Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section which is called Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah). Genesis 23:1–25:18; 1 Kings 1:1–31; 1Pet 3:1-7. “And the life of Sarah [Chayei Sarah] was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” (Genesis 23:1).
Although the title of this week’s section, Chayei Sarah (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה), means Life of Sarah, it initially focuses on her death. This corresponds with the Judaic thought that it is the awareness of death that gives more meaning to life. In week 4, year 2, I mentioned when YHVH changed Abram’s and Sarai’s name, He added the English equivalent “H” of His name to their former name.
Sarah is the only woman in the Bible to have a study section of the Torah named after her. All the other Biblical characters of study sections are named after are men:
Balak, Pinchas, Korach, Noach and Yitro. This underscores how important the matriarch Sarah is to our faith. Sarah dies in Kiryat Arba, and her funeral is the first to be recorded in the Torah/Bible. She is buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma'arat HaMachpelah), the second holiest place of the Jews after the Temple Mount. This burial place, in which the fathers and mothers of the Jewish faith are buried, is located in Hebron. In “Chayei Sarah”, Abraham purchases this land for the full asking price. In 2015 the Palestinians have asked the United Nations to rule both the Temple Mount wall and burial places of Abraham are Palestinian lands. At that time the UN ruled on the former; but not the latter.
Sarah’s Obedience Is Rewarded: Last week’s study section (Vayera) ended with Abraham’s ultimate test, the binding and near sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac (Yitzchak); but God provided the ram for a sacrifice instead. Remember it was Isaac’s idea and conversation with Ishmael that brought about this trial which was hid from his mother Sarah (book of Jasher). In the New (second) Testament, we read of Sarah’s radical obedience to her husband as an example of faith and courage that women of God are encouraged to emulate: “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” (1 Peter 3:5–6).
Sarah demonstrated this radical obedience to her husband, first by leaving everything behind, including her home and family, to follow Abraham to a new land. She did not know where they were going and had to live inside a tent in the desert like a stranger. In order to protect her husband, she even agreed twice to enter a foreign king’s harems where she could have potentially been greatly harmed and defiled. Still, even in this, she obeyed her husband. God rewarded Sarah’s obedience and did indeed rescue her from Pharaoh's and King Abimilech’s harems. Clearly it was God who did not allow the King of Gerar to touch Sarah: “And God said to him in a dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.’” (Genesis 20:6).[For expansion of the event read the book of Jasher: CHAPTER 15--On Account of Famine in Canaan, Abram goes to Egypt. Tells the People that Sarah is his Sister, on account of her Beauty. Pharaoh Desires to take her, but is Prevented by an Angel of the Lord. The Truth is made known, and Sarah is Restored to Abram, with many Presents. Abram returns to his Home. CHAPTER 20 Abraham goes to the land of the Philistines, and again tells the People that Sarah is his Sister. Abimelech the King desires her for a Wife. An Angel warns him, and commands him to return her to her husband. The whole land afflicted on account of the matter. Sarah Restored to Abraham, who entreats the Lord to heal the People of Abimelech]. 20:13 reads 13. And he dreamed that an angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword in his hand, and the angel stood over Abimelech, and wished to slay him with the sword, and the king was terrified in his dream, and said to the angel, In what have I sinned against thee that thou comest to slay me with thy sword? 14. And the angel answered and said to Abimelech, Behold thou diest on account of the woman which thou didst yesternight bring to thy house, for she is a married woman, the wife of Abraham who came to thy house; now therefore return that man his wife, for she is his wife; and shouldst thou not return her, know that thou wilt surely die, thou and all belonging to thee].
