirsty for something real and true and reliable.  

We have a bridegroom to offer them that is all that. But he told us to search out the one who is worthy to have us stay in their house—because we have to bring them into His house, which is too special to be ruined by someone who is lazy, reckless, or a bad influence. It’s a big job, but He can still help us—if we ask!

The Renewal of 
Chayei Sarah

B’reshith/Genesis 23 is about Sarah’s death, but first it speaks of her life—emphasizing how long it was, not how short. But when it ended, Avraham went to great lengths to find a suitable place to lay her to rest. 

Why do his Jewish descendants still take such care of their loved ones’ dead bodies and not cremate them? Because they believe they will be used again. Daniel (12:2) and Yeshayahu/Isaiah (26:19) spoke of the dead being physically raised, and by Yeshua’s time the belief was strong among most Jews, though small but significant minorities like the Boethusian Tzadduqim (Sadducees) doubted it because it is not overtly mentioned in the Torah. Some (such as Rabbi Shim’on ben Yokhai), however, see a hint at it, ironically, in the curse: “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return” since it does not say “to dust you will go” but “you shall return”. (Gen. 3:19) Interestingly, the verse right after that (just like here) speaks not of death, but of life—that Chawwah was named because she was the mother of all “chai”—living.

Interestingly, some hold the belief that since Makhpelah, the name of the cave, means “double”, there were two chambers, one built by Avraham and one that was already there, housing Adam, Chawwah, and Noakh and his wife—possibly the reason for the place being called the Town of the Four (Kiryath-Arba) and why Avraham paid such an unreasonable price for the site.  
But the part Avraham hewed into the cave was a new, first-time-used family tomb. Where else do we hear of something like this?

Varying traditions hold that Yosef of Ramathayim, the owner of the tomb near Gulgol’thah, was either the brother, uncle, or father of Yeshua’s mother, which would mean Yeshua was the first one placed in his family’s tomb—and the first one to come out of it—“firstborn from among the dead”. But even if new, it was very near the tombs of the kings of Yehudah, Yeshua’s ancestors.

Hebrew tradition holds that the general resurrection of the just at the beginning of the Age to Come will begin right here at the Cave of Makhpelah. Kafal, the root word from which Makhpelah is derived, means “folding over”, and when Yeshua came out of the plaster cast that encased his body without breaking it open, he folded the cloth that had been over his face—possibly to point back to Makhpelah for those who caught the hint in Hebrew, assuring them that his Day-of-Firstfruits resurrection was indeed only the first of many more comings back to life.

Maybe that is why the title of this portion actually means “the lives of Sarah”, in the plural, not singular. This Torah portion also includes Avraham’s death “at a ripe old age” (25:8), but they are only physically dead; they live on. Avraham was then “gathered to his people”—both physically in the cave, reunited with Sarah (and maybe the four who were there before him), and spiritually, for now he was more alive than ever and in the company of other perfected souls where they could enjoy being together without any of the “down-sides” of family life that we know on earth.

In fact, Yeshua used Avraham as the prime example when he chided the Boethusians about doubting there was an afterlife (Mat. 22:31-32) because he pointed out that YHWH said He was the Elohim of Avraham and the other patriarchs, and He is not the Elohim of the dead, but the living.
And chapter 24 brings the narrative back indeed to the land of the living—to the task of finding a wife for Yitz’haq so the miraculous seed with so many promises attached to it could be preserved into another generations.

Chuck Missler saw, in this story of an unnamed servant sent by a father to find and retrieve a virgin bride for his son, an allegory of a later stage of the drama in which we ourselves are actors.  

Yeshua even said of the Spirit of Holiness (which has no name, only a character description), “It* will not speak of itself…it shall honor me.” (Yochanan 16:12-14) That word for “honor” means to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged—exactly what this servant of Avraham’s (who also called Yitzhaq his master often here) is doing…drawing no attention to himself but only to the younger of his two masters. (Yeshua is called “master”, though YHWH is still head of the whole household, just as the servant sent by Avraham called Yitzhaq his master while Avraham was still alive and still his superior master, giving us a clue as to how it is the case that if we call the one YHWH has anointed our “master”, it is credited to the glory of YHWH the Father”, according to Philippians 2:11.)

