Torah Pearls #5 – Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

In this episode of The Original Torah Pearls Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) learn about love, romance, marriage, death, laden camels, and the power of specific prayers. Chayei Sarah unfolds dramatically as the trio examine its many pearls. The portion begins with Abraham securing a burial place for Sarah and ends with his death. In between, we get to relive one of the world’s best stories, not once, but four times, as Abraham’s servant makes a match for Isaac. But far from stale repetition, Gordon explains that being able to analyze word choices in a repeated story is pay dirt for the linguist.

Word studies include: “rose up”, under the “thigh”, the number “ten”, and a rare accent mark used only three times in the Torah. Discussions include: Why would a master negotiator insist on paying full price for anything? Why was Abraham adamant that Isaac not be taken back to Ur? And what was at the heart of the servant’s methods that caused him to be such a clever matchmaker?

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Transcript

Torah Pearls #5 – Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

You are listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Jono: G’day to everybody listening around the world and thank you for your company. Joining me this hour are men from different backgrounds and different time zones. Let me just explain this to my listeners so that they understand. My friends, I am in the future. I know that’s difficult for some people to understand, like Nehemia, but I am in the future. In the midst of the nations, according to Ezekiel 5, verse 5, is Nehemia Gordon, there in Jerusalem.

Nehemia: Shalom.

Jono: Somewhere else on the globe is Keith Johnson, where it’s eight in the morning. G’day, Keith.

Keith: I’m in the Stone Age. I’m in the back.

Nehemia: I just have one question, Jono.

Jono: Go on.

Nehemia: Don’t you get headaches from being upside down all the time? No, I’m serious.

Jono: You know, Yoel thinks I have - this is Yoel ben Shlomo my Hebrew teacher, Mr. Squiggle as I’m calling him now, because he has a digital writing pad which just makes Hebrew lessons so cool. He thinks that a lot of my wacky theological ideas are because I am upside down. But I wonder if the globes are in fact the right way up. Maybe I’m not upside down, as far as I’m concerned...

Nehemia: Maybe we’re actually upside down, and that’s why...

Jono: Possibly. But anyway, in any case, it’s almost midnight here. What is it... it’s the middle of the day over in Jerusalem?

Nehemia: Yes. It’s a little after 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Jono: And it’s a bit after 8 a.m.

Keith: It’s 8 a.m. My only question is this what date is it there?

Jono: So for the next half an hour, it’s the... you can’t ask me that question because we’re pre-recording and we’ll freak everybody out.

Nehemia: Okay. We’ll have to cut that.

Keith: We’ll cut that one out. Okay.

Jono: Let me explain it to you. In about half an hour, I’m in tomorrow.

Keith: Okay. Excellent.

Nehemia: That’s what I don’t get. The people who are like an hour past you, they’re in yesterday? Like in Hawaii, they’re still in yesterday, but you’re in tomorrow.

Jono: Yeah, that’s right.

Nehemia: That’s where I get confused.

Keith: It’s called the International Date Line.

Nehemia: Yes.

Jono: The International Date Line should be... now, undoubtedly, we’re going to be talking about this at some stage of the Torah portion. We’re going to be talking about, no doubt, the International Date Line and where the... Anyway, let’s not do it now, but it’s a fascinating topic.

Nehemia: Can I insist on referring to it as “the Alleged International Date Line” for now, until we’ve established this issue?

Jono: Yes, I wouldn’t say that it should be where it is. But again, it’s a big topic.

Nehemia: We haven’t even proven the world is round. I mean come on. There’s still more to discuss here.

Jono: All right. Now, listen - not only are we in vastly different time zones, but we’re of different religious backgrounds, I think is fair to say, right? Just to remind everybody. I don’t know what I am. Nehemia is a Karaite Jew and Keith is a Methodist pastor. Is that fair?

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: There we go. Figured it out. But you see, the good thing about this is, Pearls from the Torah Portion – that is where we are finding common ground. That’s where we’re coming together to discuss Torah. This is what we have in common. Amen?

Nehemia: Yes. Hallelujah.

Keith: To be honest with you, I wouldn’t be so interested in doing this in this form if it wasn’t with such diversity and such different backgrounds. Because I think, for me, maybe there are a lot of folks that do this, but I think this is really unique that we have you where you are, Nehemia where he is, and I am where I am, geographically, time zones, and in terms of background. Our backgrounds are very diverse, even within each other. Nehemia’s background would include having had Orthodox Judaism as what he would’ve grown up, and then now he is a Karaite Jew. I would’ve grown up with no Christian background at all until I had an encounter of some sort, and then in teenage, I went through my own process and transitions. And Jono, I’m sure that even within your life there’s diversity regarding your beliefs and having been to school, studying one thought, you had one way of thinking maybe at one point in your life, and then there’s been some change.

I think that’s what’s so cool about this, is that we’re taking this Torah portion and then we’re bringing the backgrounds, our diverse backgrounds, with us, and then the background together that’s so diverse. That’s the reason I’m doing this. I just think this is really a unique opportunity for people to listen and to interact with us via the Scripture.

Jono: Amen. It certainly makes it interesting. There’s no doubt about it. I just realized something - that I’ve never heard your story from the spiritual milestones throughout your life, Keith. I would love to do that sometime. And you as well, Nehemia. For myself, just so the listeners know, I actually...

Keith: Wait, I don’t get my own show? I want my show to talk about...

Jono: Hey, equal time. Equal time. But I grew up in Sunday school, just for the listeners. I went to two Christian schools. They were Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian schools. And then I went on to do a degree in Christian theology. But despite all of that, here I am doing the Torah portion with you guys. It’s such a blessing.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: This week we are in Bereshit, chapter 23, to 25 verse 18. We’re talking about the life of Sarah, and it begins with the sad account of her death. It has that melancholic sort of beginning. Then it goes on to the story of the purchase of the cave of her burial after she died, and the beautiful story of Rebekah becoming the bride of Isaac. Man, I love that story. This is such a beautiful story.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: Amen. Let me just kick off with the opening verses, if I may. “Sarah lived to one hundred and twenty-seven years,” 127, how about that? “These were the years of the life of Sarah.” So she died and Abraham mourned for her. Now, this is verse 3, “Abraham stood up from before his dead,” what does that mean, Nehemia, “Abraham stood up from before his dead”?

Nehemia: You have this ritual in Judaism, which went back apparently even to the time of Abraham, probably before that, of what they call “sitting shiva.” It’s actually shiv’ah, which is seven days. They would sit down on the floor for seven days, on the ground, and mourn. Evidently, this is some early form of that tradition, where he’s sitting down, being consoled by friends and relatives and whoever would come and console him. Then he gets up and he’s got to take care of business.

Keith: You know it’s interesting about that, Jono, for me. Now, this is just a perfect example, when Nehemia and I were on tour together and there was this discussion about his own father in terms of him dying, his sister asked the question, are you going to sit shiva? And Nehemia, when he said it to me, of course, he just said it as a fact, like, this is what my sister asked me. I didn’t even make the connection between that and of course in reading this, because having no sort of traditional understanding of what the expectation would be regarding funerals or death or anything, that’s just been a completely eye-opening experience for me as I’ve watched him go through this.

But it’s just amazing that you stopped here and asked a question about Abraham that I wouldn’t have even thought that that would be a traditional thing that would happen. I mean, I would’ve just moved on quickly in that verse, and said okay, he got up to do business. But no, before he got up, he actually sat there. He spent that time there. So I appreciate that explanation.

