SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 14 Genesis 23-24

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis 23-24. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3
Genesis 4
Genesis 5-6
Genesis 7-9:17
Genesis 9:18-10:32
Genesis 11
Genesis 12-13
Genesis 14-15
Genesis 16
Genesis 17
Genesis 18-19
Genesis 20-22

Genesis 23

The Death of Sarah

23 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
Genesis 24

Isaac and Rebekah

24 Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”

6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”

26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”

“Then tell us,” Laban said.

34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’

39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

40 “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. 41 You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’

42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.

47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’

“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’

“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”

50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”

52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 53 Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.

When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”

55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”

56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”

57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
the cities of their enemies.”

61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.

62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
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I have notes for Chapter 23 now. I’ll get back with 24 later.

Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at the time of her death is mentioned.

The sons of Heth were most probably not the Hittites.

Since Abraham was a nomad (although a wealthy one) he didn’t have land to bury his wife, and had to barter. 400 pieces of silver is about 10 lbs. Most interpreters I’ve raead think Abraham overpaid. (An ounce of silver presently has a list value of $20.75. 10 pounds would be $3,320.)

The Cave at Machpelah is usually identified with the cave under the mosque at Hebron.
Hebron is about 19 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Abraham, Jacob and Isaac are also said to be buried there, along with Rebecca and Leah. Some say that Adam and Eve are also buried there, along with Moses and Zipporah.

Herod the Great built a large, rectangular enclosure over the caves, the only fully surviving Herodian structure from the period of Hellenistic Judaism. Herod’s building, with 6-foot-thick stone walls made from stones that were at least 3 feet tall and sometimes reach a length of 24 feet, did not have a roof. Archeologists are not certain where the original entrance to the enclosure was located, or even if there was one. It’s changed hands a number of times.
Presently The Israeli authorities do not allow Jewish religious authorities the right to maintain the site. Tourists are permitted to enter the site. Security at the site has increased since the Intifada; the Israel Defense Forces surround the site with soldiers and control access to the shrines.

On February 21, 2010, Israel announced that it would include the site in a national heritage site protection and rehabilitation plan. The announcement sparked protests from the UN, Arab governments and the United States. A subsequent UNESCO vote in October aimed to affirm that the “al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron” was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.”

An early Jewish text, the Genesis Rabba, states that this site is one of three that enemies of Judaism cannot taunt the Jews by saying “you have stolen them,” as it was purchased “for its full price” by Abraham.

According to the Midrash, the Patriarchs were buried in the cave because the cave is the threshold to the Garden of Eden. The Patriarchs are said not to be dead but “sleeping”. They rise to beg mercy for their children throughout the generations. According to the Zohar, this tomb is the gateway through which souls enter into Gan Eden, heaven.
There is a Jewish tradition that praying at the Tomb will bring good fortune in finding a proper spouse. There are Hebrew prayers of supplication for marriage on the walls of the Sarah cenotaph.

According to some Islamic sources it is also the tomb of Joseph. Though the Bible has Joseph buried in Shechem (the present-day Palestinian city of Nablus), Jewish aggadic tradition conserved the idea that he wished to be interred at Hebron, and the Islamic version may reflect this. The Jewish apocryphal book, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, also states that this is the burial place of Jacob’s twelve sons. The New Testament in Acts 7:16 indicates that the twelve patriarchs were buried in Shechem.

I love that little back-and-forth ceremonial bickering over "You want land? We’ll give it to you.

Oh no - let me buy it.

No no - help yourself!

No no - I’ll pay!

Well, since you insist, it’s four hundred shekels, but let’s not quibble."

And then he is on the hook and has to pay full price.

And then when his servant finds a wife, he puts a ring in her nose. I wonder, with all the talk about livestock, if that sounded to a contemporary audience like it sounds today. :slight_smile:


Never heard anything about Zipporah’s burial, but Moses? Certainly not. Moses’s body was not allowed to enter the Holy Land even after death, but was buried on the plains of moab. The exact spot where his body lies is “unknown until this day.” (Deuteronomy 34:6). Who in the world suggests that Moses was buried in the Cave of Machpelah?

