Parashah 5: Chayei Sarah “Life of Sarah”
B'reisheet “in the beginning” (Genesis) 23:1-25:18 Psalm 45
M'lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1:1-31 Mattityahu (Matthew) 1:1-17
1 Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah's life. 2 Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena'an; and Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her.
• Looking at the ages mentioned in Gen. 17:17 Sarah would have been 90 when Yitz'chak (Isaac) was born, and so Isaac was 37 when his mother died. According to Gen. 25:20 Isaac was 40 when he married Rivkah (Rebekah), and was thus “comforted for the loss of his mother.”
◦ Some say you take a week, month, three months, to mourn the loss of a loved one and then basically you have to get over it, but we have here a biblical example of a young man mourning the loss of his mother for around three years.
◦ Every person will go through certain stages of grief and mourning; how long depends on the individual. It is normal that, even years later, something will happen to remind them of their loved one and there will be a fresh tinge of grief.
▪ For the believer whose loved one is with the L-RD, there is also a longing and an anticipation knowing that we will see them again.
◦ This narrative coming immediately after the account of Isaac's sacrifice, and saying that “Avraham came,” some have speculated that he was coming from Mount Moriah and that the emotional upheaval was too much for the old lady and killed her.
▪ Which confirms the idea that Yitz'chak was in his 30's when Avraham took him to Mount Moriah in Genesis 22; possibly 33 years old which would make him even more of a messianic-type.
• “Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her”
◦ In the handwritten Torah scrolls, and some printed texts, the Hebrew word translated “and weep for her” (וְלִבְכֹּ תָהּ) the middle letter is smaller than the normal text.
▪ Some speculate that this suggests “that although Abraham's grief was infinite, the full measure of his pain was concealed in his heart and the privacy of his home. (The Stone Edition Tanakh, p. 49)
▪ While that may be true, Rabbi Roi brought out that this smaller letter, in the heart of this word, reminds us that even though our hearts weep over the passing of a loved one and that we will miss them, when we are in the L-RD that weeping is made less by the fact that they are with Yeshua and we will see them again.
3 Then he got up from his dead one and said to the sons of Het, 4 “I am a foreigner living as an alien with you; let me have a burial site with you, so that I can bury my dead wife.” 5 The sons of Het answered Avraham, 6 “Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us, so choose any of our tombs to bury your dead – not one of us would refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”
• Although the L-RD has given Avraham all the land by covenantal promise, he does not assume to force the issue or get ahead of G-d again.
• “A burial site” in the minds of the people there naturally means encroaching on one of their tombs. Even though they are willing, Avraham does not assume, nor does he desire to be assimilated with these kindly pagans even in burial rites or death.
• Avraham is recognized as “a prince of God” among them; one lifted up of God or the gods (נְשִׂיא אֱלִהִים)
◦ נְשִׂיא [neh-see] means 1) one lifted up, a chief, a prince, a captain, a leader; 2) a rising mist, a vapor
◦ אֱלִהִים [eh-lo-heem] means
▪ Strong's: gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative
▪ BDB: 1) (plural) rulers, judges; divine ones; angels; gods, 2) (plural intensive – singular meaning) God, a god, a goddess; god-like one; works or special possessions of God; the one true God; God
7 Avraham got up, bowed before the people of the land, the sons of Het, 8 and spoke with them. “If it is your desire to help me bury my dead, then listen to me: ask 'Efron the son of Tzochar 9 to give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he owns, the one at the end of his field. He should sell it to me in your presence at its full value; then I will have a burial site of my own.” 10 'Efron the Hitti was sitting among the sons of Het, and he gave Avraham his answer in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city:
• Bowing, to various degrees, is a sign of respect and honor still practiced in many countries, and in all the earth in worship the the L-RD.
• Even though 'Efron was right there (vs. 10), speaking in general to the elders gathered, Avraham gets their attention and draws them in to the legal proceedings that are about to take place there at the city gate.
◦ 'Efron (עֶפְרוֹן [ehf-rōn]) means “fawn-like” – the name of one individual and two places in Scripture.
◦ It is clear in the Hebrew that they were gathered at the city gate (שַׁעַר־ עִירוֹ [the gate of his city] see parashah 3 note on city gates).