Jono: So it goes on to describe the... Now, this seems like, you know, usually when you buy something, there’s some sort of bartering going on to knock the price down before the purchase is actually made. In this case, there seems to be a knocking up of price, and insisting on paying full price, which is almost opposite of what usually happens. Is that a fair assessment?

Nehemia: Well, I think it’s really interesting, because a few chapters earlier we saw that Abraham was a master negotiator. He actually was negotiating and haggling, so to speak, with the Creator of the universe, trying to knock down the number of people that needed to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah to save those cities. It started off with 50 and ended up with 10. I mean, you wouldn’t get a price reduction like that in most marketplaces today in the Middle East. He was a master negotiator. Here he comes before the children of Heth, the Hittites, and they want to give him this tomb for free, and he says, “No, I want to pay full price.” You’ve got to ask yourself, why? Why did he want to pay full price? To me, the answer is obvious. What do you guys understand there? Why did he want to pay full price?

Jono: Keith, what comes to you?

Keith: Well, I think he wants to pay full price so that he can have the deed of ownership.

Nehemia: Absolutely.

Keith: That this is something that he owns. That’s why I say, you know, we were talking about this issue of negotiation - this is one of my favorite little lines in all of Bereshit. The reason is I’ve actually used this line when I’m talking to Nehemia, or I’m talking to someone, because you guys pull Middle Eastern negotiations with me all the time. So one of the things that I’ve learned to say to him is, I say to him, just like Ephron answered Abraham, he said, “Listen to me, the land is worth four hundred shekels, but what is that between you and me?” In other words, give me four hundred shekels.

Jono: Yes.

Keith: So Nehemia is the one...

Nehemia: He wants the good silver; he doesn’t want the bad stuff. He wants the merchant silver.

Keith: Yeah. But I think it takes us into a time - and I mean, there are actual negotiations going on, but again, the question of why - I think it’s Abraham saying, “No, I’ll pay you what you say it’s worth, and in the presence of witnesses so that I have ownership.” Of course, that’s then an issue that we see even today.

Jono: Even today. The other thing that comes to my mind is, just stepping back in the Torah portion to chapter 15 verse 22-23, and this is the encounter with the king of Sodom and Melchizedek and so on and so forth. It says, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to Yehovah… that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Do you think there’s a bit of that going on?

Nehemia: I think maybe there is. But I think the main issue here is that if you don’t pay for something it’s not really yours. He starts off in the discussion and says, “I’m a sojourner among you. You’re all landowners and I’m sitting here living in my tent in the countryside.” Because he wasn’t a landowner, he was an itinerant Bedouin, so to speak, traveling around with his flocks. He said, “I want to have something that I own.”

It’s interesting - if you read throughout the Tanakh there are four pieces of property that were bought by the Israelites. This is the first one, the Cave of Machpelah, here in Hebron. The next thing to be bought was the field in Shechem, where Joseph was later buried, which was bought by Jacob for a hundred kasitah, which apparently is a type of sheep. You have the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, which become the Temple Mount. And you have the city of Samaria, which was bought from Shemer the Canaanite by Omri, the king of Israel.

Those four pieces of land... You know, the rest of Israel we can say God gave us. Those four pieces we actually paid full price, cash money, for them. Ironically, those are the four most contested pieces of land in Israel. I mean, literally. The Cave of Machpelah to this day in Hebron is one of the most contested spots in the whole country. The Temple Mount... that’s obvious that the Temple Mount is one of the most contested spots in the world. The Tomb of Joseph, which is the very field that was purchased by Jacob thousands of years ago, it’s still there, and it’s again, one of the most contested spots. The center of the entire dispute between the Palestinians and the Israeli movement to reclaim Judea and Samaria is Sebastia, which is the site of ancient Samaria of Shomron, which was bought by Omri.

Those four spots are the most contested. I don’t think that’s an accident. I think that the reason they’re the most contested is because we have the strongest claim of ownership on them.

Jono: Clearly.

Keith: In verse 20 it says, “So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.” In other words - me being the Methodist and reading the English version here - is that there’s some sort of official form, of some sort of official documentation that Abraham could walk away with for his 400 pieces of silver that said, “this is mine”.

Nehemia: Actually the word there that your’s translated as “deeded,” is the word “ve’yakom,” which means “and it stood up,” “it was raised up.” In this context, it actually is related to the word that indicates a covenant. It’s, for example, the Aramaic word “kimtah,” it comes from the same root. I would translate that as, “The field and the cave they were in it, were established as a covenant for Abraham for inherited possession as a tomb from the children of Heth.” This is something that was actually a covenant, an eternal covenant that Abraham purchased.

Because in some cultures when you buy land, most places today actually, when you buy land, you don’t really own that land; the government owns that land and you pay them a yearly lease for the land. They call it a property tax. But you’re actually leasing the land from them. There are some exceptions around the world. But there, he actually owned that land. That was his outright. It’s ironic that this has become one of the most contested spots in the land.

Jono: Indeed.

Keith: Can we do, real quickly, a Torah Pearl?

Jono: Please.

Nehemia: Yes, please.

Keith: A little Torah Pearl. So, here’s the Spirit of God leading us in the situation, 23 verse 3. Jono said, “What does it mean that Abraham ve’yakom?” That he rose up? Then Nehemia says at the end of the chapter and then this same word. So Nehemia when you’re reading verse 20 in the Hebrew, the first word, what’s the difference between the first word in verse 20 and then in verse 3...?

Nehemia: Oh, it’s the same exact word, just a different meaning; that’s the whole idea of the Hebrew word pun.

Keith: Well, wait a minute you mean – I’m looking in the Strongs - I’m using my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Are you telling me that that I would find this word...?

Nehemia: I don’t know what Strong says, but I know that they’re both from the root “kuf vav mem,” to rise up. It’s actually ve’yakom, “and he rose up.” There it’s saying that the field rose up, not in the sense of physically rising up, but in the sense of being established as a covenant, like I said related to the Aramaic word “kimtah.” This is also what you call an inclusio, which means it opens and ends with the same word.

Keith: That’s very powerful.

Nehemia: That’s a very common style in Biblical Hebrew. I mean it kind of jumps off the page and I didn’t even mention it because I thought it was obvious.

Keith: Well, that was obvious...

Jono: Well, it’s obvious in Hebrew.

[laughter]

Nehemia: Yes. And thanks for pointing that out Keith.

Keith: I so much love it when he says, “What do you mean, it’s obvious to me.” Well, okay, that’s because you live in the midst of the nations and you live over in Israel and you’re reading it there.

Jono: That’s right.

Keith: For us, I’m in the past so I want to find out what is this, this word.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: I appreciate you bringing it up, Jono. It’s almost like you knew that, that’s a great softball for Nehemia to hit out of the park.

Jono: Speaking of translations, verse 6, “Hear us, my lord,” Now, I’ve got in front of me the New King James. It says, “You are a mighty prince among us,” Now, I’ve also read in other translations, “You are a prince of Elohim.” How would you translate verse 6 in that regard?

Nehemia: Yes, it says, “You are a prince of Elohim.” I guess whoever translated it as “Mighty” is taking “Elohim” not to be literal, but in the sense of... Because Elohim does in some instances have the sense of a judge, like it talks about bringing them before the judges and the word there is Elohim.

Jono: Sure. Sounds right.

