Parashah 5: Hayyei-Sarah (Sarah’s Life)

Parashah 5: Genesis 23:1-25:18

“Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah’s life” (Genesis 23:1).

I read a cute little cartoon that had Abraham and Sarah sitting in chairs with their backs to each other.  Abraham says, “I must be getting old.  I just can’t remember what this week’s parsasha is.”  Sarah replies, “The story of my life!”

This parashah is titled with the first few words of the week’s reading as are all the titles of the parashot.   Sarah’s life does not cover two chapters of Scripture, but this is where the rabbis, who developed the Torah divisions, decided to begin this particular one.

Sarah lived 127 years and died in Hebron and Abraham mourned for her.   This is the extent of her life mentioned in this passage. 

After Sarah dies, Abraham buys a plot of land for burying his wife.  He approaches Efron, the son of Tzochar to purchase the cave of Makhpelah with the agreement that he would pay full value for the property, the cave and all the trees around it.  Efron deeded the property to Abraham and it became his possession. Abraham owned the land on which he buried his wife long before Joshua enters the same area and takes possession of it for the children of Isra’el.

Makhpelah means ‘cave of the double tombs.’  Ancient Hebron is found on Tel Rumeida in the modern-day city of Hebron, south of Jerusalem in the mountains. This is the same location where David is anointed King of Isra’el.  Hebron also became one of the six cities of refuge and remained part of Isra’el, known as Samaria, until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

318 and Eliezer

After Sarah’s death, Isaac needs to be comforted.  Abraham decides that his son, who is between 30 and 40 years of age, needs a wife.  Finding the right wife for Isaac has divine importance for the promise El Shaddai gave to Abraham to be realized.  Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, back to his homeland to choose a wife from one of his family members and not from the Canaanites.

When Abraham went to fight Kedorlaomer and rescue Lot, he took 318 ‘trained men.’  The Hebrew word for ‘trained men’ has its root in chanak which means ‘dedicated’ and Eliezer, whose name means ‘my Elohim is help,’ is a ‘dedicated’ servant of Abraham.

Elohim always has a purpose for giving exact numbers so what is the significance of 318? 

In Hebrew, there are no actual written numbers so they are represented by individual letters of the alef-bet.  For example, the number 5 is represented by the letter hey, the number 50 by the letter noon and the number 100 by the letter koof.  By using this system, the numerical value of Hebrew names and words can be calculated.   

The name Eliezer has a numerical value of 318, the exact number of ‘dedicated men’ that Abraham took with him to fight the king of Ilam.  This could be evidence that Abraham had 318 warriors or Eliezer was the only warrior he needed because Eliezer was Abraham’s help from El Shaddai.

Putting a hand under the thigh or the ‘loins’ was a symbol of authority and the way customary for taking an oath in ancient times.  Because the thigh is close to the genitals, the oath takers shared a deep love and respect for one another.   Abraham’s ‘loins’ represented the source of his posterity, the covenant blessing of the ‘promised seed.’  Abraham had received circumcision as the ‘sign’ of El Shaddai’s covenant.  While western nations swear on a Bible or place one’s hand over the heart, the Hebrew tradition was to swear on the ‘sign’ of Elohim’s covenant, the circumcision in the genital area. 

Eliezer and Rebekah

Eliezer takes 10 camels along with gifts on his journey.   He goes to the city of Nachor, the home of Abraham’s brother.  When the women come to draw water from the well, Eliezer makes his camels kneel.

Ten is the number of divine order in Biblical symbolism. There were ten generations from Adam until Noah, ten generations between Noah and Abraham.  There are Ten Commandments, ten plagues that Elohim brought on Egypt, ten spies were sent to scope out the Promised Land and there were ten virgins who waited for the arrival of their bridegroom.  A gathering of ten men is called a minyan and is necessary for certain observances in Judaism to be completed. Ten or a minyan is the number of men from the nations that will take hold of the tzizit of one Jew saying, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).  In this passage, ten camels kneel while Eliezer prays for Elohim’s divine order to come to pass.

The third letter in the Hebrew alef-bet is gimel and means ‘camel.’  The Hebrew letter picture for gimel symbolizes ‘pride’ or being ‘raised up.’ Eliezer has the camels kneel, a necessary action in order to dismount a camel; however, kneeling also is symbolic of humility.  Eliezer humbly seeks the Elohim of Abraham for favor and wisdom.   He also ‘puts out a fleece’ so he will recognize the answer to his prayer.  Elohim is faithful to Eliezer and opens his eyes to see the woman chosen to be the wife of Isaac.