One reason that Sarah could have walked in such radical obedience to Abraham is through absolute faith and trust in God. She may not have trusted her imperfect husband who was willing to sacrifice his wife to save his own skin; but she trusted God to protect and preserve her from all evil. Many believe that Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham in order to raise up children for him because she lacked faith. Hagar was not just any servant, either. Sarah personally trained her in faith. I cannot quite remember if she was a daughter of Pharaoh. Jasher’s account is: “16:23. And Sarai, the daughter of Haran, Abram's wife, was still barren in those days; she did not bear to Abram either son or daughter. 24. And when she saw that she bare no children she took her handmaid Hagar, whom
Pharaoh had given her, and she gave her to Abram her husband for a wife. 25. For Hagar learned all the ways of Sarai as Sarai taught her, she was not in any way deficient in following her good ways. 26. And Sarai said to Abram, Behold here is my handmaid Hagar, go to her that she may bring forth upon my knees, that I may also obtain children through her. 27. And at the end of ten years of Abram's dwelling in the land of Canaan, which is the
eighty-fifth year of Abram's life, Sarai gave Hagar unto him. 28. And Abram hearkened to the voice of his wife Sarai, and he took his handmaid Hagar and Abram came to her and she conceived].
Does the above concept of a barren wife having children via her maid resemble the law of God found in Deu 25:5? It is thought the fact that Hagar conceived and Sarah did not caused Hagar to think that she was more spiritual and, therefore, more blessed than Sarah. In her pride, she exalted herself over Sarah. When the three angels visited Abraham, Sarah understood that the child of promise would come through her.
Bearing Fruit in Our Latter Years: Both Abraham and Sarah achieved significant accomplishments, not in their youth, but in the last years of their life. As believers we are not to think the work is for the young. They may be too busy making their way in life and working to raising their family. Both Moses and Caleb did wonders for God in their latter years. Caleb is an example of this. He was one of two people out of a generation of thousands male adults to enter the Promised Land, and he asked for a mountain to conquer at 85-years-old!
“And now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day.” (Joshua 14:10–12).
The age of Sarah when she gave birth to Isaac at 90 years old and her death was at 127. She completely shared Abraham’s journey with God in a spirit of faith, courage and if necessary, self-sacrifice. She endured being uprooted from her native land, being barren (considered a curse in Middle Eastern culture) until the age of 90, being held captive, and being exposed to the advances of foreign kings (twice). Through it all, she remained faithful to God, to her husband, and to her calling. Obviously, Sarah was a beautiful woman. So beautiful, in fact, that Abraham resorted to calling her his sister to protect himself from the gangs of marauding soldiers who might be tempted to kill him in order to take his peerless wife.
Even though Sarah was, in fact, his half-sister, this still did not justify the deception that put his wife’s honour at risk. How did Sarah endure so many difficult trials in her lifetime? Possibly through an inner optimism and tranquillity that comes only with faith in God that Sarah was able to deal with such adversity. This was likely part of her appeal and power. Loves conquers fear.
The Bible tells us that we have need of endurance also: “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36). A few times in the past I have read God gives to those who obey Him. “Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise”. We have read Abraham got the promise because he kept God’s commandments, statutes and laws (Gen 26:5). Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. To love God is to keep His commandments i.e 1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work,
I am going to break off from Sarah for a moment and return to her later in order to make an important point which persons who do not read to the end may miss. Genesis 24:67 says that Isaac took Rebekah, she became his wife and he loved her: "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death" (Genesis 24:67). Notice the order. This seems backward to us. We would expect the opposite. In our culture, we believe that a person should marry with whoever he or she falls in love. Isaac married his wife, and then he fell in love with her. This seems backward to us. We would expect the opposite. He should have fallen in love with her, married her and then taken her into the tent. The Bible has a more sober (but no less romantic) view of marriage. Into the tent, marries, fall in love!! Isaac did not marry Rebekah because he loved her; he loved Rebekah because he married her. Considering the folly of the human heart and the fickle ups and downs of emotions, this is the proper order of things and prescribed by God’s laws. We should love our spouses because they are our spouses.
