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:
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
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.
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.
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.