The Life of Sarah & a Wife for Isaac – WEEK 5
By Dawn Sweigart
The portion of scripture we’re exploring this week is Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18). We begin this section with the record of Sarah’s death at 127 years old. It seems ironic for the portion of Torah known as “The Life of Sarah” to begin with her death announcement, but, as the next several chapters unfold, we see the essence of Sarah and her legacy displayed clearly for all to see.
Abraham and Sarah were promised many things by the Lord. They were promised that they would be blessed and increased greatly. They were promised a son in their old age. They were promised that through that child their descendants would be as innumerable as the the sand of the seashore and the stars in the sky and, that through those descendants, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham and Sarah were promised all the land of Canaan for their descendants to dwell in. Sarah would only see two of those promises fulfilled – great prosperity and the birth of Isaac – while the other promises remained as things only seen at a distance. It feels poetic that Sarah’s death provides the impetus for Abraham to bring some of those promises closer.
“And Abraham bowed before the people of the land. He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me that I may bury my dead there.” Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, “My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.” Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard. So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.”
Genesis 23:12-19 NASB
So the field of Machpelah was purchased at a great price and became the first part of the promised land which came into the legal ownership of Abraham. The Cave of Machpelah would be the resting place of not only Sarah but also Abraham,Isaac and Rebekkah, and Jacob and Leah. This burial site of our matriarchs and patriarchs is regarded as the one of the holiest sites for Jews in all of Israel, second only to the Temple Mount.
Immediately after securing this first piece of the Promised Land, Abraham charges his servant Eliezar to go back to his home country to find a suitable wife for Isaac. The weight of responsibility must have been crushing to Abraham’s servant. Eliezar had served Abraham and Sarah for many years. It was he who Abraham thought would be his heir in the absence of a child. This servant had witnessed the perfect partner Sarah had been for Abraham. He witnessed them laboring together in their walk of faith, waiting together in the hope of the promises, and working together in showing extravagant hospitality to all. Together, they had hosted the Angels of the Lord. How would he find a woman worthy to fulfill such a role as the wife of Isaac and the daughter-in-law of Abraham?
Taking ten camels and a number of servants with him, Eliezar travels to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor, and prays to the Lord. He sets out a fleece that only one who was worthy of this family could possibly fulfill – that when he asked a young woman for a drink of water, that her response would be an offer to water all of his camels as well. Before he finishes uttering that prayer, he sees Rebekah approaching the well and requests a drink from her. She lowers her pitcher and gives him a drink and, noticing his ten camels, generously offers to perform the gargantuan task of watering all of them. Let’s fully appreciate the magnitude of this offer. A thirsty camel can drink thirty gallons of water in fifteen minutes. For ten camels, that’s 300 gallons – hour upon hour of work even if it was half as much – with the servant gazing at her silently until he knows that she is made of the same substance as those whom he has served and loved.
Consider this: Eliezar, and his servants with him, are all watching while this young woman does the heavy lifting and pouring for hours. In Rebekah’s shoes, most people wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes before asking if these strangers were just planning on sitting there the whole time. This, in fact, is a crucial part of the test. There are those who offer extraordinary things but can become weary or resentful, or may quit or demand compensation or praise. This is a test of motive. Rebekah’s extreme service and kindness to strangers, seeking an occasion to give while expecting nothing in return assures Eliezar that she is the answer to his prayer. The kindness and perseverance to complete this monumental task of hospitality is the demonstration of what the servant is searching for – the essence of Abraham and Sarah – one who would search out opportunities to be of service from an authentic desire to help without the distraction of whether or not others are, or ought to be, doing the same.
As Jews converge at the Cave of Machpelah this week to pray, let us all consider the life of Sarah and how, after her death, her nature is searched out and recognized in Rebekah’s everyday conduct. We should all be challenged to ensure that we are living our lives in such a way that we are recognizable as heirs of Abraham and Sarah…not solely in the belief for the promises, but in the righteous, loving, self-sacrificing character by which their nature is recognized.
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About the Author
Dawn Sweigart is a gifted teacher, counselor, minister, and prophet. Dawn, along with her husband Bob, founded Watchman’s Call in 2001 to call the Bride to walk in greater holiness, mercy, and power. Dawn labors in many places throughout the world to see this cry answered, and carries an ongoing burden for and ministry in the nation of Romania. Dawn and Bob have recently re-located to North Carolina where they are making a daily and profound impact.
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