Nehemia: No, here I would say that it means God - he’s a “Nasi Elohim,” he’s a prince of God. Meaning they understand that he’s a prophet and that he’s God’s representative in a sense. So yes – he’s a man of God.

Jono: Okay. Now, jumping from there to 16, you mentioned something about the merchant’s silver.

Nehemia: Right.

Jono: Is that a better quality of silver? There were different qualities of silver?

Nehemia: Oh yes, of course... To this day there are different qualities of silver, right?

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: We have inflation, they had that back then. Now, here’s an important point, which is that when it says four hundred shekels of silver, does it say that in your English, by the way, four hundred shekels of silver?

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: Shekels in the time of Abraham are not the same thing as shekels in the first century, or shekels today, obviously. That’s because shekel in the Old Testament always refers to a weight, the word “mishkal,” from where you get the word shekel, is actually the word for weight. They didn’t have coins back then. Coins weren’t invented till around something like 700 BC, and that was in Turkey, then they gradually made their way down over the next few hundred years to Israel.

But when this happened in the time of Abraham, there was no such thing as coins. When they say four hundred shekels of silver, what they actually did is weigh out these ingots, these bars of silver. “Over le’socher” means probably that these were standardized ingots, each one a shekel in weight or something like that. It was the silver that was known to be good.

But they would also check it - every time you receive silver. In fact, that was the case 100 years ago or 200 years ago - when somebody would pay you in silver or gold, you would check to see if that was good gold or good silver. Then you might find out, wait a minute that’s a bronze coin or that’s a wooden coin, oh, painted silver.

Jono: So they would melt it down, is this what they would do? They would melt it down?

Nehemia: No, I don’t think they would melt it down. It had been melted down before and set out as these ingots, which are actually referred to in Hebrew as “tongues” because they’re tongue-shaped, so “tongues” of silver.

Jono: Oh, okay.

Nehemia: We call them ingots. It’s kind of like a bar but it’s like elongated, and it’s not like a regular shape. It’s like an oblong sort of shape. Presumably that’s what these four hundred shekels of merchant’s silver refers to.

Jono: Yeah, okay. So “four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants,” it says in verse 16. So he purchased not only the cave that he asked for, but now he’s also paid for the field that surrounds the cave, or that is in front of the cave. Verse 19, “And after this, Abraham buried Sarah, his wife, in the cave of the fields of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham,” Or were, I suppose, as you said, they entered into a covenant...

Nehemia: Were established as a covenant.

Jono: Established as a covenant, “to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.” Now here we are in chapter 24, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age...”

Nehemia: Actually, before we get to that, can I point out a few things about 23?

Jono: Please.

Nehemia: First of all, we say the Cave of Machpelah but that actually is a Hebrew word that has a meaning. Machpelah comes from the work “kaful,” which means double. It was a double cave, apparently. Probably with two chambers. What’s interesting about the Cave of Machpelah is that site is still known to this day. Now, you have tombs all over Israel associated with all kinds of ancient people. You have the Tomb of Samuel and the Tomb of Rachel, and most of those tombs have nothing to do with the ancient... Like I actually posted on my Facebook page today about the Tomb of Zechariah in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. I posted that on Facebook. Archeologists have known for a hundred years that it has nothing to do with Zechariah - that’s a tradition that developed much later. The reason we know that is it dates to around 100 BC, and Zechariah lived 500-600 years before that, depending on which Zechariah it was; there were two Zechariahs.

You have lots of tombs that have absolutely nothing to do with the people that they’re named after. The Tomb of Machpelah in Hebron is one of the rare examples where that tomb actually is the same site as the ancient site. The reason we know that is that Josephus, the Jewish historian from the first century, describes the monument, or the structure, that Herod the Great - or Herod II, rather - he wasn’t so great - that he set up over the tomb of Machpelah in Hebron, and that building is still there to this day. In fact, the architecture of that building is pretty much identical to the architecture of the Temple Mount, that is the platform of the Temple Mount, which was also built by Herod, like the Western Wall. All right. Someone’s at the door, so can we hold on for a second?

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: Sorry.

Jono: It’s all right. Someone’s at the door.

Keith: Wait a minute. Hold on.

Nehemia: All right. Sorry about that.

Jono: That’s okay.

Keith: No, no, are we recording right now?

Nehemia: Is that not going to be cut out?

Keith: No, no. What?

Nehemia: What do you want me to do?

Keith: Is it Elijah?

Nehemia: No, it wasn’t Elijah. It was teenage girls raising money for some cause.

Jono: Nice.

Keith: Okay.

Nehemia: What was I saying?

Jono: What I want to know now, what you’ve just told me, is... Okay, so what you’re saying is that we know where the cave is today, and we know that to be...

Nehemia: Absolutely.

Jono: Absolutely the place where. Now, are we...

Nehemia: Without a question that is the spot. That’s been known for at least 2,000 years, meaning Herod built that sometime in 25 BC or sometime around there, sometime before he died in six BC. That structure is still there, the Tomb of Machpelah.

Jono: This is out of absolute naivety and ignorance I ask this question; does it still contain Sarah’s bones?

Nehemia: Well, here’s the really interesting thing - it’s never been excavated by archaeologists because it’s a Muslim holy site and they don’t want to offend the Muslims. But in 1967, when Hebron was liberated by the Israeli army, Moshe Dayan who was, I think he was the Minister of Defense at the time, he went over there and he sent actually a child down into these underground chambers. I mean you could see the opening there to this day, but nobody’s allowed to go there because the Muslims won’t let them. What the child found there is what are known as shaft tombs. Shaft tombs are types of tombs you find all over Israel, and they date to what’s known as the MB1 period, the Middle Bronze One, which is exactly understood by archaeologists to be the period of the patriarchs. So underneath that structure built by Herod are definitely tombs, and they date to the exact same period. Now, who’s buried in those tombs? Well, that I don’t know because the little boy didn’t take the bones out. He went down there and described what he saw, and that was it. It hasn’t been explored since, and that was in 1967. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could send some archaeological investigation down there and find those bones and do some DNA tests. I think that’s what the Muslims are afraid of. That if we do that, we’ll find out that’s the ancestors of the Jewish people.

Jono: Yes. Man.

Keith: Amen. So you understand, Jono, that it’s not just Sarah, as we go through the Torah portion, you’re going to find out who else is buried in that cave. So as we’ll go about that we’ll remember to come back to that.

Jono: Definitely. That is fascinating, Nehemia. Thank you for bringing that up. Chapter 24, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and Yehovah had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had,” Are we talking about Eliezer?

Nehemia: It doesn’t say that.

Jono: It doesn’t say.

Nehemia: That’s what the Midrash says, the Rabbinical homilies on the section tells you that this was Eliezer of Damascus that he mentions a few chapters earlier. This is something I love to do - I’ll ask people, “What was the name of Abraham’s servant that he sent to get a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24?” 90% of the time people say it was Eliezer. But in fact, it doesn’t say his name. My approach is that if it doesn’t tell you something in Scripture, don’t assume. I mean this was years later. Eliezer could have been dead or maybe Eliezer was too important to go off to another land to go get a wife.

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: I mean we don’t know who it is, that’s the bottom line. If it was significant what his name was, it would have told us that.