Rebekah or Rivkah is the daughter of Betuel, the son of Milkah and Nahor, Abraham’s brother and niece.  She comes to the well to draw water and sees Eliezar.  She not only draws water for him, but also for his camels.  After learning that Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Eliezer places a ring in her nose and gives her gold bracelets.  Piercing Rebekah’s nose with a ring was not a fashion statement, it was a Middle Eastern symbol of betrothal.  Though a nose ring or a jewel place on the forehead was a symbol of wealth, Eliezer saw a beautiful woman who exemplified great humility and discretion.

When Rebekah leaves with Eliezer to marry the son of Abraham, her mother and brother bless her, “Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them” (Genesis 24:60).   This prophetic blessing is still spoken over Jewish daughters every Shabbat, “May you be like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah” in honor of the faithful matriarchs and the millions of their children. 

Eleazar takes Rebekah, along with his camels, and returns to Abraham.  From a distance Isaac sees the ten camels and knows El Shaddai’s divine purpose for Eliezer’s  journey has been successful.

The Veil of Betrothal

Rebekah also sees Isaac in the distance and covers herself with a veil.  Veiling was cultural, especially for an unmarried woman who was in the presence of her betrothed. 

The most detailed description of the woman’s veil is found in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.  These verses are usually removed from their spiritual context and attributed to an ancient tradition or some culture where men wore hats, giving it no relevance for the Body of Messiah.  The veil, according to Sha’ul, contains a spiritual aspect regarding the glory of Elohim.  Men, the glory of Elohim, and women, the glory of man, are to reflect the glory of Yahweh. This was understood by all of the Messianic congregations who kept the tradition commended by Sha’ul.   When Sha’ul writes his second letter to Corinth, it is apparent they learned from the first letter the purpose for the veil, “With unveiled faces, we see as in a mirror the glory of the Lord as we are being changed into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The veil is also called a ‘sign of power.’  The veils of false prophetesses are removed so they no longer have the power lead the people of Elohim astray (Ezekiel 13:17-23).  Today, the veils of women in western cultures have been removed by Elohim because the Body of Messiah no longer focuses on the glory of Elohim and neglects His line of authority when men and women pray.

The first time Moshe veiled himself occurred when he came down from the mountain and the glory of Yahweh radiated from his face.  The veil protected the Israelites from the glory of Elohim. He only removed it when he was in the presence of Yahweh and spoke with Him (Exodus 34:34).

There was also a veil in the Tabernacle which separated the people from the presence of Elohim’s glory in the Holy of Holies.  This veil was torn in two at the time of Messiah’s death revealing the man-glory of Elohim, Yeshua.

As Isaac’s betrothed, Rebekah veiled herself keeping her glory (her hair) only for her husband.  This is a tradition that even modern-day brides do,  but its greater significance of being a covering for the betrothed women in the greater congregation of the Bride of Messiah has been forgotten.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Isaac (He laughs) or Yitz’ak  יץחק – yod, tzadik, chet, koof

the finished work pulls toward and protects what is behind

Rebekah (To Bind) or Rivkahרבקה – resh, bet, koof, hey

the head of the house that follows, behold

Abraham’s Other Children

After Sarah dies, Abraham takes another wife named Keturah, meaning ‘fragrant  incense.’   Through her Abraham’s grief is satisfied.  Together they have six children who become tribes that move south and east of Canaan.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Zimran (Musical) – זמרן – zayin, mem, resh, noon

divide the head waters of life

Zimran settled west of Mecca in Zimri

Jokshan (Snarer) – יקסן – yod, koof, samech, noon

finished work behind the twisting of life

Jokshan settled in northern Arabia and became known as ‘Arabs’

Medan (Contention), who settled Indonesia – מדן – mem, dalet, noon

chaotic pathway of life

Became northern Arabian tribes settling near Taima

Midian (Strife) – מדין – mem, dalet, yod, noon

chaotic pathway finished work of life

Became the Ethiopian culture

Moshe’s wife was from Midian and was called an Ethiopian.

Ishbak (He Releases) – ישבק – yod, shin, bet, koof

finished work consumes the family behind

Settled east of Canaan

Shuah (Incline) – שוח – shin, vav, chet

consumed and bound to the inner chamber

Settled on the right bank of the Euphrates River

Abraham’s wives Sarah and Keturah along with his concubine, Hagar, birth the descendants of the three great nations.  Through Hagar came the Arab nations including Saudi Arabia. Through Keturah came the nations of Assyria including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Jordan.  Through Sarah came the nation of Isra’el.

Isaac received the entire inheritance from his father, Abraham, while the sons of Keturah received ‘grants’ and were sent east of Canaan.  When Abraham died, Isaac was 75 years of age.  Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave on the land that their father owned.