• It is a custom in many cultures to address another person only indirectly. Even to look the other person in the eye is considered disrespectful. Anyone doing work cross-culturally is well advised to learn about the culture and customs beforehand. Crossing some cultural lines may simply emphasize that you are an ignorant foreigner; crossing others may get you killed. Thankfully ignorance is curable … stupid, on the other hand, is more permanent.
11 “No, my lord, listen to me: I'm giving you the field, with its cave – I'm giving it to you. In the presence of my people I give it to you.” 12 Avraham bowed before the people of the land 13 and spoke to 'Efron in their hearing: “Please be good enough to listen to me. I will pay the price of the field; accept it from me, and I will bury my dead there.” 14 But 'Efron answered Avraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels – what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead.” 16 Avraham got the point of what 'Efron had said, so he weighed out for 'Efron the amount of money he had specified in the presence of the sons of Het, 400 silver shekels of the weight accepted among merchants [ten pounds].
• Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Ephron thereupon offered to make him a present of both field and cave. This was a turn in the affair which is still customary in the East; the design, so far as it is seriously meant at all, being either to obtain a present in return which will abundantly compensate for the value of the gift, or, what is still more frequently the case, to preclude any abatement in the price to be asked. The same design is evident in the peculiar form in which Ephron stated the price, in reply to Abraham's repeated declaration that he was determined to buy the piece of land: “a piece of land of 400 shekels of silver, what is that between me and thee” (v. 15)? Abraham understood it so and weighed him the price demanded. The shekel of silver “current with the merchant,” i.e., the shekel which passed in trade as of standard weight, was 274 Parisian grains, so that the price of the land was £52, 10s.; a very considerable amount for that time.
◦ As with many ancient units, the shekel had a variety of values depending on era, government and region; weights between 7 and 17 grams and values of 11, 14, and 17 grams were common. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekel, accessed 25Nov16)
◦ The price of silver today is $0.53 per gram.
▪ 7 grams = $3.71
▪ 17 grams = $9.01
(https://www.jmbullion.com/charts/silver-prices/#, and http://www.apmex.com/spotprices/silver-prices, accessed 25Nov16)
▪ With these figures Avraham paid $1,484 – $3,604 for the field and cave, but what about 4,000 years of inflation?
◦ A March 12, 2014 post with the Chabad.org article What's the value of the biblical half shekel? states,
Translating historical currency into it's modern equivalents is difficult and inexact, but by no means impossible. A "shekel" was a unit of weight, but the actual mass of that measure, and the purity of the metal, varied significantly over time and location.
The historical record tells us that during the Roman occupation of the middle east, a common soldier was paid 225 denarii per year, and that 1 denarius would buy 10 days worth of rations for that soldier. A denarius was about 4.5g of silver. Therefore we can say that a half-shekel was reasonably close to the value of a denarius at this time: enough to buy 10 days worth of food for an active man, or a bit less than 2 days pay for a common soldier.
As of 2014, an E-2 in the US military makes $1716.90/mo. Rounding off to the nearest denomination of US currency, we can reasonably conclude that a $100 bill is roughly analogous in to a half-shekel coin in terms of earning and purchasing power.
(http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/673063/jewish/Whats-the-value-of-the-biblical-half-shekel.htm, accessed 25Nov16)
• Using these modern estimates to give us an approximation of the land's purchase price in todays terms, Avraham paid about $80,000.
◦ One thing paying such a price does is demonstrates how Abraham loved and honored his wife.
17 Thus the field of 'Efron in Makhpelah, which is by Mamre – the field, its cave and all the trees in and around it – were deeded 18 to Avraham as his possession in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city. 19 Then Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Makhpelah, by Mamre, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena'an. 20 The field and its cave had been purchased by Avraham from the sons of Het as a burial-site which would belong to him.
• The end result of the proceedings is that Avraham took possession of a piece of land, in the Promised Land, in a way that was legal (and indisputable) in the eyes of all involved.
1 By now Avraham was old, advanced in years; and Adonai had blessed Avraham in everything.
• “in everything” here is translated from the Hebrew word בַּכֹּל.
