Weekend Reading: Life and Death, Burial and Marriage.

Returning to my reading through the life of Abraham, I find the end of days for Sarah, the mother of Isaac.

Abraham mourns, then sets about finding a place for a burial. The transaction seems awkward at first read, but I suspect that the back-and-forth mentions of gifts were part of the way that people negotiated in those times, under those circumstances.

At the end of the negotiation, Abraham buys the field for a princely sum, and lays his wife to rest in the cave.*

The narrative turns next to the wife of Isaac. Abraham calls a high-ranking member of his household staff, and sends him to seek a wife for Isaac, among Abraham's kin of the family of Nahor.

After swearing an oath before the Creator, the servant goes on his mission. Fearing failure, the servant prays to his master's God, and requests a sign. As he prays, Rebekah comes up. The servant asks her for water, and she responds with the sign he'd requested: she offers to water his camels also.

The servant, Rebekah, and her family have a discussion before the evening meal. After a recounting of the sign given by God, and much giving of gifts, Rebekah agrees to go marry Isaac.

After many days of journey, she sees Isaac out in a field, meditating at the end of the day. Rebekah alights to greet Isaac, and they begin married life together.

After the marriage of Isaac, the story spends a few sentences describing the rest of Abraham's life: another wife, a number of children from that wife (who are sent off to the East), and Abrahams' death and burial. The elder son, Ishmael, also has his descendents mentioned in a few sentences.

Ishmael and Isaac bury their father. The life of Abraham, a mighty prophet of God, is at an end.

This story touches again on the theme of Abraham's relationship with God, and how members of Abraham's household interact with God. Abraham makes a promise to his chief servant, and charges him to swears an and take up the task. (The servant is nameless in this narrative. He is apparently not Eliezer of Damascus, who had a similar rank in Abraham's household before Isaac's birth.)

The servant accept the charge, swears the oath, and sets off with camels and helpers. Later, the servant himself prays; and receives an answer.

The special relationship between Abraham and God the Creator, which is the subtext of most of the story, is also available to some of Abraham's servants and helpers.

Few of them receive great promises, but the ones who ask God for help receive a response.


*Local tradition holds that the cave of Macphelah, burial place of Sarah (and later Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah) can still be identified today.

Shortly before the lifetime of Jesus, one of the Herods built a monument over the traditional location of that cave.

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