Marriage following love seems like the natural order; but it's a bad plan. It is possible to fall in love with the wrong person. As Samson. It is possible to fall in love with many wrong persons. Falling in love is a terrible criteria upon which to base a marriage. It would have been easy for Isaac to fall in love with any number of Canaanite girls. As children of Abraham and followers of Messiah, we are to love our spouses. Paul tells men to love their wives as themselves and more than that, to love them as Messiah loved the assembly. He warns husbands not to become embittered against their wives. It's not a matter of the whims and inclinations of the heart; it is a duty of every husband to love his wife. If a man or woman bases his or her marriage merely on love, it is doomed from the start. Just look at the outcome or divorce rate of such relationships where duty is taken out. Feelings are unpredictable. They rise and fall. They come and go. Marriage must not be based upon love. Love must be based upon marriage. What would happen in situations as Deu 25:5 where God tells a surviving brother it is his duty to marry his brother’s widow and he fails to love her? Possibly Gen 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
A REAL SOUL MATE.
Falling in love is a terrible criteria upon which to base a marriage. Why did Abraham leave it to Isaac to fall in love or why didn’t he? Abraham’s servant Eliezer was sent to find a wife for Isaac one that would not detract him from following Yahweh. Eliezer prayed that God would indicate which woman He had appointed for Isaac to marry. God miraculously singled out Rebekah. Later, when recounting the story of his encounter with Rebekah to her family, they had to admit, “The matter comes from Yahweh” (Genesis 24:50). By all appearances, God had appointed Rebekah to be the wife of Isaac.
This teaches that God appoints each person spouse. Some people call this appointed person a soul mate. How do you know when you have found your soul mate? And what exactly is a soul mate? The idea is that each individual has one other person, somewhere out there, who is his or her preordained, perfect match. A person’s soul mate is the ideal complement to fulfill his or her physical, spiritual and psychological needs. Soul mates are like two halves of the same soul and if you marry the wrong person, you will never be truly happy because you missed your soul mate. This is not a biblical idea.
Our culture has it wrong and has departed from God’s way. Falling in love is a terrible criteria upon which to base a marriage. The search for a soul mate sounds romantic; but how do you know if the one you are with is really your soul mate? Isn’t it possible that you missed your true soul mate, or might still encounter him or her? What if you were married (or had previous relationships) and are now on your second marriage (relationship)? Was your first spouse your soul mate, or is this one the true soul mate? The soul-mate concept is a foolish idea that ultimately discourages people from getting married because they fear that their prospective match might not be their soul mate. For people already married, the soul-mate concept can lead to discontentment and uncertainty.
The soul-mate idea does exist in Judaism. It was probably born from a misunderstanding of the Jewish concept of soul mate. Among Yiddish-speaking Jews, the term for soul mate is bashert (באשערט). Bashert is a Yiddish word that means “destiny.” A person’s ideal spouse is called his or her “destined one.” How is this different from the romantic soul-mate concept? You cannot seek your destined one, because you will not know if you are destined to be together until you marry each other. Once you are married, destiny has been fulfilled and proven your soul mate. In other words, your spouse is your destined one. The person you are married to is the person God has ordained for you. If he or she was not, you would not be married. As to what makes a marriage in God’s eyes, that is a disturbing study; but I do not read of priest being given marriage laws in the Torah nor of any altar or witness appearance (save for case as in Ruth).
So don’t waste time trying to find your soul mate. She/he does not exist and will not exist until you get married. Once you are married, you can be confident that your spouse is your true bashert if you are obedient to God.
Behind Every Great Man: Ok, back to Sarah, “Who can find a virtuous wife [eshet chayil]? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.“ (Proverbs 31:10–11)
It is said behind every great man is a good help meet. This is necessity for a servant of God. It allows him time to get on with God’s work. “Pro 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land”. Yet he is not to detract from spending quality time with his wife nor use his position to mistreat her. Sarah took her loyalty to her husband one step further. She is the Biblical model of the Godly woman behind the Godly man. She showed herself to be the great woman who helped ensure the successful continuation of Abraham’s dynasty.
