The Torah/Chayei Sarah


Abraham Weighs Silver (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

As told in Genesis 23:1–25:18, this is the story of the Torah reading Chayei Sarah:

A burial place for Sarah


Sarah lived 127 years and died in Hebron, and Abraham mourned for her. Abraham asked the Hittites to sell him a burial site, and the Hittites invited him to bury his dead in the choicest of their burial places. Abraham asked the Hittites to intercede for him with Ephron son of Zohar to sell Abraham the cave of Machpelah at full price. Before the Hittites at the town gate, Ephron offered to give Abraham the field and the cave that was in it, but Abraham insisted on paying the price of the land. Ephron named the value of the land at 400 shekels of silver and Abraham accepted Ephron's terms, gave him the silver, and purchased the land. Abraham buried Sarah in the cave.

A wife for Isaac


Abraham was old, and instructed his senior servant to put his hand under Abraham’s thigh and swear by God that he would not take a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites, but would go to the land of Abraham’s birth to get Isaac a wife. The servant asked if the woman did not consent to follow him to Canaan, should he take Isaac back to the land from which Abraham came? Abraham told him on no account to take Isaac back there, for God — who took Abraham from there and promised Abraham the land of Canaan for his offspring — would send an angel before the servant and allow him successfully to get a wife for Isaac from there, and if the woman did not consent to follow him, he would then be clear of his oath. So the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh and swore to him as Abraham had asked.

Eliezer and Rebekah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

Rebekah by the well


The servant took Abraham’s bounty and ten of Abraham’s camels and traveled to Aram-Naharaim, the city of Nahor. He made the camels kneel by the well outside the city at evening, when women come out to draw water. The servant asked God to grant that the maiden whom he would ask to draw water for him and who replied by offering also to water his camels might be the one whom God had decreed for Isaac. He had scarcely finished speaking when Rebekah, the beautiful virgin daughter of Abraham's nephew Bethuel, came out with her jar on her shoulder, went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. The servant ran toward her and asked to sip a little water from her jar, and she quickly let him drink and when he had drunk his fill, she offered to draw water for his camels until they finish drinking. When the camels had finished drinking, the servant took a gold nose-ring and two gold bands for her arms, and asked her whose daughter she was and whether there was room in her father's house for him to spend the night. She identified herself and told him that there was plenty of straw and feed and room at her home for him to spend the night. The servant bowed low to God and blessed God for steadfast faithfulness to Abraham.

Rebekah’s mother’s household


Rebekah ran and told everything to her mother's household. Rebekah’s brother Laban ran out to the servant at the spring, and when he saw the nose-ring and the bands on Rebekah’s arms, and when he heard his sister tell the story, Laban invited the servant to their house, had the camels unloaded and fed, and had water brought to bathe the feet of the servant and his party. But the servant would not eat before he had told his tale. The servant told how God had greatly blessed Abraham with sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and asses, and a son and sole heir. The servant told how Abraham made him swear to go to Abraham’s kindred to get Isaac a wife, and that God would send an angel to make his errand successful. And the servant told how he met Rebekah at the well. The servant then asked whether or not they meant to treat Abraham with true kindness, and Laban and Bethuel answered that the matter had been decreed by God and Rebekah could go and be Isaac’s wife. The servant bowed low to God and brought out silver, gold, and garments for Rebekah and presents for her brother and her mother. Then the servant and his party ate, drank, and spent the night. The next morning, the servant asked leave to return to Abraham, but Laban and her mother asked that Rebekah remain a period of time. The servant persisted, so they called Rebekah to ask for her reply, and she agreed to go. So they blessed Rebekah — wishing that her children be thousands of myriads and seize the gates of their foes — and they sent off Rebekah and her nurse with the servant.

Meeting of Isaac and Rebekah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

Isaac meets Rebekah


Isaac had just come back from the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi to his home in the Negeb and was out walking in the field toward evening when he looked up and saw camels approaching. Raising her eyes, Rebekah saw Isaac, alighted from the camel, and asked the servant who the man was. The servant said that Isaac was his master, so she covered herself with her veil. The servant told Isaac everything that had happened, and Isaac brought her into Sarah’s tent and took her as his wife. Isaac loved Rebekah, and found comfort after his mother's death.

Isaac and Ishmael Bury Abraham (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Family matters


Abraham took another wife, named Keturah, who bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Abraham willed all that he owned to Isaac, but to his sons by concubines he gave gifts while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the East.

Abraham lived 175 years and died old and contented. Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah with Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed Isaac and he settled near Beer-lahai-roi.

Ishmael had 12 sons, who became chieftains of 12 tribes. Ishmael lived 137 years and then died. Ishmael’s progeny dwelt in lands all the way from Havilah, near Egypt, to Asshur.