The Tribes of Ishmael

In the genealogy of Ishmael, it is recorded that he had 12 sons who became the 12  wandering bedouin tribes around the Middle East.   Many of the names of his sons are found in the Hebrew Scriptures as the lands they possessed.

Navayot (Firstborn)

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, this tribe was known as the Nabateans and were famous for raising sheep.

“All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered for you, the rams of N’vayot will be at your service; they will come up and be received on my altar, as I glorify my glorious house” (Isaiah 60:7).

Kedar (Sorrow)

This tribe settled around the Persian Gulf, Sinai Peninsula and became the  lineage of the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

“For this is what Adonai has told me: “Within a year [and not a day more], as if a hired worker were keeping track of the time, the glory of Kedar will come to an end.  Few of Kedar’s valiant archers will be left. Adonai the God of Isra’el has spoken” (Isaiah 21:16).

Adbeel or Idibilu (God’s Servant)

This tribe settled in northwest Arabia.   Historically this tribe was defeated in battle and became the border guards for Egypt.

Mivsam (Sweet Smelling)

This tribe is believed to have intermarried with the Simeonites and disappeared from history as a separate entity.

“The sons of Shim‘on: N’mu’el, Yamin, Yariv, Zerach and Sha’ul.  His son was Shalum, his son was Mivsam, and his son was Mishma. The descendants of Mishma: his son Hamu’el, his son Zakur, his son Shim‘i. Shim‘i had sixteen sons and six daughters, but his brothers did not have many children, so their clans did not increase like those of Judah” (1 Chronicles 4:24-27).

Mishma (Obeyed)

This tribe settled in what is known today as Jebel Mishma in the vicinity of Dumah. Dumah or Idumaea, a city located in Canaan, became associated with Edom and Seir.   Dumah el Jandal are at the southeastern end of Al Jawf situated between Syria and Mesopotamia and was an oasis for travel between Syria and Babylonia.  Herod the Great was Idumaean.

“A prophecy about Dumah: Someone is calling to me from Se’ir: “Watchman, how much longer is it night? Watchman, how much longer is it night?” The watchman answers: “Morning is coming, but also the night. If you want to ask, ask! Come back again!” (Isaiah 21:11-12)

Massa (Nightfall)

This is the probably location where the Israelites murmured, if they crossed the Red Sea into Arabia.  Found in the records of Tilgath Pileser III saying that Massa and Tema offered him gifts.

“The place was named Massah [testing] and M’rivah [quarreling] because of the quarreling of the people of Isra’el and because they tested Adonai by asking, “Is Adonai with us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)

Hadad (Rolling Stone)

This may be the Hadad tribe in Arabia which are now Christians and located throughout Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Tema (Good News)

Known today as Taima and located in the Nafud desert.  Tilgath Pileser III receives tributes from Tema as well as Massa.  The Assyrian King Sennecherib named one of the gates in the city of Nineveh, the Desert Gate, and records that the Teymeite enter through it.  The father of Belshazzar made the city of Tayma his residence (Daniel 7:1). This land was part of the caravan route from Babylon to Sheba.

“A prophecy about Arabia: You caravans of D’danim will camp in the desert growth of Arabia. Bring water to the thirsty, you who live in Teima, greet the fugitives with food …” (Isaiah 21:13-14).

Y’tur (Rebel)

Was known as a tribe of robbers

Nafish (Genuine)

Kedmah (Scout)

This tribe settled in the wilderness of Kedemoth, today known as es-Za’feran.

Ishmael also had a daughter named Basemath who became the third wife of Isaac’s brother, Esau.

Yeshua and His Bride

“As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf,  in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion in the mikveh, so to speak, in order to present the Messianic Community to himself as a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect“ (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give him the glory! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his Bride has prepared herself — fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear. (“Fine linen” means the righteous deeds of God’s people.”) (Revelation 19:7-8)

One of the seven angels having the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues approached me and said, “Come! I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.” He carried me off in the Spirit to the top of a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God.  It had the Sh’khinah of God, so that its brilliance was like that of a priceless jewel, like a crystal-clear diamond” (Revelation 21:9-11).

“I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let anyone who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let anyone who is thirsty come — let anyone who wishes, take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:16-17).

Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets)

1 Kings 1:1-31

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 8:19-22

Matthew 27:3-10

Luke 9:57-62

James 1:4-24

Midrash Chayei: The Ruach HaKodesh

Discuss the purpose of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) according to Yeshua and Sha’ul (John 16:8-12, Romans 14:16-18).  Discuss why King David asks Elohim not to take His Ruach HaKodesh from him (Psalm 51:13, 1 Samuel 16:14).

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