The Life of Sarah is not about her death, therefore, but about her legacy. Abraham ensures that her legacy continues by setting in motion the finding of a wife for Yitzhak (Isaac).
For that reason, as this study section continues, the story becomes more about Isaac’s life, and less about Abraham.
A good part of this section centres on how Abraham’s servant located a proper wife for Isaac. We see Abraham’s instruction to his servant mirrors that of God to Moses Gen 24:3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: Deu 7:3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. Another example God’s laws existing before given to Israel via Moses!
Another example being the times of prayer which are the same as the evening and morning sacrificial times observed by the High Priest. Gen 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. (See Daniel 6:10 and Psm 55:17)
Before that however, Sarah kept watch over Isaac.
Jasher 21:11 “ And Ishmael the son of Abraham was grown up in those days; he was fourteen years old
when Sarah bare Isaac to Abraham. 12. And God was with Ishmael the son of Abraham, and he grew up, and he learned to use the bow and became an archer. 13. And when Isaac was five years old he was sitting with Ishmael at the door of the tent. 14. And Ishmael came to Isaac and seated himself opposite to him, and he took the bow and
drew it and put the arrow in it, and intended to slay Isaac. 15. And Sarah saw the act which Ishmael desired to do to her son Isaac, and it grieved her exceedingly on account of her son, and she sent for Abraham, and said to him, Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for her son shall not be heir with my son, for thus did he seek to do unto him this day. 16. And Abraham hearkened to the voice of Sarah, and he rose up early in the morning, and he took twelve loaves and a bottle of water which he gave to Hagar, and sent her away with her son, and Hagar went with her son to the wilderness, and they dwelt in the wilderness of Paran with the inhabitants of the wilderness, and Ishmael was an archer, and he dwelt in the wilderness a long time. 17. And he and his mother afterward went to the land of Egypt, and they dwelt there, and Hagar took a wife for her son from Egypt…]
As Ishmael tried to wipe out Isaac then, take his place and possibly become God’s linage, so Ishmael’s descendants, the Arabs are still trying to wipe out Israel, claim to be God’s linage and benefactors of the land!!!
Abraham’s servant essentially chose a kind-hearted woman who was capable of decisive, compassionate, Godly action. She was a woman who would take the time to help a stranger and his animals. She was also the kind of woman who, once she knew God’s purposes, would not hesitate to act immediately. As soon as she knew that God had selected her to be Isaac’s wife, she did not let another day pass in fulfilling that destiny, though family members sought to give her an excuse to delay her leaving.
Abraham’s marriage to Sarah and Isaac's marriage to Rivkah (Rebecca) reveal that a partner’s spiritual qualities are far more important than their physical attributes (although beauty and attention to appearance obviously helps). Yet man may always look on the outside while God looks on the inner. God has a plan for us. May we use the wisdom of God to understand that our choice of a life partner will affect how we fulfill our calling and subsequently, the legacy that we leave.
To prepare to leave such a legacy, may we choose partners prayerfully, praying for them even before we meet them. Ofcourse for our children too. May we base our decisions about whom we will marry on spiritual qualities, on whether a potential partner possesses the beautiful inner characteristics of chesed (mercy), grace, selflessness, kindness, and benevolence toward all. Yet should any make the decision of their youth (based on appearance) know that all have the potential to come to God’s service in latter years.
For those of us who are already married, we can pray as couples that God will use us to accomplish His purposes. Train up our children and grandchildren as they should go so that the chance of them permanently departing from God’s ways is reduced. We can be the kind of partner that helps our spouse walk in his or her God desired destiny. As well, we should pray that God will give our children a sense of His purpose for their lives. God worked in the lives of Abraham and Isaac to bring them a suitable partner through whom He would bring forth Israel. This reminds us that God has a grand plan in which the lives of each individual plays a role.
