“Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah’s life” (Genesis 23:1).
I saw 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 parsahah 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 located 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 root for ‘trained men’ is chanak and means ‘dedicated.’ 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 could be the significance of 318? In Hebrew, there are no actual written numbers; 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 nun and the number 100 by the letter kof. By using this system, the numerical value of Hebrew names and words can be calculated (See Study Helps).
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 mean that Abraham had 318 warriors or Eliezer was the only warrior he needed because Eliezer was Abraham’s help from El Shaddai, the Ruach haKodesh.
Placing a hand under the thigh or the ‘loins’ was a symbol of authority and the customary way for making 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 had received circumcision as the ‘sign’ of El Shaddai’s covenant, thus his ‘loins’ represented the source of his posterity, the covenant blessing of the ‘promised seed.’ 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 ten camels along with gifts on his journey. He travels 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 Noach, ten generations between Noach and Abraham. There are Ten Commandments, ten plagues that Elohim brought on Egypt, and ten spies that were sent to investigate the Promised Land. 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 who 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). Eliezer’s ten camels kneel while he prays for Elohim’s divine plan 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 is also 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 He has chosen to be Isaac’s wife.
Rivkah or Rebekah is the daughter of Betu’el, 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. This is quite a feat for this young woman. The water jar she carried on her shoulder held maybe three gallons of water. One camel typically consumes 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes depending on how far it has traveled. The distance between Hebron and Haran is about 450 miles with short water stops along the way. By the time Eliezer arrives at the well, the camels need to be refreshed with water. In order to provide water “until they finished drinking,” Rebekah would have had to make about ten trips to the well per camel or 100 trips for all ten camels. The Scripture states “she went down” to the well suggesting that she had to descend numerous steps in order to retrieve water. This activity of descending stairs, retrieving water, ascending stairs, and pouring the water into the trough took hours to complete.
The Scripture continues: “The man gazed at her in [reverent] silence, waiting to find out whether the LORD had made his trip successful or not” (Genesis 24:21, AMP). According to the dictionary, the word gaze means to ‘look steadily and intently with interest, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought.’ Eliezer watched Rebekah intently with admiration as she faithfully continued to water his camels. In Hebrew, the word macharish is used for ‘silence’ and means ‘speechless.’ His silence came from the fact that her actions rendered him speechless.
When Eliezer learns that Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, he 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 placed on the forehead was a symbol of wealth, Eliezer saw a beautiful woman who exemplified great discretion, humility, faithfulness, strength, and a servant’s heart.
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 Sabbath, “May you be like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah,” in honor of the faithful matriarchs and the millions of their children.
The Veil of Betrothal
Eliezar 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. 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 weird 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 Elohim. This was understood by all of the Messianic congregations who kept the spiritual tradition. 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).
Sha’ul also says the veil is a ‘sign of power.’ According to the prophet Ezekiel, the veils of false prophetesses were removed so they no longer had 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 ‘equality of women’ neglects the importance and value of expressing His line of authority in His congregations: Elohim, Messiah, man, woman.
Moshe veiled himself when he came down from the mountain and the glory of Elohim radiated from his face. The veil protected the Israelites from the overpowering glory of Elohim. Moshe only removed it when he was in the presence of Elohim and spoke directly 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 use, but its greater significance for the betrothed women of the Bride of Messiah has been forgotten.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Isaac (He laughs) or Yitz’ak – יצחק – yod, tzade, chet, kof
– finished work pulls toward protecting what is behind
Rebekah (To Bind) or Rivkah – רבקה – resh, bet, kof, hey
– highest authority in the family, what is behind revealed
Abraham’s Other Children
After Sarah dies, Abraham takes another wife named Keturah, meaning ‘fragrant incense.’ By marrying 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, nun
– divide the mighty and highest authority of life
Zimran settled west of Mecca in Zimri
Jokshan (Snarer) – יקסן – yod, kof, samech, nun
– finished work what is behind the support of life
Jokshan settled in northern Arabia and became known as ‘Arabs’
Medan (Contention), who settled Indonesia – מדן – mem, dalet, nun
– mighty pathway of life
Became northern Arabian tribes settling near Taima
Midian (Strife) – מדין – mem, dalet, yod, nun
– the mighty 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, kof
– finished work consumes what is behind the family
Settled east of Canaan
Shuah (Incline) – שוח – shin, vav, chet
– consume the finished work, protect
Settled on the right bank of the Euphrates River
Abraham’s wives, Sarah and Keturah, along with his concubine, Hagar, birthed the descendants of three great world 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 receives the entire inheritance from his father, Abraham, while the sons of Keturah received ‘grants’ and were sent east of Canaan. When Abraham dies, Isaac is 75 years old. Isaac and Ishmael bury 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.
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).
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).
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)
This is the probable 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).
Was known as a tribe of robbers
This tribe settled in the wilderness of Kedemoth, known today as es-Za’feran.
Ishmael also had a daughter named Basemath who became the third wife of 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).
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