Genesis 23:1 – 25:18; Haftarah: I Kings 1:1 – 1:31
Our parasha this week is called “the life of Sara” but in it we encounter the deaths of Sarah, Abraham and Ishmael. We will see what Scripture has to teach us about death and life after death. We will also study the mystery of the cave of Machpelah – the cave of the Doubling – and its relationship to the temple. We study the story of Abraham’s servant going to seek a wife for the seed of Abraham and the great revelation contained in the act of placing the hand under the thigh of Abraham and swearing by the God of heaven and earth. We learn how to pray for Abraham’s servant and follow the events that lead to Rebekah meet Isaac and joining him in the tent of Sarah. Finally, we study the last part of Abraham’s life with Keturah and try to understand who she is and why her story is important, and the death of Abraham with its own instruction regarding eternal life.
Why is Gn 23:1 written the way it was, and what does this reveal to us?
How do the names Machpelah and Kiryat Arba relate to the teaching on eternal life?
What can we learn from Abraham’s transaction with the sons of Heth?
What is the Christological revelation of the servant placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh?
What can we learn from the servant’s prayer?
Why are major marriages in the Torah connected to wells of water?
Who is Keturah?
What does this parasha reveal to us about the eternal life of Sarah and Abraham?
We will try to answer these and additional questions in this episode.
Scripture references from the episode
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
““We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” (Mark 14:58)
Prudentius – Scenes from Sacred History 4–5.3
This is the lodging place of the Lord, where an oak branch at Mamre
Covered the pastoral roof of the ancient seer; in this hospice
Sarah laughed at the joy of bearing a child in her old age
And at the faith her venerable husband could have in the marvel.
Abraham purchased a field wherein hbibe might bury his wife’s bones,
Inasmuch as justice and faith on the earth dwell as strangers:
This is the cave for which he expended a great sum of money,
To prepare a fit resting place for his wife’s holy ashes.
Caesarius of Arles – Sermon 85.1.11
When the sacred lesson was read a little while ago, we heard that blessed Abraham called his servant and said to him, “Put your hand under my thigh that I may adjure you by the God of heaven and of earth, not to obtain a wife for my son from the daughters of this region.”8 And [the servant] obediently placed his hand under his thigh and swore to him. Indeed, brothers, all these things that are read in the Old Testament, if we are willing to accept them only according to the letter, will bring us little or no profit of soul. For of what benefit is it to us who assemble in church with devotion to hear the Word of God, if it is mentioned that Abraham sent his servant to bring his son a wife from a distant country, when we see this happen frequently also in this land? However, brothers, following the blessed apostle Paul, we should believe that all things which were written for the Jews “happened to them as a type”9 but in reality were fulfilled for us. Therefore Abraham said to his servant, “Put your hand under my thigh and swear by the God of heaven and of earth.” Thus blessed Abraham said, “Put your hand under my thigh,” as if he were saying, put your hand upon the altar, or put your hand upon the ark of the testament, or stretch forth your hand to God’s temple, and swear to me. He touched his thigh and swore by the God of heaven and earth. For blessed Abraham did not err when he commanded that this be done but because he was filled with the spirit of prophecy and knew that from his own seed Christ the Lord of heaven and earth would be born. Therefore, when his servant touched his thigh, he did not utter an oath by any carnal member but by the living and true God, because “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah,”10 of whose seed Christ the Lord was born.
Augustine – Tractate on the Gospel of John 43.6.3
For an important thing was being done when a spouse was being sought for the seed of Abraham. But that the servant might learn this which Abraham knew, that he did not desire grandchildren carnally and that he did not have any carnal conception about his progeny, he said to his slave whom he was sending, “Put your hand under my thigh and swear by the God of heaven.” What does the God of heaven want to signify in respect to the thigh of Abraham? Already you understand the hidden meaning: by the thigh, his progeny. Therefore what was that swearing but a signifying that the God of heaven would come in the flesh from the progeny of Abraham?
Caesarius of Arles – Sermon 85.4.2
Therefore the servant took Rebekah and showed her to Isaac. However, let us see where she found him. “She found him at the well of the oath.”1 Look, brothers: Isaac’s servant found Rebekah at the well, and Rebekah in turn found Isaac at the well. It is true: Christ does not find the church, or the church Christ, except at the sacrament of baptism.