Before I get started I want to mention I’ve noticed how the older people among us are feverishly taking notes and paying very close attention to exactly what is being said while the younger people are biding their time, patiently listening but not unduly stressed. I pondered this difference and then realized why the panic. They’re cramming for the final exam.
The focus of my message today is on the un-highlighted relationships between Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. All three of them are mentioned in the great faith chapter of Hebrews eleven, so immediately we tend to revere them, and to some degree we should, but if we look closely at their stories, we will discover the Bible never glosses over their failures and disobedience. It never paints them as anything but human. The Bible is not a book about spiritual superheroes. It is about God’s faithfulness to His promises in spite of the humans whom He chooses to use. It is God’s story, not ours. So, there is very little room for saints on pedestals, and so I am going to list a number of points we may never have considered before. This is not meant to degrade them but to make them relatable to us so that we can learn from their mistakes. Their story usually starts off at
Gen 12:1 And Jehovah had said to Abram, Go out from your land and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you.
Gen 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great; and you will be a blessing.
Gen 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one despising you. And in you all families of the earth shall be blessed.
Gen 12:4 And Abram went out, even as Jehovah had spoken to him. And Lot went with him. And Abram was a son of seventy five years when he went out from Haran.
Point #1 Family comes along
The first thing we might skim over is the instruction by God that Abram should leave his family. Have you ever considered that Lot, his nephew went with him, and as such, Abraham was not obeying the plain command of God?
In studying the Bible we will often find that not following the exact command of God will, sooner or later, hurt the offender. We will see how every time Abraham did what he thought was reasonable; it made life worse for him or those around him.
#2 Abram in no hurry to obey.
Many of us may think Abram heard the call from God while living in Ur of the Chaldeans, which was his birthplace in Mesopotamia, and being the great man of faith, immediately packed up his camels and left. But was it really like that? No, it wasn’t. Let us notice what Stephan had to say in
Act 7:2 And he said, Men, brothers, and fathers, listen! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, being in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran,
Act 7:3 and said to him, "Go out from your land and from your kindred," "and come into a land which I will show to you."
Act 7:4 Then going out from the land of the Chaldeans, he lived in Haran. And after his father died, God moved him from there into this land in which you now live.
These few verses fully explain the order in which it happened. The apparent swiftness of the events as recorded in Genesis and Hebrews might seem to contradict this, but if we look closely at them; we will see there is no contradiction. When reading, notice the verb tense. Different versions translate slightly differently but some say at
Heb 11:8 Having been called out by faith, Abraham obeyed to go forth to a place which he was going to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not understanding where he went.
And let me repeat Genesis 12 verses, 1 and 4 they said,
Gen 12:1 . . . Jehovah had said to Abram, Go out from your land and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you.
Gen 12:4 And Abram went out, even as Jehovah had spoken to him. And Lot went with him. And Abram was a son of seventy five years when he went out from Haran.
And while we’re at it, let’s back up to the very end of Genesis chapter 11
vs:31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, the wife of Abram his son, and went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. And they went to Haran, and they settled there.
To simplify this, it says, they all left Ur, Abram’s father, his brothers and their families, all going to the land of Canaan, but when they got to Haran, they all settled there. If you don’t know where Haran is, this verse may sound like it is in Canaan, but it isn’t. It is a 600 miles from Ur in modern Syria, and it is still another 500 miles from there to Jerusalem. Then finally, after many years of the family living and growing in Haran, and Terah having died, most of family members stayed behind but
Gen 12: 5 . . . Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and all the persons that they had acquired in Haran, and they went out to go to the land of Canaan.
The point I am making is that Abram did not start off as some kind of wonderful example of blind faith. It is going to take him a long time to get there.
#3, Abram, without God’s instruction, decides to move to Egypt.
The Bible doesn’t say how long Abraham was in Canaan, but almost the very next thing recorded is that there is a famine in the land. Maybe it was a year or more, we don’t know, but what does Abraham do? He does the commonsense thing, he moves to Egypt where there is relief.