He is still working in the same manner that he was during the time of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca. Not only to accomplish His purposes for Israel, but for each doer of His word Jas_1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: God’s eye is on every detail of our lives, and He wants us to partner with Him in His purposes. The study section ends with Abrahams death in Genesis 25:8 and goes onto to give the genealogy of Ishmael from whom the Muslims claim to get their ancestry back to Abraham. From the book of Jasher here are some references.
Sarah died at the age of 127 years (Jasher 24:1). She was born ten years after Abraham.
Jasher 24:23 And these are the children of Lot, that were born to him by his daughters, the name of the first born was Moab, and the name of the second was Benami. 24. And the two sons of Lot went and took themselves wives from the land of Canaan, and they bare children to them, and the children of Moab were Ed, Mayon, Tarsus, and Kanvil, four sons, these are fathers to the children of Moab unto this day. 25. And all the families of the children of Lot went to dwell wherever they should light upon, for they were fruitful and increased abundantly. 26. And they went and built themselves cities in the land where they dwelt, and they called the names of the cities which they built after their own names.
At the end of chapter 24 Isaac took Rececca for his wife about that time [Jasher Chapter 25]
- And it was at that time that Abraham again took a wife in his old age, and her name was Keturah, from the land of Canaan. 2. And she bare unto him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuach, being six sons. The narrative then goes onto the genealogy of these sons and sons of sons who went onto form nations of Midianites etc. It also gives the genealogy and habitation of Ismael’s descendants.
Chapter 26 deals with birth of Esau and Jacob. Rebecca asked Isaac to pray for her to have children as Abraham did with Sarah. God heard the pray and granted birth of Esau and Jacob. 16. And Isaac, the son of Abraham, was sixty years old when he begat them. 17. And the boys grew up to their fifteenth year, and they came amongst the society of men. Esau was a designing and deceitful man, and an expert hunter in the field, and Jacob was a man perfect and wise, dwelling in tents, feeding flocks and learning the instructions of the Lord and the commands of his father and mother. 18. And Isaac and the children of his household dwelt with his father Abraham in the land of Canaan, as God had commanded them. 19. And Ishmael the son of Abraham went with his children and all belonging to them, and they returned there to the land of Havilah, and they dwelt there. 20. And all the children of Abraham's concubines went to dwell in the land of the east, for Abraham had sent them away from his son, and had given them presents, and they went away.
Abraham gives Isaac all his treasures and tells him about the promise and condition God gave him. 24. And he brought me to this place, and he delivered me from Ur Casdim; and he said unto me, To thy seed will I give all these lands, and they shall inherit them when they keep my commandments, my statutes and my judgments that I have commanded thee, and which I shall command them. 25. Now therefore my son, hearken to my voice, and keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I commanded thee, do not turn from the right way either to the right or
to the left, in order that it may be well with thee and thy children after thee forever. 27. And teach thou thy children and thy seed the instructions of the Lord and his commandments, and teach them the upright way in which they should go, in order that it may be well with them forever. 28. And Isaac answered his father and said unto him, That which my Lord has commanded that will I do and I will not depart from the commands of the Lord my God… 29. And it was at that time that Abraham died, in the fifteenth year of the life of Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac, and all the days of Abraham were one hundred and seventy-five years, and he died and was gathered to his people in good old age, old and satisfied with days, and Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him.[Abraham was given a grand burial with all the kings and princes of the lands coming to his funeral]. 34. And there arose not a man who feared God like unto Abraham, for he had feared his God from his youth, and had served the Lord, and had gone in all his ways during his life, from his childhood to the day of his death. 39. And it was after the death of Abraham that God blessed his son Isaac and his children, and the Lord was with Isaac as he had been with his father Abraham, for Isaac kept all the commandments of the Lord as Abraham his father had commanded him; he did not turn to the right or to the left from the right path which his father had commanded him. [End of chapter 26].
Shalom and happy studies. The purpose of which is to learn what YHVH requires of you and obey.