Keith: What was significant is that he was the oldest in Abraham’s house. That’s as much description as we get in 24. I have to say something, we’re about to talk about chapter 24, and I know this is a wonderful story, and I hope we get right into the depths of it. But this chapter brings me an amazing memory, and it has to do with Nehemia. Nehemia and I spent, Jono, I don’t know how long it was, over time we spent together studying. But for one full year we did an in-depth Hebrew curriculum. At the end of the curriculum, Nehemia actually gave me a test and he picked a chapter in Genesis, which I thought he should have picked maybe chapter 3 or chapter… he picked this chapter. Now, can you tell me, Jono, why you think Nehemia picked Genesis chapter 24?

Jono: I suspect, knowing Nehemia, I suspect it’s got something to do with the next line. Can I read it? Has it got something to do with the next line?

Nehemia: No. But go ahead and read the next line.

Keith: Go ahead and read.

[laughing]

Jono: Because, well, hang on, before I get there, Keith. What is the reason he picked this one?

Keith: Well, no - I’m going to let Nehemia, the great professor, tell everyone that’s listening why he would pick this chapter for it to be the chapter that he would give me an in-depth test.

Nehemia: Well, for two reasons. One is that it’s the longest chapter in Genesis, if I’m not mistaken. It’s maybe the longest chapter, outside of Numbers, I would think. It’s a very, very long chapter. One of the interesting things about this chapter is it’s extremely repetitive. He says, “Here’s what I want to happen.” It actually happens. Then when he’s telling over the story, he says, “Here’s what I wanted to happen,” and then tells how it actually happened. So some of the events are described four times. One is, like I said, what he wants to happen, when it actually happens and then telling it over twice more.

What’s interesting about that is it’ll use different words as it describes that, and that’s actually very telling. If the same exact event happens and then he’s remembering back how it happened and he uses a different word, then that can teach you a lot about those words. That was actually... I mean I don’t remember, it was years ago, Keith. But I presume that was the reason that I chose this chapter. Because linguistically, it’s fascinating.

Keith: It’s fascinating. And Jono, I know that we were not going to be able to go into great depth about this because of all these little pearls, but I didn’t know what was going to be the test, and this was the test that the great professor gave me. But what a learning experience to actually listen to someone in the same chapter, you can tell a story and use a different word and think, “Wait a minute, which one was it?” You know, part of me that wants to go, “Wait a minute, which one was it?” but it’s the part of the whole, how can I say it, Nehemia? The way of writing, the way of communicating...

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: ...and it really, the thing kind of jumps off the page. Anyway, I’m really excited that we’re in Genesis chapter 24. The story itself is fascinating, so we can begin.

Jono: At any point in your Hebrew tuition, Keith, did Nehemia ever ask you to put your hand under his thigh?

[laughing]

Nehemia: No!

Jono: All right.

Keith: Hey, listen, I will say this - in all of our time together, and we’ll talk about this at some point, in all of our time together, there’s really only one time where we ever had to get to the situation where I had to swear something. It really is a powerful image that Abraham brings forth to the oldest in his house, and the importance of swearing. I really do think that there’s some significance to this. So let it begin.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: Nehemia, what does it mean? I mean I think it’s mentioned a couple of times in the Tanakh if I’m not mistaken.

Nehemia: Presumably, this is a euphemism, and according to some commentators the servant put his hand on Abraham’s family jewels.

Jono: Okay, so this is what I’ve heard.

Nehemia: That’s one of the interpretations. Because like, “under his thigh” - what is that?

Jono: What is that? We don’t know.

Nehemia: Maybe it means literally under his thigh, though, we don’t know. This was a tradition of how they used to make us... you know, why do we put our hand on the Bible and raise your right hand? I don’t know if they do that in Australia, but they do that in the US. Why raise your right hand? What’s the significance of that? I don’t know, that’s just a tradition. It’s actually mentioned in the Bible raising the hand as an act of swearing, but where did that come from?

Keith: What does the word exactly say? What does the word say? In other words, when I see the picture of putting his hand under his thigh, I’m imagining him putting his hand back on his hamstring. So what does the word say that makes us think it’s something else?

Nehemia: The word is thigh, but that often is a euphemism for, you know, a polite way of saying your penis, I mean do we have to cut that word out? I mean that’s what it is.

Keith: You can’t drop that information and not tell us where this is used in another way…

Jono: I mean there’s got to be a reason, I mean is there a reason why...

Nehemia: I’ll just give you an example of Genesis 46:26. It says, “All the people who came belonging to Jacob to Egypt, those that came out of his thigh beside the wives of the sons of Jacob, were 66 people.” Okay?

Jono: Yes, sure.

Keith: There you go. Now, you’re talking.

Nehemia: It literally says, “Those who went out of his thigh,” they didn’t come out of his thigh, but they came out of his... you know how babies are created.

Jono: I’m pretty sure.

Nehemia: Okay. So that’s an expression, it’s a figure of speech that “yerech,” thigh, is often used euphemistically to refer to the male genitals.

Jono: There you go.

Keith: There it is.

Jono: Never heard that one before.

Nehemia: Now, is that the case here? I don’t know. That could be argued either way. In Genesis 32:26 it talks about Jacob wrestling with the angel, and it says, “he touched him on the inside of his thigh,” and then it talks about Jacob is immediately after that limping. So...

Jono: Yeah. That suddenly became painful.

Nehemia: Yes. [laughing]

Jono: Ouch.

Nehemia: This was Krav Maga. It wasn’t, you know. Boom! Go for those weak points.

Jono: Krav Maga the martial arts of the Israeli soldiers.

Keith: That’s a Torah Pearl. That’s a Torah Pearl from the Torah there.

Jono: It is. Moving right along.

Nehemia: Yes.

Jono: All right. Now, Keith, you’re going to get excited here because you’re the numbers man, right? You’ve already told us that.

Keith: Yes. I’m the numbers man.

Jono: Here are some numbers for you, numbers man. I’m going to jump down to verse... can I jump down to verse 10? Notice, Keith, first of all, verse 10. “Then the servant,” in verse 10, “took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods,” So he’s sent off the servant to go and find... Now, “ten” appears a lot here, Keith. I just want to point something out to you, and you tell me what you make of it. We’ve got ten camels in verse 10 all the way over in, let’s see, verse 55. What’s 5+5, Keith?

Keith: Ten?

Jono: Ten! All the way over there in verse 55, we’ve got... what does it say here? “But her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten,’” it says in 55. Then a little further on, in 61, “Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels,” so I’m assuming there were ten including Rebekah, “and followed the man and the servant,” and so on and so forth. Ten seems to be a significant number here. What do you make of it?

Keith: I am not sure what I make of it, but I think it’s interesting that you found that. I would have never looked at that. I’ll have to work on that for a little bit.

Jono: Oh, come on. I was really excited about, Keith, I thought for sure you, being the numbers man, would have an explanation for it. Oh, I’m disappointed.

Nehemia: I have an explanation.

Jono: Oh! Nehemia has got an explanation. Go on.

Nehemia: We have ten fingers and that makes it, especially for people who didn’t know how to read and write, it makes it very easy to count to ten. Whenever you want to throw out a number that isn’t a precise number, but you want to say a lot, you just say ten.

Jono: Really?

Nehemia: Yes. I think that’s why they said, “Do you want to stay with us,” what it literally says, they said, “yamim,” which is days, “o asor,” ten. I mean days could be whatever days were two, three, undefined. Or as many as ten. I don’t think they necessarily literally meant ten, they just meant a whole bunch. Because it’s easy to count to ten.

Jono: A whole bunch. So in the same way that we might use the word “several”?