This servant goes to get his master a wife from among his relatives in a distant place, but is strictly instructed not to bring his son back there. The bride of the one raised from the dead does have relatives scattered among the Gentiles. His 10 camels (symbolically a complete group of mature ones) knelt at the place to which the women came out to draw water. Yeshua is said to set his bride apart through water which represents YHWH’s word. (Ephesians 5:26) The one who wrote this, Paul, himself went out as a servant among the Gentiles, and he looked for them where “water” was drawn-- at synagogues where YHWH’s word was taught (and which often were situated on rivers so worshippers could immerse there).

How did the servant find the right one? Through prayer, and indeed, we see Paul being diverted by the Holy Spirit from where he thought he might find the lost house of Israel to where he actually would find them. (Acts 16:7-10)  

The servant devised a test for how he would know which was Avraham’s relative: it would have to be somebody was hospitable as Avraham was. Yeshua has a similar test to prove we are part of his family—our love for one another (Yoch. 13:35) and “As you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Mat. 25:40)

Yitz’haq brought his bride into his mother’s tent. The Renewed Covenant calls Yerushalayim “the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26), a title by which Yerushalayim had long been  called. (Hoshea 2:2-5) “…and was comforted after [the death of] his mother.” YHWH had to destroy Yerushalayim because her cup of iniquities became too full (Hos. 4:5) But her tent will be brought back into use, and thus the mother will be revived and her king will be comforted. In Psalm 78:60 and other places, the Tabernacle (Mishkan) is described as a tent, because it was one, but the two are used as synonyms in parallel poetry like this. Yeshayahu/Isaiah (54:2) says to enlarge the tent and spread it out, because it is going to be used again by many children. In 49:21, Yeshayahu depicts the city as being flooded by “children” she never realized were still alive, saying, “Where did these come from? I was bereaved of them!” They have come back, no longer recognizeable because they became Gentiles, but those who responded to the message that the bridegroom was still waiting--“called-out ones”--did not remain Gentiles (Eph. 2:11) but were now again made part of the covenant. After also appearing to be without posterity, the Messiah ends up being comforted. (Yeshayahu 53:10-12) Let us make sure we are part of making that occur!

*”He” in Greek, but “spirit” in Hebrew is a feminine term, and is depicted in a motherly role in relation to the Father and Son in Hebrew lore. Interestingly, the term is Ruakh haQodesh, and the Qodesh (of which it is the spirit) is the outer sanctuary in Yerushalayim, which we saw above identified as a “mother”.

When to be Confident

After Avraham’s servant very specifically asked YHWH to give him a hard-to-expect confirmation of His choice of wife for one as important to His plan as Yitz'haq, and it came about exactly as he asked, still “the man kept watching her closely, holding his peace, to know whether YHWH had made his journey prosperous or not.” (Genesis 24:21) It’s easy to get excited at the first prospect of our dreams and visions being fulfilled, but he knew there were still things that could go wrong, so he kept his excitement in check and kept asking the harder questions: First of all, just who was she? She had shown that she was strong and very kind, but was she hospitable? Nothing less would do for the successor to Avraham, whose hospitality was over the top. Once he got those questions answered, only then did he thank YHWH and start to be confident. But even then, he could not relax. He still did not want to even share a meal—so bond-forming in that culture—with this family until he knew they would accept his proxy proposal, and after that, he was still in a hurry to get underway before anyone had time to re-neg. He was not “counting his chickens”, though he already seemed to have a “bird in hand”.

Like his master, he had a lot of faith, which may have been one reason he was chosen to represent him. But no matter how much risk we are willing to take, faith must be based on something reliable or the limb we go out on will still break. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and stay there a year, and buy and sell, and make a profit’ when you don’t know what the next day holds. For what is your life? It is but a vapor, that appears for a short time, and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If YHWH wishes, we will live, and do this, or that.’ As it is, you brag with your empty confidence.” (Yaaqov/James 4:13-16)  Our trust must not be in vague hopes, but in what we are sure He wants to do. This may give new meaning to the command in Psalm 2: “Rejoice—with trembling.” Hold His blessings with an open hand, valuing the Blesser more than the blessings. Then we will able to be just as confident in His goodness if He asks us to let them go as we saw Him do in chapter 22.