Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bible study: finding a wife for Isaac and the death of Abraham


Dion, as every Monday, is getting the Farmigo food out. Up in McAlpin, the 3 day hangover company is working on their production of Dracula. And our Bible Study group is ready to get back into Genesis, beginning with Chapter 24 and Abraham’s determination to find a wife for Isaac. 

He’s pretty clear he doesn’t want one from the local Canaanites currently surrounding him. (This issue of who can marry whom is always there in these early stories…sometimes the other is needed, and the prohibition against incest is strong…He decides to send his servant all the way back to the land he originally  came from. (After having him swear an oath after putting his hand under his thigh..well, OK..) But he also tells the servant no matter what he does, not to take the son back there. And Abraham assures his servant that an angel will go with him.

He takes with him camels and all kinds of other gifts, heads for a well looking for a woman who will not only bring water to him but to his camels as well.  Now we begin to see well as places of courting, of encounters between men and women. Later Jacob will meet Rachel at a well, Moses will meet Zipporah. All this will be in the minds of people when Jesus meets a woman at a well.

The woman turns out to be Rebekah, grand niece of Abraham, daughter of his brother Nahor, Isaac’s cousin. The servant seals the deal  by placing a gold nose ring on Rebekah (I’m trying to imagine that…) and two bracelets. He repeats the whole story, in complete detail, to her brother Laban who accepts the engagement. Later, they want Rebekah to stay back another 10 days (just to make sure?) but agree to let her go, if she agrees to do, which she does, and so they are off.

She sees, Isaac walking at night, goes to him, and he takes her into his mother’s tent. And it says SO Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death..implying that after that terrifying incident with his father, he may always have needed comforting.

Our commentator Wes Howard-Brook makes much of the fact that Abraham never actually consults God but goes on ahead on his own. And that twice he has advanced God’s promise through the use of gold and silver. Seeing how things usually work out for Abraham, who’s to blame him? Is his agency really critiqued or is it complimented?

What follows describes Abraham taking a new wife, Keturah, and new descendants including a Sheba and a variety of Midianites. And the sons of his concubines, who he gifted and then sent away. Seems like he’s determined to fulfill God’s promise of many descendants single handedly, as it were.

The final scene we look at tonight is the death of Abraham.  Touchingly, we are told that Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham at the cave he’d bought at Machpelah, Hebron. I am fascinated by this. How did he know? Did Isaac send for him? What did Hagar say? What did the brothers say to each other? Remembering their childhood friendship…there’s a short story, a midrash waiting to be written on that theme. Even through the ages we feel the emotions….

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