But Yahweh promised that He would make Abram a great nation and that anyone abusing Abram will fall under Yahweh’s curse. This promise was not conditional. It did not depend on Abram’s circumstances or obedience. It was to be God’s doing. So, a faithful Abram would have believed that Yahweh’s promise implied provision of life in spite of circumstances. But apparently, Abram believed he had to take matters into his own hands and fix the problem. But, in a minute, we will see that put Sarah in a very compromised position.
#4 Move to Egypt unnecessary.
First, let me skip ahead to the end of this famine story. Pharaoh kicks Abram and all he has out of the country, and when he does, Abram has much more than what he arrived with, money, livestock, and servants. Detail stated are scarce but, it doesn’t seem like Abram is in the land very long, and so the famine conditions couldn’t have been much in the past, if indeed they were still not prevailing, and yet, nothing is said of Abram and his household suffering after they left. In fact, he had more wealth than ever. I don’t know exactly what happened, but it seems God did provide for Abram abundantly, and he would never have had to go to Egypt in the first place and
#5 Abram would not have had to compromise his marriage.
But Abram did go to Egypt and he fears for his life. His wife is beautiful and alluring. He reasons that Pharaoh might decide to dispose of Abram to get her. So, he propagates a lie – Sarah is not his wife but his sister. This lie ensures Abram will remain alive and well while the Pharaoh enjoys Sarah in his bed. In fact, Abram is lavishly rewarded for arranging Sarah’s availability. Everyone benefits – except Sarah. It is at her sexual expense.
I hear a lot of sermons on the faithfulness of Abraham but none on his unfaithfulness to his wife. Is this not a most disturbing story? Abram is selfish and outright cowardly. How many men here today would sell their wives, even to save their life? And how many wives here today would go along with the plan? And how did they think they were ever going to get back together again? How would a beautiful woman, gained at much expense, ever hope extract herself from the harem of a Pharaoh?
Can you imagine the damage this did to their marriage? Apparently, Abraham was OK with another man sleeping with his wife, but how did Sarah feel? The Bible doesn’t tell us, it just says she was faithful and obedient. We find out much later in chapter 20 that Abram had asked her to please be prepared to tell this lie even before they first left their homeland. But my guess is that she didn’t like it and would not easily get over it then or later. The man you loved and had been faithful to for maybe 40 years, sells you to another man for a herd of donkeys.
Gen 12:15 And the officials of Pharaoh saw her, and they praised her beauty to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to the house of Pharaoh.
Gen 12:16 And he dealt well with Abram on account of her, and he had sheep, cattle, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
This reminds me of a bad but appropriate joke. A husband takes his wife to a car auction. After the auction is over a friend of the husband asks, “What did you get for your wife?” The husband answers, “A 2015 Ford F150”. “Ah”, says the friend, “Good trade.”
The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us whether or not the Pharaoh slept with Sarah but in the very next verse, after Abram collects all his donkeys it says,
Gen 12:18 Then Pharaoh called for Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?
Gen 12:19 Why did you say 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to myself as a wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go."
If Abram had only trusted God in the first place, he would not have had to put Sarah through this trauma.
#6 Bringing Lot along costs Abram the prime land.
Chapter 13 starts
Gen 13:1 Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that was with him. And Lot went with him to the Negev.
Gen 13:2 Now Abram was very wealthy in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
We find that Abram and Lot have become so prosperous they have to decide how to split up the land between them. Abram give Lot the first choice as to which land he prefers, and so Lot takes the choicest land. This is cited as to how generous and gracious a man Abram was, not considering himself first, but even someone like Lot who is in an inferior place to him in the family hierarchy.
But if only he would have treated his wife Sarah so graciously.
Gen 13:10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the circuit of Jordan, that it was well-watered before Jehovah destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even like the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt as you come to Zoar.
Gen 13:11 Then Lot chose all the circuit of Jordan for himself. And Lot pulled up stakes toward the east. And they were separated, each one from his brother.
Notice here that Lot is called Abram’s brother. The Hebrew word translated “brother” has a wide range of use. Many English translations don’t use the word brother because for us, in our culture, it may confuse their relationship, but in Hebrew, it was understood that it did not necessarily mean they had the same parents. This will come up later when I wonder if Sarah was Abram’s sister.
