The name of the Torah portion חיי שרה Chayei Sarah means “life of Sarah,” but it starts with the matriarch’s death. We see how Abraham works hard to find a final resting place for her, but her death had a huge impact on Yitzkhak (Isaac) as well, affecting him for years. Her death also played a larger than life role in how Abraham’s most trusted servant, Eliazer of Damascus, set out to find a suitable wife for Yitzkhak to carry out Abraham’s legacy.
This is the first part of a recap of Abraham’s life, looking at about two dozen key events that show why God picked him to be the start of a special group of people on Earth and to be a key example of trust in God being considered righteousness.
The mysterious covenant God enters while Abram sleeps is prefigures a time when Israel was captive in Egypt yet not consumed by it.
God calls Abram to leave his father behind and continue traveling towards the land of Canaan. God promises to make Abram’s descendants numerous and make them a great nation. Abram’s name means “exalted father” based on the blessing God gave him in Gen. 12:1-3.
“And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)
There are two different Hebrew words that are translated as “curse” in both parts of this verse. The first “curse” is קָלַל qalal (Strong’s lexicon No. H7043), which literally means “to slight or consider trifling.” The second “curse” is אָרַר ’arar (H799) which actually means “curse.” In other words, God is saying that He will curse anyone who considers Abram insignificant or slights him.
The first place Abram visited after God told him to leave Haran is a town called Shechem, which near a mountain ridge. The root of the town’s name is שְׁכֶם shekhem (H7926), which means “shoulder” or “backbone.” It’s near the Yarden (Jordan) river and at this time, it’s not a significant settlement but by the time of Jacob, there’s a sizable town at this place.
“The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built can altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.” (Gen. 12:7)
Abram built this altar to commemorate the place where God spoke to him.
Shechem was also the place Ya’akov (Jacob) visited many years later when he wanted to ask God whether he should go to Egypt to see Yosef (Joseph). It’s an important city in the history of Abram and Ya’akov.
After this, he moved towards a mountain east of Beit-’El (Bethel, “House of God”), and built another altar. This is Abram’s second altar. Everywhere Abram went, something happened. God wants us to make note of these locations and to understand why God took Abram to these places.
At this second altar, we are told that Abram “called upon the name of the Lord” there. This time, Abram is starting a conversation with God, while at Shechem, God is the one who spoke with Abram.
Gen. 12:10-20 says Abram went from Bethel to the Negev and then got caught up in a severe famine so he decided to go down to Egypt to escape the brutal famine. God brought forth the famine upon the land of Canaan at this time.
We are told that Pharaoh coveted Sarai and took her into his household. In most English Bible we are told that Pharaoh’s household was struck with a “great plague.” The Hebrew word here is נֶגַע nega (H5061), which literally means “stroke” or “blow.” We are not told the exact nature of this great “blow,” but it was profound enough that Pharaoh threw Abram, Sarai and Lot out of the country as quickly as he could. This is the first time that we are told that Abram had great wealth.
This story is a microcosm of the later Exodus account. In both records, initially they were welcomed and exalted but then they were seen as a curse and cast out with many gifts and riches.
Did Abram make a mistake going down to Egypt in the first place? No, God had His hand in this story. There’s a reason it’s recorded for us. After all, many things Abram did were never recorded for us. We only know what God wants us to know.
After Abram, Sarai and Lot returned to the land of Canaan, Abram’s servants and Lot’s servants started arguing with each other because the land could no longer sustain their increased livestock. Abram made a deal with Lot that if Lot went to the left, he would go to the right and vice versa so that they could spread themselves out and share the land without argument.
The Bible tells us that this land was so beautiful that it was “like the garden of the Lord,” and we are told that Lot chose the more beautiful and prosperous side.
After Lot and Abram went their separate ways, God again dedicates the land to Abram. God tells Abram in Gen. 12:17, “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” Abram then sets out for the oaks of Mamre in Hebron and built God a third altar.
Speaker: Richard Agee. Reader: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.
David is anointed king of Yehudah (Judah), but he must now fight the house of Saul for control of all the tribes.
The events around Sarah’s death are not mentioned simply as a marker of time. She was a prominent person in her own right. Her Biblical biography is the only one of a woman that mentions her age at the time of her death as well as the elaborate negotiations surrounding the location of her final repose. The negotiations for her burial place have implications into the present day.