Nehemia: Yes, or dozen.

Jono: Or dozen.

Nehemia: I think more like dozen.

Jono: Yes, well it does mean it’s specific to 12, right?

Nehemia: Not really. It is and it isn’t. If you say, like, “How many people were there?” “Oh, three dozen.” Do you really mean 36? Could there have been 40 or 32?

Jono: Fair enough.

Nehemia: You know, you’re guesstimating. Why do you say “three dozen” and not “three 13s” because that has become this fixed term for 12, but you don’t always literally mean exactly 12, because you’re not sitting there and counting. Unless you did count. It’s like several but it also has a literal meaning of “ten,” but were there exactly ten camels? Probably, in this case. But when they said, “stay ten days,” I don’t know they had to be ten days, it could have been 11 or 9.

Jono: Fair enough.

Keith: Well, can I ask a question?

Jono: Keith?

Keith: Why do you all think that it was so important to Abraham that he not - he says, “Do not bring my son back there.” In other words, he says, no matter what, go and find a wife for my son Isaac. Then the servant says the obvious thing, he says, “Okay, sure, I’ll do this.” He says, “He can’t marry any of those that I’m amongst, in their midst.” And the servant says, “Well, look, I have an idea. Why don’t I parade him back there? And maybe then, by bringing him physically, he will be able to find a wife for him. Why does Abraham say, “No, whatever you do, don’t bring my son back there?” Jono, what do you think?

Jono: Because in my Bible, it’s got an exclamation mark after that. It’s not just “No.” It’s like, “Heaven forbid you should do such a thing.”

Keith: It says in verse 6, “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham says.

Jono: I’ve got in the New King James, it says, “Beware that you do not take my son back there.” “Beware,” it begins with, “Beware that you do not take my son back there. Yehovah Elohim of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me saying, ‘To your descendants, I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you,” it goes on to say. But obviously, he’s saying, “Listen, we’ve made it here. We’ve established us here. I’ve got a field. I’ve got a cave. I’m here and I’m here where I’m meant to be. Yehovah has brought me out of the land and brought me here. There’s no way we’re going to start from square one.”

Nehemia: Right. Look what happened with Jacob - he left to flee from his brother. Probably didn’t plan on staying away for all that long, ended up staying away for 20 years and only got back by fleeing for his life. You know, once you leave, it’s difficult to get back. To this very day, I have a long list of friends and relatives who had difficulty in Israel. It’s a tough country to live in. And said, well, “I’m going to go to the US or England or some other place just for a year, and I’ll be back.” Not a one of them ever came back. I don’t think it was any different back then.

Keith: I want to give a testimony about this, though, because when we were studying this, Jono, this is literally ten years ago. Nehemia and I, we were doing this study back and forth. And then there was a time where he came over to visit the United States, after having been gone for a long time. He had been in Israel, had originally lived in Chicago; I’m telling his story. He’s over in Israel and he’s living there. And so he came to do a teaching with Reggie White. That was the first time that I actually got a chance to see Nehemia in the United States - because earlier than that I met him in Israel. When he comes over to Reggie’s house, Reggie set him up in what he called the guest room. Now, the guest room for Reggie was another house, literally, within in the house; it was a wing. Reggie lived in a very big house. I remembered Nehemia saying something to me, because I invited him to dinner at my house. I invite him to dinner at my house, he comes over and you know back then Nehemia was not nearly as engaging as he’s now. And he’s coming over and we’re sitting down, and it actually took a couple glasses of wine till he would finally say to me, he says, “You know,” I said, “So Nehemia, what would you think about coming over to the United States and spending a longer period of time?” And he said this to me, and please correct me if I’m wrong Nehemia. He said, “You know, I don’t think I want to stay here too long because I might get too comfortable.” I’m saying, “What’s the problem with that?” He says, “In getting too comfortable, I might not want to go back to where it isn’t so comfortable all the time.” That gave me a great insight into the importance of not only where he was, but regardless of what was going on here, where he was had purpose and importance. And when I hear Abraham saying this, I almost hear the same thing. “Don’t let my son go back there looking for his wife, he might find some beautiful woman who says I don’t want to come. Then he’ll miss the promise.” So that’s why I wanted to bring that verse up, Nehemia, to tell that story because that really was an impression that you made upon me way back then. Then having been in Israel and being with you, being there, seeing what’s going on there, and this was over a very difficult time in Israel.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: There was a sense where, hey, it’d be easier if you just came over here. So, anyway...

Jono: I’m glad you brought that up because that echoes a conversation that I had today, earlier today. Maybe this doesn’t have a lot to do with the Torah portion, but let me just take the opportunity to ask you, Nehemia, why is it so important for someone who has entered into the covenant, like yourself, someone who’s Jewish, to return to the land and live there - why is that so important?

Nehemia: Look, it’s not an easy place to live like I said. That’s obviously because of certain political things that are going on. Also because of... there are economic issues, as well, that are a result of the political things, indirectly. But despite all that, this is the land that God gave us, and to have the opportunity to fulfill that blessing, to engage that blessing, to live that blessing is, to me, priceless. It’s worth the trouble that’s involved. It’s also a fulfillment of prophecy that the people of Israel are supposed to return to the land. My living here is a prophetic fulfillment, not in some theoretical, symbolic way, but literally a fulfillment of prophecy. Every day I feel that. Every day I experience that. It’s amazing.

Jono: Sure. So for a Jew that is considering aliyah, who perhaps lives out in a beautiful place in a farm without a care in the world, and yet wants to be obedient to our Creator, his Father in heaven, wants to live according to Torah, is considering making his way back - why should he not hesitate?

Nehemia: I would say to him that “you have an opportunity your ancestors didn’t have. Your ancestors dreamed about this. They literally used to sing songs about next year in Jerusalem. Now we get to do it. Now, you get to hop on a plane. Look, there are difficulties involved. When people came here a hundred years ago, things were much worse off. They were ruled by the Turks, and after that, there was the British occupation.

Things were much worse in the past, and so we got it pretty good. I’ll take our current situation over what they had a hundred years ago or five hundred years ago, any day of the week. If you live as a Jew in a different country, you’re a foreigner. They might tell you, “Yeah, you’re one of us. You’re a full citizen.” But the bottom line is you’re a foreigner who’s living in somebody else’s country, and this is your country. This is your land. The land that God gave you. There’s something about that.

Jono: Indeed.

Keith: That’s certainly the case here. Abraham is saying, look, he goes on to tell, he tells the reason, and the reasoning being, “This is the land that God gave me for my offspring and now you want my offspring to go back to the land that I came from? What happens if he misses it, then that stops the promise. And not the promise from God’s side, but in terms of being there. I just wanted to bring that up.

Nehemia: Let’s look at the context there. It’s not just about the woman saying I don’t want to come back. Where was he going? He was going to what today is Iraq, which we think of as this horrible war-torn country, but back then it was Mesopotamia, the land between the two rivers, Aram-Naharaim, the Aramia between the two rivers. You have two of the largest rivers in the world flowing to your north and to the south of you. It’s a lush place. It’s a place that is rich fertile-wise, as far as growing crops and raising animals, and it could be very tempting to be drawn away from this semi-arid country over here where I am right now, which has a beauty of its own. They say that those who come from the desert, their paradise isn’t a desert. Their paradise that they dream about is a land where there’s water everywhere. That’s what Mesopotamia was, and is to some extent still. I think that’s why he’s saying, “Don’t let my son go there,” because he’s going to get tempted away, tempted to stay there.