#7 Abram has to rescue Lot
In chapter 14 Lot, gets caught up in a war and gets taken hostage along with his family and possessions. Abram mounts an army of 318 men from his own household and rescues Lot and all that was taken from him. The Bible does not tell us if, or how many losses Abram took in the battle, but one way or the other, Abram was drawn into a war because his nephew accompanied him to Canaan when God had told him to leave his family behind.
#8 Sarah’s impatience and desires
In chapter 16, after 10 years in Canaan, Sarah is now 75 years old, and I am thinking she is conflicted. No doubt she is aware of the great promises God has made to her husband about being the father of millions of descendants, but she is still barren and has given up hope of ever having a child. So she, taking a bad lesson learned from Abram, thinks she should take matters into her own hands and help God out. Perhaps she felt it was her fault that she had failed to provide Abram with an heir and so she was willing to share him with another woman to produce it. And maybe she also thought that she could treat the baby as her own and fill her own lifelong void and desire for a child through his adoption. In either event, she offers her slave Hagar, as a second wife to Abram.
#9 Abram has no scruples
I don’t know if anyone asked the slave girl Hagar if she wanted to marry an 85 year old Abram, but once again, we find that Abram has no problem with this sexual adulteration of their marriage. It actually worked out financially good for him in the past, and perhaps she will produce an heir. Along with the benefit of having a second and much younger wife, what can go wrong?
In contrast I am reminded of the story of Samuel’s father, Elkanah. He also had two wives. One of them had sons and daughters but Hannah, his first and favorite, had none. And when she would weep because she had no children,
1Sa 1:8 Elkanah her husband would say to her: "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat? And why are you heartsick? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
If only Abram had had that much devotion for 75 year old Sarah, he could have prevented a lot of heartache. But instead, Abram, with no apparent argument, got into bed with the much younger virgin and quickly produced a pregnancy which just as quickly produced conflict in the now complicated family.
#10 Hagar disrespects Sarah
Hagar, an Egyptian slave, who may have been a gift to Sarah from Pharaoh, is now pregnant. Immediately she seizes on the opportunity of her newfound elevated position and becomes disrespectful of Sarah, which of course, upsets Sarah so much that
#11 Sarah becomes vindictive
But this time Sarah had had enough of being walked all over and she is not going to be abused, especially by a slave. We find at,
Gen 16:5 And Sarai said to Abram, My injury be upon you; I gave my slave-girl into your bosom, and she saw that she had conceived, and I was despised in her eyes. Let Jehovah judge between me and you.
Exactly what she meant by this, and who she is blaming, I am not sure, but she was very upset with the whole situation, and as a result
#12 Abram is caught between two wives.
As a result of Abram’s unfaithfulness, he has got himself into a no win situation. He throws up his hands and tells Sarah to do whatever she wants with her. So Sarah is now going to get a little revenge on both Abram and Hagar.
#13 Abram allows Sarah to abuse Hagar
Sarah abuses Abram’s second wife so badly that she runs away. Escaping might have been one solution to everyone’s problems but God is not going to let any of them off the hook. All three of them are all going to have to live with the consequences of their actions. An angel finds Hagar in the wilderness and orders her to go back to Sarah and to submit to her. Ishmael is born and we can only imagine how the next 15 years continues to be strained for everyone.
Next, in chapter 17, 13 years later, God appears again to 99 year old Abram. God changes his name to Abraham and initiates the circumcision covenant and promises the birth of Isaac through Sarai, whose name is now changed to Sarah.
#14 God makes a great promise to Sarah but Abraham still seems oblivious to her even though God refers to Sarah five times in the first verse.
Gen 17:16 and I have blessed her and have also given to you a son from her. Yea, I have blessed her and she shall become nations; kings of people shall be from her.
Gen 17:17 And Abraham fell on his face and laughed. And he said in his heart, Shall one be born to a son of a hundred years? And shall Sarah bear, a daughter of ninety years?
Gen 17:18 And Abraham said to God, Oh that Ishmael might live before You!