◦ The בּ being an inseparable prefix meaning primarily: in, on, with
◦ כֹּל = all, every, the whole
◦ While “in everything” (CJB), “in all things” (NKJV), and “in every way” (NASU) are all appropriate, too often the focus is on the material. True blessing and wholeness is primarily spiritual, which then extends to the mental and emotional, and may finally find its way into the physical.
▪ Man is primarily a spiritual being, created in the image of the L-RD; with intellect, emotions, and will.
▪ Some groups (some individuals) focus on the physical and material to the detriment of their spiritual well being.
• יהוה had blessed Avraham in every way: spirit, soul, and body, and he had kept the order right and all things in proper perspective.
• One interesting element of the Hebrew language is that every letter has a numerical value. When we look up a verse in the Hebrew Bible we need to know these values. For instance, to find Genesis 24 we need to look for בְּרֵשִׂית כד. Each word also has a numerical value. Jewish scholars will often determine the numerical value of words to see which one have the same value. Understanding that Scripture is the uniquely inspired Word of G-d, the question then becomes, “Since these words have the same numerical value, what is their relationship with one another?”
◦ In this verse “everything” (בַּכֹּל) has a value of 52:
▪ בּ = two
▪ כּ = twenty
▪ ל = thirty
▪ Another word that has the same numerical value is בֵּן (son):
• בּ = two
• ן = fifty (when the נ [nūn] ends a word it's form changes to ן)
▪ This has led some to the thought that everything with which the L-RD had blessed Avraham was wrapped in his covenantal son of promise Yitzach.
2 Avraham said to the servant who had served him the longest, who was in charge of all he owned, “Put your hand under my thigh; 3 because I want you to swear by Adonai, God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from among the women of the Kena'ani, among whom I am living; 4 but that you will go to my homeland, to my kinsmen, to choose a wife for my son Yitz'chak.
• Avraham knew that his descendants would inherit the land, and the Canaanites would be displaced or subjugated. His grandchildren and further descendants could not be part Canaanite.
◦ 2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not yoke yourselves together with a team of unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B'liya'al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idol? For we are the temple of the living God – as God said, “I will house myself in them, … and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore Adonai says, “'Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don't even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. 18 In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.' says Adonai-Tzva'ot.”
• “Put your hand under my thigh”
◦ Barnes' Notes
The thigh was the seat of generative power, and the region of sacramental consecration, and to put the hand under the thigh was to acknowledge and pledge obedience to him who requires the oath.
◦ Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
In swearing, the servant put his hand under Abraham's hip. This custom, which is only mentioned here and in Gen 47:29, the so-called bodily oath, was no doubt connected with the significance of the hip as the part from which the posterity issued (46:26), and the seat of vital power; but the early Jewish commentators supposed it to be especially connected with the rite of circumcision. The oath was by “Jehovah, G-d of heaven and earth,” as the G-d who rules in heaven and on earth, not by Elohim; for it had respect not to an ordinary oath, but to a question of great importance in relation to the kingdom of G-d.
◦ Adam Clarke's Commentary
This form of swearing has greatly puzzled the commentators …. I believe the true sense is given in the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, and that called the Jerusalem Targum. In the former it is said, “Put now that hand,” …. When we put the circumstances mentioned in this and the [ninth] verse together, we shall find that they fully express the ancient method of binding by oath in such transactions as had a religious tendency:
1. The rite or ceremony used on the occasion: the person binding himself put his hand under the thigh of the person to whom he was to be bound, i.e., he put his hand on the part that bore the mare of circumcision, the sign of G-d's covenant, which is tantamount to our kissing the book, or laying the hand upon the New Testament or covenant of our L-RD Jesus Christ.