Jono: Fair enough.

Keith: Absolutely.

Jono: Excellent. Thank you for bringing that up, Keith. And so Abraham tells his servant, “And He will send His angel before you,” how is that for an escort, that’s pretty cool.

Nehemia: Yes, pretty cool.

Jono: “‘And you shall take a wife for my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.’ So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.” That’s good.

Keith: One of the things that I like about this statement also, and again, slowing down and reading it word-for-word and seeing it kind of jumped off the page to me also, is that Abraham makes this amazing statement, he says, “An angel is going to go before you,” but if for some reason she doesn’t do it, it’s like Abraham gives this option, this opting out. The angel’s going to go before you, there’s… going to have to success, here’s what you’re going to do, but if for some reason that doesn’t happen, still don’t change the point. He gives room for the possibility that even with this great statement of faith, if it doesn’t happen, there’s a principle here that we’re going to live by. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Nehemia: Yes, that is significant that he’s saying, “Don’t compromise this principle of taking my son out of this place.”

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Even if things don’t work out, we’re being led - because a lot of times I’ll hear people, especially Christians, who will talk about being led by the spirit. What they mean by that is they’re going to follow a certain plan of action as long as everything goes right. But the minute things stop going right, they jump ship; they collapse, they can no longer stick to the plan of action. Where does it say anywhere in Scripture that things are always going to be easy? On the contrary, what we see throughout Scripture is people who are continuing on a path to follow their conscience and to follow the Word of God, even when it’s not easy. You know, doing it when it’s easy? Big deal, anybody can do that. It’s the ones who do it and have a difficult time doing it and are challenged, but despite those challenges continue and press forward - that’s true faith.

Jono: “The servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor, and he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when the women go out to draw water.” Now, this is beautiful, “He said, ‘O Yehovah, Elohim of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this, I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”

And of course, this is what happens – Rivka, Rebekah, comes out and not only does she do that but she goes further and she says, “Oh, I’ll get water for your camels and I will keep getting water for your camels until they’ve had enough to drink.” And I know camels can drink a lot, right, Nehemia?

Nehemia: I’m not an expert on camels, to be honest with you. Me and camels really don’t get along.

Keith: Yes, Nehemia doesn’t do so well. Torah Pearl! Torah Pearl! Torah Pearl!

Jono: Keith?

Keith: In verse 12 in your English Bible, I think it says, “O LORD,” is that right?

Jono: Yes.

Keith: Then it says, “Then he prayed, ‘O LORD, God of my master.’” This is one little interesting thing, and it really... let it be me for a second. So one of the things that I asked Nehemia is I said, “Nehemia, I want to understand four things. I want to understand the consonants, the vowels, I want to understand the Masoretic notes, and I want to understand the accents.” This is a really interesting accent that’s over the first word, and I want to let Nehemia explain it, if he can.

Nehemia: Now, what verse are we in?

Keith: We’re in verse 12. Because it says in your English Bible, “O LORD,” verse 12 the verse word, “vayomer,” and there’s an accent, a little squiggly above the mem there. Do you see it, Nehemia?

Nehemia: The little squiggly. It’s actually vayomar, and that’s what’s called the shalshelet.

Keith: The shalshelet. Go ahead.

Nehemia: The various accent marks, they have three functions, and I’ll just give you the brief version. One of the functions is to instruct you how to cantillate, or to chant, the verses as you’re reading them in the synagogue. The accent mark over the word vayomar is a rare accent mark. I think it only appears three times in the Torah, and it’s one that is - I don’t know the musical term, but it’s a sound that you make that expresses anguish; it goes up and down. So you’d read this, and you know I’m horrible at singing, but...

Keith: That’s okay, I’ll take it from here Nehemia.

Nehemia: All right. I’ll let you do it, Keith.

Keith: No, but the point being...

Nehemia: No, so it would be read something like [sings up and down] vayomar. We may have to edit that out.

[laughing]

Keith: Yes, like I said, I’ll do that, Nehemia.

Nehemia: Oh, boy. No, but the point is, it’s expressing extreme emotion.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: The other two times you see it, in Genesis, I believe. One is when the angels are trying to rush Lot to leave Sodom, and it says “va’itma’ameha,” “and he tarried,” and it has that same accent there. Then the other time is when, if I’m not mistaken, when the wife of Potiphar grabs Joseph, trying to rape him, and there again it has the same one, expressing his anguish in that situation.

Jono: Trying to get away, yeah.

Keith: Well, the reason that it catches my attention is because this prayer that he’s praying, if I can just be dramatic about it. The idea being that the servant has been sent by Abraham, he’s the oldest in the house, he swore that he would not do this, and he knows, even though Abraham says I’m going to send the angel before you, but in case it doesn’t happen, come back. Then when it’s time to pray - I mean imagine this picture, now - here’s this servant, he’s got the camel, he’s got the swearing, he’s got Abraham, the great man of God. He’s like, “Okay, but I need something,” and he looks up to the Creator of the universe. He looks up and he uses this emotional cry out when he calls to him. He says, “Listen, God of my master Abraham, give me success.” This is no casual prayer; this is not Sunday morning go to church prayer. This is a prayer of passion and a prayer of belief and hope. And it says, before he finishes praying the prayer, excuse my excitement, men. Before he finishes praying the prayer, it’s like he’s speaking this prayer to the Creator of the universe and before he even finishes, here she comes.

Jono: Here she comes.

Keith: I mean God hears prayer!

Jono: Amen!

Keith: I can’t help but get excited about this. Not just the fact that there’s the little squiggly line, the accent. But that literally, this would be an example where it was that kind of prayer. I just think it’s pretty powerful. I’ve had my preacher fix for the moment, okay.

Jono: Thank you. That’s good. And that’s verse 15, of course, “And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rivka, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder.” This is verse 16, “Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up.” And so it goes that it happens exactly as he asks. It’s just such a beautiful story right here. I just love this.

Keith: Look at how specific he prayed and how specific the answer was.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: That’s my thing. You guys don’t get excited about that. Maybe the people listening...

Jono: No, I think it’s beautiful. I really think it’s beautiful.

Nehemia: No, it’s exciting.

Jono: It is. I’m excited. But then he responds by sticking... Now, I like to think that she already had sort of a hole in her nose where a ring could be put, right? He didn’t suddenly thrust a... I mean, did he?

Nehemia: One imagines. One imagines she already had the hole.

Jono: I kind of like to think that she did have a hole for the nose ring. I really hope so. But he gave her a nose ring weighing half a shekel, two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold. I mean that is some serious...

Keith: Why are you going to that part? Jono, why are you going to that part until we see the fact that you’ve got to find... Why does he pick this type of action? What’s the action that he picks? Before he gives the gifts, he wants to find out - is this the kind of person that can handle what is going to happen? He doesn’t say, “O Lord, please bring out the prettiest girl so I’ll know that my servant...”

Jono: No.

Keith: No, he doesn’t say that. He says, “Let her come out.”

Jono: But you know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of the incredible hospitality that we see from Abram in verse 18.

Nehemia: I think that was the point - that he wanted to see if, you know, “How do I find Abraham’s kin?”

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Well, we know Abraham’s characteristic is that he has this amazing hospitality. Let’s look for people who have hospitality.