Instead of being overwhelmed with faith in God and joy for Sarah, Abraham laughs and says, in effect, don’t worry about Sarah having the baby she has wept for all her life, she’ll get over it. I am happy with Ishmael, make him my heir and I’m happy. But God said, no, “Your wife Sarah shall bear you a son”
Once again, note this for a little later. Most versions say, Sarah was 90 years old. But literally, it says she was 90 years a daughter. The point being, these family terms, such as daughter and sister, have wide ranging usage.
#15 Abraham finally compliant
To me, this seems like the first time Abraham immediately and fully obeys on a major issue. He had himself, and every male in his household circumcised that same day.
#16 Abraham cares for the righteous
In chapter 18 we see the benevolent side of Abraham. We don’t know why he cares so much for the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, unless it is again just for the benefit of his nephew Lot and family, but he argues with God against destroying the cities for the sake of ten righteous men. It is gratifying to see him this passionate but again, it is hard for me to understand this in light of his careless approach toward Sarah. He never appealed to God to protect her in Egypt or beg that she may have their baby.
#17 Sister deception again.
In chapter 18, God appears and specifically promises that Sarah will have their son the next year, but unbelievably, in chapter 20, Abraham’s disregard for her continues. They travel to Gerar where once again, to protect his own hide, he tells the king Sarah is his sister.
After all they have been through and all which God has promised and done for Abraham, he still feels he has to lie about Sarah.
Last time with the Pharaoh, it was never plainly stated if she ever slept with him or not, but this time there is no doubt that she did not. And once again, against all logic, Abraham profits at the expense of Sarah. After God threatens to kill Abimelech if he touches Sarah, Abimelech gives Abraham a thousand pieces of silver to ask God to forgive him. I would think it should be the other way around and Sarah should have given Abraham a good slap but obviously, my ways are not God’s ways.
#18 So, was Sarah Abraham’s half sister?
Let me diverge here and speculate a little, but with Scriptural support. Abraham told Abimelech that he and Sarah had the same father but not the same mother. This story is happening about four hundred years before Moses gave the Law that a man is not permitted to marry his sister, that being either his father’s or his mother’s daughter. (See Lev 20:17.) So either, this law was not yet in effect, or, if it was in effect, Sarah could not have been, according to God’s Law, his sister. Meaning, neither could she be the daughter, as we understand the word daughter, of Abraham’s father.
In English we understand a sister as being an immediate sibling, and a daughter as being an immediate offspring of a parent. But such was not the case with Hebrew. It could be used in a more general and wide ranging sense. In other words, a niece, aunt, and cousin could also properly be called a sister. And so, there is room to believe that Sarah could actually be Abram’s niece, which would not violate God’s law found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
If we refer to their family tree, we see that Lot is the only son of Haran. And maybe because of Haran’s premature death in UR, Abram wanted to stay close to Lot and his sisters, and this helps explain why he did not suddenly leave them in Ur, when God first appeared to him, and why, much later when he did leave from Haran, he took Lot under his wing. Lot, his nephew, did not have a father and he did not have a son. They filled each other’s void.
Abram’s brother Nahor may also have had similar sympathy for his brother’s fatherless girls. He married one of them and we are told they had eight children. One of their boys eventually fathered Laben and his sister Rebecca. So far, this is all straight forward.
But there could be one other obscurity going on here. There is one more uncle, Abram, and one more unmarried niece, named Iscah. Is it possible that she is also known as Sarai and Abram married her? There are a few reasons why this might be true.
1. I would never rely exclusively on the Talmud, but it says this woman named Iscah is also Sarai. So, for whatever that is worth, that is point one.
2. The Bible does not otherwise tell us who Iscah married or who her descendants were. It tells us all about the descendants of her brother and sister but nothing about her. Speaking from silence doesn’t prove anything, but why are we told absolutely nothing about her? Perhaps we are supposed to fill in the blank here.
3. Chapter 11 tells us who the children of Nahor are. It lists Abram, Nahor and Haran, but it doesn’t tell us he has any daughters whatsoever.
