This week’s Torah portion is titled Chayyei Sarah, (the Life of Sarah) and takes us through Genesis chapters 23 to 25:18.
Chayyei Sarah starts by informing its readers about the death of Sarah at the age 127. Her death took place in Hebron in the land of Canaan; roughly 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible where here age is mentioned at the time of death – perhaps prompting us to remember that Sarah gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90, and that God had interceded while Sarah was beyond childbearing age. God brought forth the fulfillment of His word to both Sarah and Abraham in that the inheritance would come through their procreation.
Having her age mentioned at death very much aligns with previous and future chosen recipients of His promises that had faced adversity, but remained dedicated and faithful to God and His word.
After Abraham mourned the death of his wife Sarah, he rose up and approached the sons of Heth, stating, “I am a stranger and a sojourner, give me a burial sight among you that I can bury my dead”. Being that they were in Hebron, the surrounding hills, mountains and valleys were presently in the hands of the Hittites. Even though Abraham remembered God’s covenant described in chapter 17, he negotiated a deal with Efron the owner of a vast field and surrounding territory that gave way to the entrance of the cave called Machpelah. Abraham insisted on paying the current value for the property. The price was 400 shekels of silver, roughly 200 ounces.
He – Abraham, followed the honorable traditions regarding land transactions, all the while maintaining his trust in the faithfulness of the Lord, and knowing His covenant would be fulfilled. The contexts of these verses are eloquently rich in their traditions of negotiation and Mideast cultural civility.
In chapter 24, Abraham, now well advanced in age and blessed in every way, was moved to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac. Abraham called on Eliezer his most trusted and long standing servant to see this through. Abraham explains to Eliezer that he was to return to the land of Haran and there he would receive a suitable bride for his son Isaac. Under no circumstances was Isaac to take a wife from the Canaanites. Isaac was also forbidden to return to Mesopotamia the land of his father’s origins. The Chaldeans, much like the Canaanites, worshiped their own set of false gods and deities, and it included human sacrifices.
In mentioning this it’s important to understand that it wasn’t about retaining ethnic purity, but to safeguard the God-ordained relationship with the one and true God Elohiym. Abraham’s faith assured him that God would provide a suitable wife. Such faith in this matter would preserve the progeny of the covenant inheritance through Isaac and come to ultimate fulfillment through Yeshua.
Eliezer, after swearing his oath to both God and Abraham and fully understanding all he was instructed, set out to fulfill his commission. Abraham tells Eliezer in verse 7 that God would send an angel before him to make his path straight and that success would ensue. Consider this statement of great faith for both the giver and recipient, considering that Haran was a 450 mile journey. In Haran Eliezer would find the kin of Abraham and the suitable wife. Eliezer prays to the God of Abraham for both guidance and a successful end to this most significant responsibility.
Eliezer left on his distant journey and eventually reached the communal water spring just outside the city of Nahor in the early evening hour. While still praying, asking God for success in the form of loving kindness towards his master Abraham, God answers his prayer in the form of Rebekah.
All that Eliezer had prayed for was fulfilled in Rebekah. She graciously gave Eliezer water upon his request and further, gave drink to the 10 camels Eliezer had in tow for his journey. After this, Rebekah invited him to rest and break bread at her family’s home.
Eliezer had food placed before him but refused to eat until the first order of business had been discussed. His intent was to clearly identify who his master was and why he was sent. This is explained in verses 34 to 48 with great emphasis and expression describing the blessings of God upon his master and the journey. Rebekah and her family were in agreement and that this was truly God-ordained. They agreed to the marriage, spent some time together, then Eliezer and Rebekah departed. The chapter closes as Isaac joyfully receives Rebekah and marries her.
Chapter 25 begins with the names of the children conceived between Abraham and Keturah, a maiden of Abraham’s concubine, his second wife after the death of Sarah. These decedents became the progenitors of various Arabic tribes. Abraham gave gifts to them and sent them on their way eastward towards Arabia.
The rest of this parasha speaks of Abraham’s death at the age of 175 and that together Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave of Machpelah – this being the same cave Abraham purchased in order to bury Sarah. The parasha concludes with the naming of the decedents of Ishmael.
Parasha Chayyei Sarah is but a mere glimpse into the biblical account that leads us to where we are today. It’s the portion of the Torah that contains the final days and subsequent deaths of both the father of our faith, Abraham, and Sarah his wife.
Abraham was a man of great faith. He saw beyond the material possibilities of this world to that of a greater kingdom, one whose foundation was built on the word of God. In Abraham’s life, he trusted that God would supply all his needs. In his daily walk, Abraham learned to trust the Lord; he realized God’s provision was not only a matter of faith for a time, but it was also a matter of faith for eternity. Abraham had hope for this life, but he also had the greater hope for life in the World-To- Come.
In like manner, we today by faith believe that God has given His only begotten Son, Yeshua, born of a virgin, who died on the cross and on the third day rose again and, is presently seated at the right hand of the Father. Also like Abraham, our justification comes by our faith.
Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.” True faith is not dependent on empirical evidence but on divine assurance, this is a gift from God.