2. The form of the oath itself: the person swore by Jehovah (Yahweh), the G-d of heaven and the G-d of the earth.
Three essential attributes of G-d are here mentioned:
1. His self-existence and eternity in the name Jehovah (Yahweh).
2. His dominion of glory and blessedness in the kingdom of heaven.
3. His providence and bounty in the earth.
The meaning of the oath seems to be this: “As G-d is unchangeable in his nature and purposes, so shall I be in this engagement, under the penalty of forfeiting all expectation of temporal prosperity, the benefits of the mystical covenant, and future glory.” An oath of this kind, taken at such a time, and on such an occasion, can never be deemed irreligious or profane. Thou shalt swear by his name – shalt acknowledge and bind thyself unto the true G-d, as the just Judge of thy motives and actions, is a command of the Most High; and such an oath as the above is at once (on such an occasion) both proper and rational. The person binding himself proposes for a pattern the unchangeable and just G-d; and as HE is the avenger of wrong and the punisher of falsehood, and has all power in the heavens and in the earth, so he can punish perjury by privation of spiritual and temporal blessings, by the loss of life, and by inflicting the perdition due to ungodly men, among whom liars and perjured persons occupy the most distinguished rank. Our ideas of delicacy may revolt from the rate used on this occasion; but when the nature of the covenant is considered of which circumcision was the sign, we shall at once perceive that this rite could not be used without producing sentiments of reverence and godly fear, as the contracting party must know that the G-d of this covenant was a consuming fire.
5 The servant replied, “Suppose the woman isn't willing to follow me to this land. Must I then bring your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Avraham said to him, “See to it that you don't bring my son back there. 7 Adonai, the God of heaven – Who took me away from my father's house and away from the land I was born in, Who spoke to me and swore to me, 'I will give this land to your descendants' – He will send His angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are released from your obligation under my oath. Just don't bring my son back there.” 9 The servant put his hand under the thigh of Avraham his master and swore to him concerning the matter.
• Whatever G-d has directed us away from and drawn us out of, we should never go back to, nor condemn our children to.
10 Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and all kinds of gifts from his master, got up and went to Aram-Naharayim, to Nachor's city.
• He took, got up, and went.
◦ He took from what his master provided;
◦ Got up: he didn't just sit there, but moved out (you can't steer a parked car); and
◦ Went in a specific direction, but kept praying.
▪ Which is good, because, it seems, G-d has determined that certain expressions of His power will only be exercised in response to prayer.
11 Toward evening, when the women go out to draw water, he had the camels kneel down outside the city by the well. 12 He said, “Adonai, God of my master Avraham, please let me succeed today; and show your grace to my master Avraham.
• “by the well” – “well” here is the Hebrew בְּאֵר [beh-ār] meaning
◦ Strong's: a pit; especially a well
◦ BDB: a well, a pit, a spring
▪ from בְּאַר [beh-ahr] meaning to dig; by analogy, to engrave; figuratively, to explain, to make clear
◦ In verse 29 referred to as the “well” or “spring” in English, but in Hebrew as הָעָיִן [ha-ah-yin]
▪ הָ is the definite article: “the”
▪ עַיִן means
• Strong's: eye (literally or figuratively); by analogy, a fountain (as the eye of the landscape)
• BDB: an eye (used of physical eye; as showing mental qualities; used of mental and spiritual faculties (figurative): a spring, a fountain
• Whatever relationship this servant had, or did not have, with Adonai, he knew that Avraham knew Him.
• He was on a mission for Avraham, and therefore invoked his name
◦ for answered prayer and
◦ a show of grace.
“Grace” here is חֶסֶד [khe-sed; also transliterated checed]. The following is from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words:
“loving-kindness; steadfast love; grace; mercy; faithfulness; goodness; devotion.” This word is used 240 times in the Old Testament, and is especially frequent in the Psalter. The term is one of the most important in the vocabulary of Old Testament theology and ethics.
The Septuagint nearly always renders checed with eleos (“mercy”), and that usage is reflected in the New Testament. Modern translations, in contrast, generally prefer renditions close to the word “grace.” KJV usually has “mercy,” although “loving-kindness” (following Coverdale), “favor,” and other translations also occur. RSV generally prefers “steadfast love.” NIV often offers simply “love.”
In general, one may identify three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: “strength,” “steadfastness,” and “love.” Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. “Love” by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet “strength” or “steadfastness” suggests only the fulfillment of a legal or other obligation.
The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But checed is not only a matter of obligation; it is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector, but he may not lay absolute claim to it. The stronger party remains committed to his promise, but retains his freedom, especially with regard to the manner in which he will implement those promises. Checed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.