If we read this chapter, in quick recurrence it lists the previous 8 generations of Terah going all the way back to Shem. The same formula is repeated 8 consecu-tive times. It says how old the patriarch was when he died and then, it says, “and he fathered sons and daughters”, but when it comes to Terah, it says only that he had three sons. The absence of the statement is glaring if he had any daughters.
Two of Terah’s three sons had daughters, even mentioned by name, so why is it not made plain to us if Terah had any daughters? Why is it that the only way we supposedly know he had a daughter was through a deceitful story by Abram?
4. And yet, just a few verses later, it actually does tell us exactly what Terah’s relationship is to Sarai. It says she is his daughter-in-law, and that is the only way she is described as related to Terah. In a weird way, it is technically true she could be both - if Terah’s son and daughter married each other - but, by the same reasoning, he would have called Abram not his son, but his son-in-law.
5. It was extremely important that all the patriarchs’ wives were blood related. Isaac and Jacob married their cousins from Haran and Esau was cut off because he didn’t. Two of Judah’s children, by a Hittite woman, were killed by God. But we are not told where Sarah came from. It makes sense to me she must be a relative, but a niece, not a sister.
6. And this could be another reason why Abram and Sarah were so slow to leave his brother’s families. Those families were her brother’s and sister’s families.
But, having said all that, I have to admit that the awkward and wordy verse 29 does seem to distinguish between Sarai and Iscah, and so that would have to explained, but nevertheless, so does everything else I just presented.
#19 Sarah makes evil demand, Hagar and Ishmael expelled, and, Abraham distressed
In chapter 21 Isaac, the promised son, is finally born. When Isaac is weaned, Abraham throws a celebration. In the middle of it, Ishmael does something to Isaac. Different versions say he was either, mocking, playing with, sporting with, making fun of, or, laughing at, Isaac. But whatever it was, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It outraged Sarah enough that she demanded that, “the slave woman and her son” be thrown out of the house. She had lived in this dysfunctional household for 15 years and now didn’t care anything about their survival or the feelings of Abraham.
But Abraham was shocked.
Gen 21:11 And the thing was very evil in the eyes of Abraham, on account of his son.
But Sarah had had enough of catering to Abraham’s wants. She didn’t care how much he loved Ishmael, his first born son, and whom he treasured for 15 years, he and his slave mother must now be cast out and he, Abraham, was going to do it, and do it now.
Abraham’s unfaithfulness to God and Sarah, and willingness to go along with Sarah’s plan to have a child through Hagar, were now coming back to haunt him in the most painful way. He had to make a life and death decision between his two wives and his two sons. There was no good solution but fortunately for him, God intervened and told him what to do.
12 And God said to Abraham, Let it not be evil in your eyes because of the boy, and on account of your slave-girl. All that Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for in Isaac your Seed shall be called.
Gen 21:13 And also I will make a nation of the son of the slave-girl, for he is your seed.
So, with at least some relief, Abraham packed them off the next morning. They almost died on their journey but God intervened and they survived. But once again, can we imagine the strain that this event put on the relationship between Abraham and Sarah? How did Abraham feel toward Sarah and her evil demand? Would their love for each other ever be the same? For that matter, how much did they still love each other?
#20 The binding of Isaac, Abraham is finally fully faithful
Gen 22:1 And it happened after these things, testing Abraham, God said to him, Abraham! And he said, Behold me.
2 And He said, Now take your son, Isaac, your only one whom you love, and go into the land of Moriah. And there offer him for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will say to you.
3 And Abraham started up early in the morning and saddled his ass, and he took two of his youths with him, and his son Isaac. And he split wood for a burnt offering, and rose up and went to the place which God had said to him.
The text that we have says very little. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son and surprisingly, there is no verbal response whatsoever recorded in the Bible. Abraham simply obeys and gets up the next morning to do the deed. The text lets us know that he did not tell Isaac what the plan was and we can imagine that Abraham certainly did not consult Sarah. Isaac was probably her whole world. I imagine he meant more to her than Abraham. And Abraham probably felt the same way but now it seems that Abraham has finally gotten to that point where he has absolute faith in God. We can surmise this when he says to the two young men, who accompanied them to the base of the mountain,
Gen 22:5 . . . You stay here with the ass. I and the boy will go over there that we may worship and may return to you.
