Tag Archives: abraham

Nahor, Abraham’s Brother

Some of my favorite things about the Torah are the snippets of legends that the early Jews knew so well that they didn’t even need to write down. Passing references and later commentary are the only ways that we know figures like Enoch and Nimrod. Genesis 34 marks the transition between Abraham’s and Isaac’s stories, ironically with a sidebar where neither are protagonists. More on that later, but this scene also marks the second mention of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Nahor may not be a prominent biblical figure, but this verse in Genesis 24 caught my attention:

Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor.

Genesis 24:10

How can you not want to learn more about a man who is the brother of a patriarch and has a town named after him? More after the break. Continue reading Nahor, Abraham’s Brother

Found Link – Pondering Scripture

Rebekah and Abraham’s Servant at the well. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I admit it: I’m stuck on Genesis 24. It’s such a beautiful, complex chapter. In sixty-seven verses, it say so much and has so may allusions to other stories that I struggle to capture it all. This is the story of Abraham’s servant’s search for a wife for Isaac, a job that both seems incredibly important (his family will inherit Israel) and also unimportant. After all, neither Abraham nor Isaac could be bothered to do the mate-searching for themselves. Between that and fact-checking my Torah family tree, I’m just behind!

As I finish writing some actual content, here’s a blog that has some: Pondering Scripture by Justin Honse. The author is slowly working his way through the bible, but is still in Genesis after several years of writing. That sounds very familiar…

Two that I liked about Genesis 24:

Check out Justin’s blog.

Up next: Nahor, brother of Abraham

 

 

 

Biblical Price Index

In my last post, I asked whether or not Abraham was cheated out of his land deal by Ephron the Hittite. 400 shekels of silver mean nothing to us, but the early readers of the bible toiled in their labors for a few shekels and would have known immediately what one was worth. To answer this question, we need some basis for comparison, a pricing guide in shekels. I’ve scoured the bible for every listed price and put a few of them together for this chart:

Continue reading Biblical Price Index

Abraham’s Real Estate – The Cave of the Patriarchs

By the time we reach adulthood, just about everyone knows what it feels like to lose a loved one. But many of us, myself included, have experienced the act of putting someone to rest only as a bystander. I’ve never had to arrange a burial myself, or select a casket, or any of the myriad of other unhappy details that must be dealt with at death. To do all that while still grieving yourself, to someone as intimate to you as your husband or wife, it’s just unimaginable to me. Abraham did that and more in Genesis 23.

This is the story of the second holiest place in Judaism, the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Read on for more. Continue reading Abraham’s Real Estate – The Cave of the Patriarchs

Can Bible Stories Be Spiritually True, But Factually False? (Ishmael and Isaac’s Ages)

The Bible overall, but especially Genesis, is a collection of stories. These stories were stitched together (either by man or God, it doesn’t matter) to make theological or historical points. I’ve made a big deal out of ages and timelines in the last couple of posts because I love facts. I love nuggets of information that I can hold on to and draw context with. Genealogical tables, lists of place names, and timelines all fascinate me in the bible and I’ve done posts about all three.

The truth is though, that sometimes it seems like the author didn’t care about all of that. Some stories appear to be spiritually true more than they are historically true, or even true relative to other stories. This happens in the Proverbs (some of which directly contradict each other), this happens in Numbers (the inflated population figures), and it happens in Genesis. The ages of Isaac and Ishmael is one of those “truths”.

What do I mean? Well, I guess you’ll have to keep reading…

Continue reading Can Bible Stories Be Spiritually True, But Factually False? (Ishmael and Isaac’s Ages)

Chayei Sarah – The Life (and Death) of Sarah

In the Jewish cycle, Genesis 23 begins the fifth Torah portion: Chayei Sarah, the Life of Sarah. Like all portions, it is named for its first phrase:

And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiriatharba—the same is Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
Genesis 23:1-2

Ironically, while the name of this portion celebrates life, its content is just the opposite: it begins with Sarah’s death and ends with Abraham’s. In the middle is Isaac’s marriage, a fitting reminder that the cycle of life continues even as the ones we love pass away.

The circumstances of Sarah’s final days is one of the smaller mysteries of the Bible, and one that Jewish and Christian sources tend to disagree on. We know how old Sarah was when she died, but why did she die alone? What caused her death? Was she the Bible’s first divorcee? Read on for more.

 

Continue reading Chayei Sarah – The Life (and Death) of Sarah

Isaac at Moriah and the Temple Mount

It’s no mystery that I love all the “begats” in the bible and I’ve built complex charts and relationship maps to tease out interesting details. (My family tree of every named individual in the Torah is completed, but I have to make it presentable and write up explanations for some of my choices.) I am now trying to pay more attention to the places in the bible and their connections.

Using my previous post on the Binding of Isaac as an example, the fact that Isaac lived at Beer-lahai-roi after his near-sacrifice deepens the text. Now, we as readers can connect that as where Hagar first met God and ponder its significance. While the book does not provide easy answers, we can ask new questions. Did he go there because it was hallowed ground? Was there a connection between him and Hagar or Ishmael at that spot? Could Isaac have gone there in search of God himself, as Hagar did when she ran away? There are no answers to these questions, but asking them brings us closer to Isaac and closer to the text.

As important as Beer-lahai-roi is, undoubtedly the most important place mentioned in the Binding of Isaac is Moriah, the region where he was to be offered to God. It may be the most important place in the while bible.

Read on for more.

Continue reading Isaac at Moriah and the Temple Mount

Errata: Isaac in the East

Oh, the troubles a little comma can make! Yesterday’s post on the separation of Abraham’s family after the Binding of Isaac had an error: I mistakenly said that Isaac had gone eastward between the time his mother died and when his father did. It’s a simple mistake and it’s because I was reading Genesis 25 using an archaic translation:

But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

Genesis 25:6 (JPS, 1917 Edition)

Somehow in my reading and my note-taking, I got confused by the clauses. It was the sons of the concubines that were “unto the east country” and not Isaac. While the bible doesn’t say, Isaac was probably at Beer-lahai-roi, where he was both before and after this passage.

This doesn’t change my explanation much, except to say that Isaac didn’t choose this as his special place to go when his father passed away. It does drive home me a lesson for me that I should know already: translations matter. I use the 1917 JPS for this blog because it’s so cut-and-paste-able, but it is also not the most modern of translations. The meaning of words drift over even a hundred years and I like to be sure that words mean what I think they mean. Still, this is more a case of misreading than a text gone bad.

The New International Version (1984) gives a clearer translation:

But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

Genesis 25:6 (New International Version, 1984)

Much more understandable!

Up next: Back on Moriah!

Abraham’s True Sacrifice – His Family

We’re up to one of those famous stories in the bible. The “Binding of Isaac”, as it is generally called, is almost as well known as Noah’s Ark or the Parting of the Red Sea and it does so without cute animals or Charlton Heston. In this story, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him, only to relent at the last moment and provide a ram to use instead. Because of his commitment to God, Abraham proves himself worthy again to be the patriarch of the future Israel.

This test and validation narrative is a good one, but a careful reading shows that God wasn’t demanding an empty sacrifice of Abraham. Although Isaac was spared the knife, God dealt Abraham a tremendous hidden sacrifice: a family, a father and son, walked up the mountain together but two strangers walked down. In one stroke, Abraham’s family was shattered. He, his son, and his wife would never be together again.

Read on for more.

Continue reading Abraham’s True Sacrifice – His Family