Marital love is often related to checed. Marriage certainly is a legal matter, and there are legal sanctions for infractions. Yet the relationship, if sound, far transcends mere legalities. The prophet Hosea applies the analogy to Yahweh's checed to Israel within the covenant (e.g., 2:211). Hence, “devotion” is sometimes the single English word best capable of capturing the nuance of the original. The RSV attempts to bring this out by its translation, “steadfast love.” Hebrew writers often underscored the element of steadfastness (or strength) by pairing checed with 'emet (“truth, reliability”) and 'emunah (“faithfulness”).
Biblical usage frequently speaks of someone “doing,” “showing,” or “keeping” checed. The concrete content of the word is especially evident when it is used in the plural. G-d's “mercies,” “kindnesses,” or “faithfulnesses” are His specific, concrete acts of redemption in fulfillment of His promise. An example appears in Isa 55:3: “... and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”
Checed has both G-d and man as its subject. When man is the subject of checed, the word usually describes the person's kindness or loyalty to another; cf. 2 Sam 9:7: “And David said … I will surely show thee [Mephibosheth] kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake ….” Only rarely is the term applied explicitly to man's affection of fidelity toward G-d; the clearest example is probably Jer 2:2: “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, thus saith the L-RD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness ….”
Man exercises checed toward various units within the community – toward family and relatives, but also to friends, guests, masters, and servants. Checed toward the lowly and needy is often specified. The Bible prominently uses the term checed to summarize and characterize a life of sanctification within, and in response to, the covenant. Thus, Hos 6:6 states that G-d desires “mercy [RSV, “steadfast love”] and not sacrifice” (i.e., faithful living in addition to worship). Similarly, Mic 6:8 features checed in the prophets' summary of biblical ethics: “... and what doth the L-RD require of thee, but … to love mercy ..”
Behind all these uses with man as subject, however, stand the repeated references to G-d's checed. It is one of His most central characteristics. G-d's loving-kindness is offered to His people, who need redemption from sin, enemies, and troubles. A recurrent refrain describing G-d's nature is “abounding plenteous in checed” Ex 34:6; Neh 9:17; Ps 103:8; Jonah 4:2. The entire history of Yahweh's covenantal relationship with Israel can be summarized in terms of checed. It is the one permanent element in the flux of covenantal history. Even the Creation is the result of G-d's checed Ps 136:5-9. His love lasts for a “thousand generations” Deut 7:9; cf. Deut 5:10 and Ex 20:6, indeed “forever” (especially in the refrains of certain psalms, such as Ps 136).
Words used in synonymous parallelism with checed help to define and explain it. The word most commonly associated with checed is 'emet (“fidelity; reliability”): “... let thy loving-kindness [checed] and they truth ['emet] continually preserve me.” 'Emunah with a similar meaning is also common: “He hath remembered his mercy [checed] an his truth ['emunah] toward the house of Israel ….” This emphasis is especially appropriate when G-d is the subject, because His checed is stronger and more enduring than man's. Etymological investigation suggests that checed's primitive significance may have been “strength” or “permanence.” If so, a puzzling use of checed in Isa 40:6 would be explained: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”
The association of checed with “covenant” keeps it from being misunderstood as mere providence or love for all creatures; it applies primarily to G-d's particular love for His chosen and covenanted people. “Covenant” also stresses the reciprocity of the relationship; but since G-d's checed is ultimately beyond the covenant, it will not ultimately be abandoned, even when the human partner is unfaithful and must be disciplined Isa 54:8, 10. Since its final triumph and implementation is eschatological, checed can imply the goal and end of all salvation-history Ps 85:7, 10; 130:7; Mic 7:20.
13 Here I am, standing by the spring, as the daughters of the townsfolk come out to draw water. 14 I will say to one of the girls, 'Please lower you jug, so that I can drink.' If she answers, 'Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,' then let her be the one you intend for your servant Yitz'chak. This is how I will know that you have shown grace to my master.”
• Though we must be careful not to “get fleeced” by our fleece, there are times when seeking the L-RD in prayer for a specific sign of direction is appropriate; cf. e.g. Judges 6:36-40.
• We are always called to pray, but often we are called to action in our prayer.