#21 But his faith, costs him his family
As we know, Isaac was not sacrificed and they returned together. Or, did they? Here is a surprising detail that is easily overlooked. In two separate verses, the Bible tells us they went up together.
Gen 22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac; and he took the fire and the knife in his hand. And the two went together.
Gen 22:8 And Abraham said, My son, God will see to the lamb for Himself, for a burnt offering. And the two of them went together.
There doesn’t seem to be a particular need to state this twice in 3 sentences. Shouldn’t it be obvious that they went together? But this then highlights the contrast just 11 verses later, it says at
Gen 22:19 And Abraham returned to his young men . . .
Notice it doesn’t say, as the other verses said, “And the two of them returned together”?
But it’s not hard to imagine why, it’s because Isaac took off in a flight of panic.
#22 Is Isaac a type of Christ?
It is said, both were conceived under impossible circumstances. Both were the only sons of their father. Both carried wood up a mountain. Both were a willing sacrifice to God. Both were innocent. Both were sacrificed and came back to life.
I believe Isaac is a type of Christ, but there are limitations. Isaac birth was miraculous but it was not a virgin birth and he really wasn’t the only son of his father. Isaac may have been young but he wasn’t sinless. As he actually wasn’t sacrificed, he didn’t take the same place as Jesus. Instead, a ram, caught in a thicket, typified Christ. Isaac didn’t die and he wasn’t resurrected. And while Jesus prayed to escape the crucifixion, but surrendered His will, I don’t think Isaac was a willing sacrifice.
Gen 22:9 And they came to the place which God had said to him. And Abraham built there the altar, and arranged the wood. And he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on the wood.
What was the point of Abraham binding him if he was a willing sacrifice?
#23 Isaac feared God, and not in a good way.
Can you imagine the trauma you would feel if you were an unwilling sacrifice? Your dear father whom you’ve trusted and loved all your life suddenly comes up from behind you and either knocks you out or overpowers you and binds you up. Then he places you on a heap of wood, with a knife and a fiery torch beside him on the ground ready to slit your throat and burn your dead corpse. As Isaac sees his father reach for and grab the knife he must have gone into an absolute state of terror for he had witnessed many rams slaughtered and burned before him.
Would you agree fear and dread seized Isaac? By the time we get to Genesis 31 the storyline has changed and is all about Jacob, and the context is about him arguing with his father in law, but regardless, Jacob twice uses a very curious title for God, he calls God the Fear of Isaac,
Gen 31:42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been for me, truly now you would have sent me away empty.
Gen 31:53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, the God of their father, let judge between us. And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
Biblical commentators struggle to explain this title, but if Isaac was a surprised and unwilling sacrifice, then it would not be so curious at all for God to be called the Fear of Isaac.
Strong’s definition of the Hebrew word used here, begins with, Alarm, and continues with, dread, fear, and, terror.
No doubt Isaac had told his son about his horrific experience at the hands of his father Abraham. And now in this chapter, Jacob is making an oath while he is very upset and angry and He is proclaiming that the terror of his father’s God should be upon whoever should break that covenant.
By the way, I have a suggestion to impart at this point, if you have a family Bible study; I strongly suggest you don’t study this story shortly before you ask your kids if they want to go on a summer camping trip with Dad.
#24 Sarah dies apart from Abraham
The next chapter 23 tells of the death of Sarah.
Gen 23:1 And the life of Sarah was a hundred and twenty seven years . . .
Gen 23:2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba, it is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. And Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
Gen 23:3 And Abraham rose up from before his dead and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying,
Gen 23:4 I am an alien and a visitor with you. Give to me a possession among you, so that I may bury my dead from before the eyes.
Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is given. Note that it says, she died in Hebron and he went there to mourn for her, and he called himself an alien there, and requested permission to buy a grave for her there. What does this indicate? Where was Abraham living? Let’s look at the previous two chapters and three times it tells us Abraham lived in Beersheba.
