Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1-31
New Testament: Matthew 1:1-17, I Corinthians 15:50-57
Chaiyeh Sarah, ‘the life of Sarah’ includes the following stories:
- Death of Sarah
- Rebekah chosen for Isaac
- Laban and Bethuel
- Isaac meets Rebekah
- Abraham’s Sons
- Death of Abraham
- Descendants of Ishmael
- Death of Ishmael
Death of Sarah
The portion begins saying Sarah was 127 years old, “These were the years of the life of Sarah”, and Sarah died.
Abraham mourns for Sarah, and purchases a parcel of land – the field in Machpelah near Mamre in Canaan – for her burial place, and there’s a funny little bit of bartering, and so Sarah is buried in the cave there.
Rebekah Chosen for Isaac
Abraham sends his servant back to his family in the old country to pick a wife for Isaac. When he goes to feed his camels outside the city he prays that God will arrange for the wife He has picked out for Isaac should come and help him with the camels, which He does – a young woman helps him, and it turns out to be Rebekah, a relative of Abraham. Rebekah is the daughter of Bethuel, and Laban is her brother.
Laban and Bethuel
Abraham’s servant asks Laban and Bethuel for Rebekah to be a wife for Isaac, and recounts his story of his prayer that God would lead the wife He had picked out for Isaac to help him with his camels’ water.
Laban and Bethuel agree, but they don’t want Rebekah to go right away, which is perfectly understandable. They invite the servant to stay ten days but he wants to go back the next day. They eventually agree, and shower Rebekah with gifts of silver, jewels, gold and clothes. Rebekah’s mother is mentioned but not named. It’s hard to imagine having to make a decision like this in just one day to let your daughter go and marry a relative they’ve never met, knowing they might never see her again. Her unnamed mother would have mourned for her I think!
Isaac meets Rebekah
There’s a little paragraph describing Rebekah meeting Isaac, which mentions that she puts on a veil right before they actually meet. I don’t know for sure – it seems a little strange – but I suspect that the veil is to signify that she is effectively married from that moment. I’d be interested if anybody can tell me otherwise.
Abraham takes another wife, Keturah, and has more sons by her, the names of whom are listed at the beginning of chapter 25. It also mentions concubines. The dictionary defines a concubine as “a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives”. So Hagar would have been considered a concubine. This is an ancient polygamous practice which is very peculiar and hard to understand from our modern, Western perspective.
Death of Abraham
Abraham divides his wealth, giving all that he had to Isaac, other than gifts which he gave to his other sons and then sent them away eastward. Then Abraham dies aged 175 and he is ‘gathered to his people’ and buried in the cave in Machpelah where Sarah was buried. Again, from our modern, Western perspective, this treating of children differently with such blatant favouritism is really difficult to understand.
Descendants and Death of Ishmael
The descendants of Ishmael are listed – ‘twelve princes according to their nations’, and then Ishmael dies aged 137. It says he was ‘gathered to his people’ and that he died in the presence of all his brethren. For this bit of information to be included in the Bible, we can presume that all the brothers came together again and that would have included Isaac and the sons of Ketubah and the concubines.
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