Keith: Not only that, she’s going to have to be a worker. He says, look, I’m about to take this girl over to Isaac; who knows what the situation maybe it’s hard work out there in the desert, who knows? But he doesn’t find a little princess who wants her toes painted all the time. He finds someone who literally is working. She’s watering the camels. And how many camels were there?

Jono: Ten.

Nehemia: Ten.

Jono: Quick Keith!

[laughing]

Nehemia: Come on, preach it.

Keith: She goes beyond what it is that he’s even looking for. I mean she’s beautiful, okay, that’s great. Sometimes we look for the pretty one. Okay, she’s a virgin, that’s great. But does she work? Would she be able to do this? Does she have perseverance? Does she have the ability to...? I mean this is an amazing combination, this woman that he prayed for. I mean he raised the standard pretty high. And he found one.

Nehemia: What’s impressive is, it this isn’t even her job.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: He’s a stranger, he’s a foreigner. This is a lot of hard work that she’s doing out of the kindness of her heart, and I think that was the characteristic that he was looking for.

Keith: Okay, now we can move on to the gold and silver.

Jono: So not only does she, as I mentioned, not only does she fulfill his requirements that he prayed specifically for in earnest, but she does go beyond and she says, “Let me water your camels even until they finish drinking,” and she does so. So she is the one, and he gives her the bracelets, the nose ring, and so on and so forth.

A little further on, now in verse 29, we get to see Laban. Obviously, we’re going to read a little bit more about him later on in Bereshit. But in verse 50, after the servant relays everything to her family, their response I find interesting. They say, “We cannot agree, we can’t disagree. We can’t say it’s good, we can’t say it’s bad. Clearly, it is of Yehovah, here she is, take her.”

Keith: Well, I think it’s funny. There are two things that jump out too, I think it’s really kind of funny because when you read this story, just reading it in English, I think it’s interesting. There’s a lot of running going on. When the servant prayed the prayer, he prayed the prayer, he sees the girl coming, and what does he do? The servant hurried to meet her, and I think the word there is “to run,” he ran to meet her. And when Laban hears about it, as soon as he had seen the nose ring... And this is a foreshadowing of Laban.

Jono: Yeah, I noticed this, actually. This is true.

Keith: When Laban saw the size of the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arm, guess what he did?

Nehemia: He’s like, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Jono: Yeah, he said, “Hey, can I help you out? Can I do something for you?”

Keith: Look, the servant’s running because he’s like, “This is God. He answered my prayer. But I’m not going to sit casually back here and wait and let someone else come and scoop her up.” He ran to her.

Jono: Sure.

Keith: Then Laban’s like... Look, he saw the gold, he saw the silver, guess what he does? He runs. I mean this a really cool picture of the urgency that’s taking place in this amazing story.

Jono: Another thing that’s characteristic of Laban, we see in 55, “But her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that, she may go.’” And there seems to be a wanting to delay, even though just before that we see him saying, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about this. This is clearly of Yehovah. Here she is, take her.” But a little further on, his mother and he himself say, “Hey, but can we kind of just pull the brakes on just for a little bit?” I just kind of find that interesting.

Keith: There’s a custom. I mean, maybe there’s a custom in that particular part of the world, where, “Yes, we’re going to give our daughter to be married; she has to have time to prepare, and there’s going to be people that are going to come and say goodbye.” I think it’s interesting that the servant doesn’t let that delay him. He basically says, “Look, I have success and my success is now. I don’t know if it’s going to last tomorrow; let me live in that success.”

Jono: Nice. So the blessing - can we move to the blessing? We’re running out of time so we better do this quickly. Verse 60, “And they blessed Rivka and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands,’” this is just beautiful, “‘and may your descendants possess The gates of those who hate them.’” Isn’t that beautiful? That is just brilliant. All right, so moving on through. I just want to get to…

Keith: Wait, verse 62. I want to ask a question real quick. This is even something in my English Bible that jumps off the page.

Jono: Sure.

Keith: Torah Pearl! Verse 62, “Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate.” Now, was he doing yoga there, Nehemia? What’s the word there, verse 62?

Nehemia: Well, “lasuach,” means to speak or to discuss.

Keith: What was he doing?

Nehemia: Presumably, he was talking to God.

Jono: So he’s praying?

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: Why don’t they just use the word prayer?

Nehemia: Well, there are different words for prayer. This is one of them. He’s out in the fields and he’s speaking to God.

Keith: Okay. So it says here in the bottom of my NIV, it says, “The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain.”

Nehemia: Oh, okay.

Jono: Really? There’s the NIV. Okay. “And Isaac went out to meditate,” or to pray or to discuss things with God, right? Perhaps in the cool of the evening, in the field. Sounds like a beautiful thing to do. “And he lifted his eyes...”

Keith: I wonder if he’s out there saying, “When are You going to bring me my wife? When am I going to have my wife? I’ve got to have my wife.” And then he doesn’t realize that something’s happened already. He’s not even aware of it that God is already working on his behalf because the promise he gave to Abraham is going to continue through Isaac, and he’s going to have his wife, and... it’s powerful.

Jono: Amen. He’s 40 years old, by the way, when this happens, he is 40 years old. And so I guess he’s looking forward to this day.

Keith: I’ve got one other big question.

Jono: Yeah?

Keith: I’ve got one other big question here. So he says, “Then the servant told Isaac all he had done.” So the servant says this. “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rivka.” Now, did they have the ceremony there in the tent, Nehemia? Was there a chuppah? Was there a priest? What was this process of her becoming his wife?

Jono: Hang on. Before you answer, I’m sorry, I’ve got to read it all in its fullness because it’s so beautiful. “Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening, and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rivka lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, ‘Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took a veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rivka and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” I just think that is some of the most beautiful...

Keith: My version says...

Jono: Yeah?

Keith: My version says, “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rivka.” So I’m thinking that they had like a ceremony...

Jono: Some sort of ceremony and someone stood before them, maybe the servant stood before them and said, “By the power vested in me, I’m going to let you guys get married.”

Keith: As a preacher, I’ve always been overwhelmed by this, you all. I’m overwhelmed by these couples that will come to me and say, “We want to get married,” and I remember the first time I did a ceremony - you mean to say I can say words and these words actually mean that you’re going to be married and then you sign this paper? So were their words on paper? What is going on?

Nehemia: Well, there were definitely words. The words took place over in Mesopotamia with her family and her, and she agreeing to come. Then it was all explained to Isaac. Once this was made known, that this is the woman he’s going to be married to, the only thing left is to consummate the marriage. That’s why he’s taking her into the tent.

Jono: Keith?

Keith: So they never officially married without a marriage license?

Nehemia: They didn’t have a marriage license, you know that. You’re being very facetious.

Keith: No, I’m asking a question. There’s no marriage license...

Nehemia: In the Bible, the way that you married somebody in biblical times is you made it known to the community, “This is my wife,” and then you went you consummated that. That’s how you married someone in biblical times. Then you began to live with her as your wife. That was a marriage. They didn’t have marriage licenses, obviously.

Jono: Keith? You happy?

Keith: Okay.

Nehemia: You’re right, it’s kind of silly where we talk about how, “Yes, Keith Johnson married me.” Well, no - your wife married you and you married your wife. We have these modern ceremonies, but obviously, they didn’t do that in biblical times.

Jono: They didn’t do that because the covenant of marriage extends from the man, and the authority to do so has come from God. It’s a God-given right, it’s a God-given authority, and it’s interesting that today we hand that over to the state and allow some sort of religious figure to say in front of us, “By the power vested in me,” someone other than...