Dealing with the expelling of Ishmael, it says
Gen 21:14 And Abraham started up early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar . . . And she left and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
A treaty with Abimelech says
Gen 21:32 And they cut a covenant in Beer-sheba . . .
Gen 21:33 And he [Abraham] planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and there he called on the name of Jehovah the everlasting God.
Gen 21:34 And Abraham lived in the land of the Philistines many days.
And after the binding of Isaac, going down the mountain alone,
Gen 22:19 . . . Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
So we see confirmed that long before the binding, during it, and after, Abraham lived at Beersheba, but when Sarah died, she died in Hebron which is 35 miles away. Now we can speculate all day why she died there. It could be she was visiting there and died, but I think that after she found out from Isaac about his near sacrifice, neither of them would take any more chances with his life and they left Abraham. The man she had selflessly been obedient to all of her life, was willing to kill the son she had longed for 90 years. It was just too much for her.
But I must also note that Abraham wept for her. This is a strong emotion we have not seen him display toward Sarah. Perhaps he was finally weeping with love and regret.
#25 There is indication that Isaac left home as well.
In chapter 24 Abraham is arranging for the marriage of Isaac through his servant. We may notice that Isaac is absent from any of the conversations. That’s not proof that he wasn’t living with Abraham but there are more indications to come. Abraham sends his servant back to Haran to find a relative and suitable wife, and he tells the servant that under no condition to allow Isaac to return to the old homeland.
This seems an indication that Isaac is not living where Abraham has direct control over him. Further, when the servant returns with a bride for Isaac, Abraham is not in the picture. We are told Isaac is living somewhere else in the Negeb in the same place Hagar encountered God.
Gen 24:62 And Isaac had come from the gate of the Well of the Living One My Beholder. And he was dwelling in the land of the Negeb.
Gen 24:63 . . . And he raised his eyes and looked. And behold, camels were coming.
Gen 24:64 And Rebekah lifted her eyes and she saw Isaac . . .
Gen 24:67 And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah. And he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after his mother.
This well may not be too far from where Abraham was living, but regardless, it was not the same place. It says, Isaac took his bride into his mother’s tent and loved her. Taken all togeter, this indicates Sarah was not living with Abraham. She had her own tent which was now in the possession of Isaac. Details of their movements are missing but it seems, at times, they were living in three different places, Hebron, Beershba and the Negev. It is implied Isaac and Sarah were very close as Isaac deeply missed his mother since her death, but now he was comforted by the love a woman again. No mention of Abraham is made. If Abraham had been in the picture, I am sure he would have spent a fortune on a huge celebration, but the wedding, such as it was, amounted to absolutely nothing, but their quiet joyful meeting and private union.
The next chapter tells of Abraham’s marriage to, and children by, Keturah, and other concubines.
The Bible doesn’t plainly record a reconciliation between Abraham and Isaac, and neither does it describes a final, hands on blessing, which appears so important when Isaac and Jacob pass on God’s blessings, but it does say this. At some point,
Gen 25:5 And Abraham gave all that was his to Isaac.
Gen 25:8 And Abraham expired and died in a good old age, aged and satisfied, and was gathered to his people.
Gen 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him at the cave of Machpelah,
In conclusion, I don’t think we realize enough that the patriarchs lived through painful relationships similar to us. And although we like to read Cinderella stories where everything works out perfectly in the end, such is too often NOT the case when it comes to real life, and that is exactly what the Bible is all about.
Abraham turned out to be a man of great faith, but it took him most of his life to get there. And the effects of the mistakes he made along the way, were never magically erased, but stayed with him the rest of his life. It seems such a shame, but when he finally got to the point of putting his absolute full faith in God, and was willing to sacrifice Isaac, fully believing that God would restore Isaac back to him, Isaac and Sarah were not at the same place in their faith.
It’s a sad way to end a message, but the lesson is to be faithful and obedient to God right from the beginning. Don’t try to think you can help God out by doing it your way. Or that God’s ways don’t apply anymore. We can be assured that God will always forgive us, but that doesn’t mean He is going to undo the damage we have done to ourselves and our loved ones. I pray we learn from Abraham and prevent a lifetime of regret. Amen.