• The term "camel" is derived via Latin and Greek (camelus and κάμηλος kamēlos respectively) from Hebrew or Phoenician gāmāl. The Hebrew meaning of the word gāmāl [גָמָל] is derived from the verb root g.m.l, meaning (1) stopping, weaning, going without; or (2) repaying in kind. This refers to its ability to go without food or water, as well as the increased ability of service the animal provides when being properly cared for. … Camels have a series of physiological adaptations that allow them to withstand long periods of time without any external source of water. Unlike other mammals, their red blood cells are oval rather than circular in shape. This facilitates the flow of red blood cells during dehydration and makes them better at withstanding high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of water: a 600 kg (1,300 lb) camel can drink 200 L (53 US gal) of water in three minutes. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel, accessed 02 Nov 15, emphasis added)
• How large was Rivkah's jug? A clue may be found in this Science Daily article from June 4, 2012:
◦ Archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean region have been unearthing spherical jugs, used by the ancients for storing and trading oil, wine, and other valuable commodities. Because we're used to the metric system, which defines units of volume based on the cube, modern archaeologists believed that the merchants of antiquity could only approximately assess the capacity of these round jugs, says Prof. Itzhak Benenson of Tel Aviv University's Department of Geography.
Now an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Benensonand Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures has revealed that, far from relying on approximations, merchants would have had precise measurements of their wares -- and therefore known exactly what to charge their clients.
The researchers discovered that the ancients devised convenient mathematical systems in order to determine the volume of each jug. They theorize that the original owners and users of the jugs measured their contents through a system that linked units of length to units of volume, possibly by using a string to measure the circumference of the spherical container to determine the precise quantity of liquid within.
The system, which the researchers believe was developed by the ancient Egyptians and used in the Eastern Mediterranean from about 1,500 to 700 BCE, was recently reported in the journal PLoS ONE. Its discovery was part of the Reconstruction of Ancient Israel project supported by the European Union.
3D models unveil volume measurement system
The system of measurement was revealed when mathematician Elena Zapassky constructed 3D models of jugs from Tel Megiddo -- an important Canaanite city-state and Israelite administration center -- for a computer database. The jugs are associated with the Phoenicians, ancient seafaring merchants who had trading hubs along the coast of Lebanon. Using a statistical methodology, the team measured hundreds of vessels from the excavation, and discovered something surprising -- large groups of these spherical or elliptic jugs had a similar circumference. This prompted the researchers to look more deeply into how the ancients measured volume.
The Egyptian unit of volume is called the hekat, and it equals 4.8 liters in today's measurements, explains Dr. Yuval Gadot, a researcher on the project. A spherical jug that is 52 centimeters in circumference, which equals one Egyptian royal cubit, contains exactly half a hekat. "In a large percentage of the vessels we measured, the circumference is close to one cubit, and the merchant could know that the vessel's volume is half a cubit by just measuring its circumference," he says.
When the researchers adopted the Egyptian system of measurement themselves instead of thinking in metrical units, many things became clear. For example, the tall round "torpedo" jugs packed into Phoenician ships in the 8th century BCE were found to contain whole units of hekats. Dr. Gadot believes that the Egyptian system of measurement gradually disappeared when the Assyrians took over the region, bringing their own methods of measurement with them.
A measure of political power
According to Prof. Finkelstein, elements of standardization in the ancient world hold interest because they are indicative of bureaucratic systems and reflect political and cultural influences. "The use of the Egyptian method is a strong indicator of Egyptian power in this region during a specific period of time," he explains.
"Working together with experts in mathematics and statistics, we have been able to provide new solutions for longstanding archaeological problems and debates."
Story Source: The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference: Elena Zapassky, Yuval Gadot, Israel Finkelstein, Itzhak Benenson. An Ancient Relation between Units of Length and Volume Based on a Sphere. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (3): e33895 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033895 (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120604125603.htm, accessed 03Nov15)
◦ A 600 kg (1,300 lb) camel being able to drink 200 L (53 US gal) of water in three minutes, multiplied by the 10 camels of this caravan would require 2,000 liters (530 US gal) of water.