Keith: Now you’re going to take that from me, Jono?

Jono: Hey?

Keith: What do you mean “some sort of religious...” I’ve worked hard. I’ve got my... so that I can say those words.

Jono: It’s just something to think about, but I find that very, very interesting. But it wasn’t always the case, and I would say today it’s not the case. It shouldn’t.

Nehemia: Do they say that in Australia, “By the power vested in me,” or is that just an American thing?

Jono: I believe they say it in Australia as well, “By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife.” But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s not the way that Yah designed it, I would say. In any case, listen, fellas, we’ve run out of time. Now, it is that in the opening verses of chapter 25, Abraham - he dies, 175 years old he dies. It’s interesting that it is his sons Isaac and Ishmael who bury him. Of course, we read just before that he gets married again. I mean, the guy, wow, he gets married again.

Keith: And he didn’t have a ceremony.

Jono: He didn’t have a ceremony. He had a lot of sons and a lot more children. It says, “And he gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the other sons and concubines.” Man, this guy. But eventually, he died at 175 and he was buried by both Isaac and Ishmael, which I just found this interesting. We’ve only got a few minutes left. Nehemia, in a nutshell, is there anything else that you want to pull out of this section here?

Nehemia: Well, there is an interesting little tidbit you could almost very easily miss, which is in verse 2 of chapter 25. We see the sons of Keturah, who is, I guess, the third wife essentially of Abraham, after Sarah dies and Hagar is gone. One of those sons is Midian. I think that’s significant because later on Moses, when he flees from Egypt, he goes to the land of Midian. Those were the descendants of Abraham.

Jono: Jethro.

Nehemia: Yes, Jethro was a Midianite, a descendant of Abraham.

Jono: So that’s where that comes from. Also, I notice now, while we’re talking about sons and so on and so forth, I notice between verse 12 and verse 18, which is the end of this Torah portion, it talks about Ishmael. And Ishmael has, it says, he has “twelve princes according to their nations.” Is there any significance, just quickly, is there any significance between that and the fact that Jacob has the twelve sons that become the tribes of Israel?

Nehemia: Well, it may be in a way this is an anti-type of the tribes of Israel. These twelve Ishmaelite tribes.

Jono: Perhaps. Listen, just very quickly, let me just let the listeners know, of course, Nehemia is the author of The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus, also the DVD live teaching of the same name. Co-author with Keith on A Prayer to Our Father. All of those available on truth2u.org. His Hallowed Name Revealed Again by Keith Johnson, also available is the 12-series DVD and that is at hishallowedname.com. Fellows, are there any other formats or any other forms of media that people can obtain these products?

Nehemia: Well, you can get all of these books on both the iPad and the Kindle, even something called the Nook, which is another one of these eBook formats. You can get it on Amazon Kindle or iTunes’ iPad. There’s also a new DVD that we have, which is A Prayer to Our Father Live, which I don’t even think is available online yet, but it will be available soon.

Jono: Excellent!

Keith: It is available online at hishallowedname.com

Nehemia: Oh, there you go.

Keith: As of last night, it will also be available on aprayertoourfather.com, I believe. But one of the things that we’re trying to do, and I think this is important for people to know, is that we are giving so much information to people, if you go to either of our websites: aprayertoourfather.com or hishallowedname.com. There are videos, there are presentations. We have television shows, we have interviews. There’s so much information that’s there. I hope people will take advantage of that and send that to their friends.

Jono: Excellent.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: I mean, I’m excited. So there is live teaching of A Prayer to Our Father is available on aprayertoourfather.com and hishallowedname.com. Brilliant. There we go. Listeners, get a hold of it.

Nehemia: Yes, it’s actually a six-hour teaching that we did in Dallas this past year. It was filmed, edited and presented very nicely. It’s some of the best teaching I’ve ever done. People are really encouraged to go over to hishallowedname.com and aprayertoourfather.com and get the six-hour DVD set.

Jono: That’s exciting. Excellent.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Thank you, my friends, for coming back onto Truth2U for Pearls from the Torah portion. I really appreciate having you back, and I’m looking forward to doing it again next week. In the meantime, listeners, be blessed and be set apart by the truth of our Father’s word. Shalom.

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14 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #5 – Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

  1. My comment is actually a question I was hoping you might address during your discussion. Is it true that once Abraham took Yitshaq to be offered as a sacrifice that Sarah left Abraham and never saw him again?
    Gen 20:1 Abraham stayed in Gerar.
    Gen 21: 32-34 Abraham is at Beersheba and travels in the land of the Philistines.
    Gen 22:2 YHVH tells Abraham to take Yitshaq to Moriyah.
    Gen 22:19 Abraham returns to Beersheba and dwelt at Beersheba.
    THEN Gen 23:2 Sarah died in Qiryath, Arba, that is Hebron, in the land of Kenaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
    I am not really familiar with the geographic locations of the ancient lands but isn’t Hebron different from Beersheba? Why did Abraham have to come to mourn Sarah? Why was Sarah in Hebron and not Beersheba? Did Abraham’s obedience to YHVH regarding Yitshaq cause Sarah to leave Abraham, breaking up their marriage? I have heard this taught and wondered what Jewish understanding is regarding this possibility.
    Thank you for your wonderful lessons – I really enjoy Torah Pearls!!

  2. Hi Nehemia my name is arturo and want to say that u have been a light to better understand tha word of Jehovah
    I have a question why israel uses the star of 6 points and why it is call David’s star thank you for sharing you knowledge with us may Jehovah blees you.

  3. In regards to paying the full price, if he would have got a deal, would that not possibly come back with idea of not really sealing the deal? It would in a sense keep a connection to the seller.

  4. According to Orthodox Judaism She was 3 years old and the water containers were coming up and down the well by magic.

  5. When Laban ran out to the well to meet the servant he said “Come in, O blessed of the LORD” (24:31). And then in verses 50-51 Laban again refers to “The LORD.”

    Are we to understand that Laban actually uses the name Yehovah? And if so, does that indicate that they already knew about the God of Abraham? Is it possible that in that region people were already worshipping Yehovah?

  6. I just can’t help but wonder if there is a link between the song and the portion… Que será, será
    Whatever will be, will be
    The future’s not ours to see
    Que será, será
    What will be, will be

    Read more: Doris Day – Whatever Will Be, Will Be Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  7. Reference Gen 24:63 and the word לָשׂוּחַ which Nehemia translated as pray and I think Jono said his translation said ‘meditate’. A few years ago I checked several types of dictionaries as well as a Talmud portion that discusses this verse. As I recall, לָשׂוּח means ‘to go for a walk’, perhaps not as strenuous as a hike. I think the Talmud takes the word לָשׂוּחַ and morphs it into שיח meaning ‘conversation’ and thus ‘prayer’. Perhaps the correct translation would be ‘And Issac went out for a walk…’

  8. Perhaps Eleazar did not go alone, 10 camels with men and gifts, you have to pay a bride price to the father, the nose ring and bracelets were betrothal gift for her; marks her as legaly married, so that’s why all the running; imagine what the entorage would look like to them with wealth. The days to say were to prepare her for consumation, most likely her time of neddah. Legality or proof of marriage was nose ring and bracelts (marriage certificate).

  9. In old England, when someone was caught lying, they cut a “knotch” out of their hand to brand them as untrustworthy. Before anyone could be a “witness” in court cases, they had to produce their right hand to prove they weren’t lying.

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