▪ A US gallon of liquid water weighs about 3.78 kg (8.34 lb). If Rivkah's water jug held a full hekat of 4.8 L (1.26803 US gal) rather than the apparently more typical half hekat, watering 10 thirsty camels would require her to empty her jug into the trough at least 417 times. Carrying 7,560 kg (4,420 lb) of water, plus the weight of the jug itself, would be no easy task!
• Not only was she a woman of physical beauty (Gen 24:16) and obvious strength, but a young woman of generosity, character, perseverance and strength of will.
◦ With something as important as the the covenant of the L-RD with yet future countless generations, and marriage of Yitz'ach in the balance, it is no wonder that Avraham's servant
▪ prayed in such an extraordinary way,
▪ why he watched her so closely, and
▪ why he rejoiced so greatly when his prayer was answered in this way.
15 Before he had finished speaking, Rivkah the daughter of B'tu'el son of Milkah the wife of Nachor Avraham's brother, came out with her jug on her shoulder. 16 The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, never having had sexual relations with any man. She went down to the spring, filled her jug and came up. 17 The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug to drink.” 18 “Drink, my lord,” she replied, and immediately lowered her jug onto her arm and let him drink. 19 When she was through letting him drink, she said, “I will also draw water for your camels until they have drunk their fill.” 20 She quickly emptied her jug into the trough, then ran again to the well to draw water, and kept on drawing water for all his camels.
• Obviously, this was a “divine set up,” as the L-RD had to have been orchestrating these things for quite some time.
◦ G-d had led Avraham's servant right to Avraham's own grandniece:
was married to Sarah ← brothers → Nachor
was married to Milkah
had a son
in their old age had a son
← married → had a daughter
• The servant “ran to meet her” (vs 17), and she “quickly emptied her jug … then ran again to the well to draw water” (vs 20).
◦ When we believe we have clear direction from the L-RD we need to prayerfully get moving.
▪ You can't steer a parked car, but even the course of a missile can be changed in flight.
21 The man gazed at her in silence, waiting to find out whether Adonai had made his trip successful or not.
• Essentially, the servant and Rivkah had both said what the servant had prayed, yet still he waited until she had finished actually watering the camels.
◦ Evidently, he had more in mind with his prayer than simply an exchange of words.
◦ Waiting for Rivkah to finish the task allowed her an opportunity to prove she was a woman of her word.
◦ This whole exchange also tended to the needs of the animals.
22 When the camels were done drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing one-fifth of an ounce and two gold bracelets weighing four ounces 23 and asked, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please. Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?”
• Once it was obvious that the L-RD had, in fact, answered his prayers, the man rushed to the next step.
• “nose-ring” here is the Hebrew נֶזֶם [neh-zehm] meaning a ring, a nose ring (woman's ornament), or an earring (ornament of men or women).
• The wording in the Hebrew seems to indicate that he was asking about staying one night, whereas Rivkah's answer in the next verse indicates provision is available for many nights.
24 She answered, “I am the daughter of B'tu'el the son Milkah bore to Nachor,” 25 adding, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, and room for staying overnight.”
• A seemingly simple and straight forward answer, and yet
26 The man bowed his head and prostrated himself before Adonai. 27 Then he said, “Blessed by Adonai, God of my master Avraham, Who has not abandoned His faithful love for my master; because Adonai has guided me to the house of my master's kinsmen.”
• Rivkah is kind to a traveler asking for water and he gives me gifts of gold and praises the L-RD. This is not an everyday occurrence.
• 28 The girl ran off and told her mother's household what had happened.
◦ “told her mother's household”: Rashi postulates, “The women folk had separate houses where they did their work, and a daughter would only tell her mother about an incident of this kind.” (The Soncino Chumash, p. 126)
29-30 Rivkah had a brother named Lavan. When he saw the nose-ring, and the bracelets on his sister's wrists besides, and when he heard his sister Rivkah's report of what the man had said to her, he ran out to the spring and found the man standing there by the camels.
• The narrative in the Hebrew has a slightly different order than this English version. In the Hebrew it is recorded
◦ that Rivkah had a brother named Lavan
◦ and ran Lavan to the man outside to the eye (well)
◦ and it came to pass as he saw the nose ring / earring and the bracelets on her hands, his sister's, and as he heard the words of Rivkah, his sister, saying, thus spoke to me the man, he came to the man and behold, he stood by the camels by the well
◦ Why the difference?
▪ It is allowed by the language;
▪ It flows better in English; and
▪ It is consistent with what we know of Laban's character from his dealings with Jacob (see e.g. Genesis 29 and 30).
▪ It appears that Lavan's motivation was greed. Seeing the gifts his sister had received for providing water to this man and his caravan, what might he receive in exchange for room and board?!
31 “Come on in,” he said, “you whom Adonai has blessed! Why are you standing outside when I have made room in the house and prepared a place for the camels?”
• “have made room” comes from the Hebrew word פָּנָה [pah-nah] meaning
◦ Strong's: to turn; by implication, to face, i.e. appear, look, etc.
◦ BDB: (here in the Piel perfect) to turn away, to put out of the way, to make clear, to clear away
▪ While some see this as simply making room, others see that the “clearing” and “putting out of the way” may refer to Lavan's household idols (see e.g. Rashi's and Sforno's comments in The Soncino Chumash, p.126)
• Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
This, of course, was not Laban's customary style of speaking, because the name Yahweh was as yet confined to Abraham and his household. But whatever degree of knowledge Laban possessed of G-d, and that knowledge was probably debased by many corruptions, yet it is easy to conceive that he might borrow this language from Abraham's servant, whose words Rebekah, doubtless, had faithfully rehearsed to her relatives in the house.
32 So the man went inside, and while the camels were being unloaded and provided straw and fodder, water was brought for him to wash his feet and the feet of the men with him. 33 But when a meal was set before him, he said, “I won't eat until I say what I have to say.” Lavan said, “Speak.”
• After only the most basic of necessities was taken care of, Abraham's servant stops the proceedings with an announcement just before the food eaten; if he didn't have it before, he has everyone's attention now!
33-48 Avraham's servant relates how the L-RD had brought him there.
47 “I asked her, 'Whose daughter are you?' and she answered, 'The daughter of B'tu'el son of Nachor, whom Milkah bore to him.' Then I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists, 48 bowed my head, prostrated myself before Adonai and blessed Adonai, God of my master Avraham, for having led me in the right way to obtain my master's brother's [grand]daughter for his son.
• “brother's [grand]daughter”
◦ in the Hebrew this is more literally “brother's daughter” (בַּת אֲחִי [baht a-khiy])
▪ from the context it is understood that Rivkah is the granddaughter of Avraham's brother
▪ culturally it is understood that familial references such as mother, father, son, and daughter, may be immediate or distant, biological or metaphysical, e.g.
• Matt 3:9 And don't suppose you can comfort yourselves by saying, 'Avraham is our father'! ….
◦ “our father” is אבינו [ah-viy-nu] in Hebrew (see Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, George Howard, (Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1995), based on Shem-Tob's manuscript dating from at least the Middle Ages, see http://hethathasanear.com/Hebrew_Shem-Tov.pdf , last accessed 06Nov15)
▪ the root word here for “father” is אב [“av”]; the yud (י) makes it a personal possessive, the nun and vav (נו) make it plural
• Matt 9:22 Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, My daughter! Your trust has healed you.” And she was instantly healed.
◦ “My daughter” is בתי [bah-tiy] in Hebrew (ibid)
• Matt 9:27 As Yeshua went on from there, two blind men began following Him, shouting, “Son of David! Take pity on us!”
◦ “Son of David” is בן דוד [behn dah-vid] in Hebrew (ibid)
• Matt 12:50 “Everyone who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven is My brother, My sisters, and My mother.”
◦ “My brother” is אחי [a-khi] in Hebrew (ibid)
◦ “My sisters” is אחיותי [a-khi-yo-ti] in Hebrew (ibid)
▪ (My apologies here, the text is small and hard for me to make out; I think I got it right. If not, please let me know. I know אחיות is “sisters,” and the י makes it a personal possessive, but ….)
◦ “My mother” is אמי [ā-mi] in Hebrew (ibid)
49 “So now if you people intend to show grace and truth to my master, tell me. But if not, tell me, so that I can turn elsewhere.”
by Messianic Teacher Dr. Daniel Boley