A 17th-century Kabbalist work called Yalkut Reuveni adds both Moses and his wife Zipporah to those buried in the cave of Machpelah (section Zot Habracha).

They paid retail!!!


Heh, this is also very reminiscent of how the Chinese behaves too, especially when it comes to footing the bill.

This section must be a chore to read out loud. Instead of “the servant explained the situation”, we get the full bloody recap.

Since Sarah’s death (opening of Ch 23) comes very quickly after the almost-sacrifice of Isaac, and there was no mention of Sarah being consulted (or even informed) about the sacrifice, there are a couple of rabbinic stories (midrashim; singular midrash) that say her death was heart failure from hearing that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, and similar variations.

For those who believe in multiple authors, this one is disputed. It’s usually ascribed to P, but the literary style at some points is similar to J.

Nahum Sarna, in the JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis notes:

We learn that “Abraham rose from beside his dead wife.” Mourners sat on the ground, then and later. Jewish custom even today requires mourners to sit as low as possible. One of Shakespeare’s oft-quoted lines from Richard II: “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground/And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”

The story of the purchase of the cave of Machpela is extremely detailed, and so presumed to be important. It’s the first bit of real estate in the promised land that the [future] Israelites obtain, so there’s a tie to God’s promise to Abraham of the land being inherited by his descendents. And it’s a bit of contrast: God doesn’t just “give” the land, Abraham must negotiate and pay an outrageous price. So God’s promises may require considerable human effort to be fulfilled. And Abraham has enough confidence in that promise, that he’s willing to pay.

All three patriarchs and three of the four matriarchs are supposedly buried there.

The scene has interesting legal aspects. Abraham is a “foreigner and stranger,” although more literal is “foreigner and resident”, what we would call a “resident alien.” He is therefore unable to buy land or to use local cemeteries.


With some significant differences. They may seem minor, but if read carefully, it displays the intelligence of the servant in knowing how to present his case to Rebecca’s family.

CK Dexter Haven:

Clearly he’s ABLE to buy land, after all, he did it, didn’t he?

Notes on Chapter 24

The senior/eldest servant was probably Eliezer of Damascus.

“Put your hand under my thigh” almost certainly contains a euphemism. Most commentators indicate the servant either held Abraham’s circumcised penis (since this a matter of continuing Abraham’s seed, or in respect for the sign of the circumcision as a convenant with God) or the testicles (sometimes referred to as “the testimony of the testicles”).

Laban’s confession of God’s guidance is the decisive turning point in the story, as he realizes he “cannot speak good or bad” about it—it’s out of his hands. The recognition of the divine guidance prevents the family from taking its own initiative. The girl’s agreement was normally included along with that of the older brother.

There are two opinions in the Midrash as to how old Rebecca was at the time of her marriage. According to the traditional counting cited by Rashi, Isaac was 37 years old at the time of the Binding of Isaac; Sarah, who gave birth to Isaac when she was 90, died immediately after the binding when she was 127 years old, making Isaac around 37 at that time. News of Rebecca’s birth reached Abraham immediately after that event. Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebecca, making Rebecca 3 years old at the time of her marriage. According to the second opinion, Rebecca was 14 years old at the time of their marriage.

“Rebekah” means “joined together, tied, coupled, secured”.

Some of the events leading up to the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca have been institutionalized in the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. Before the bride and bridegroom stand under the chuppah, they participate in a special ceremony called badeken (veiling). The bridegroom is led to the bride by two escorts and, seeing her, covers her face with a veil, similar to the way Rebecca covered her face before marrying Isaac. Then the bridegroom (or the father of the bride, or the officiating rabbi) recites the same blessing over the bride that Rebecca’s family recited over her, “Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes.”

Laban shows up again, more prominently, in the story of Jacob and Rachel, where he’s less accommodating.
After meeting Abraham’s servant, Rebekah “ran and told all this to her mother’s household”, that Rebekah’s “brother and her mother said, ‘Let the maiden remain with us some ten days’ and that “they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘O sister! May you grow into thousands of myriads.” Some scholars thus hypothesize that mention of Bethuel in Gen. 24:50 was a late addition to the preexisting story. Other scholars argue that these texts indicate that Bethuel was somehow incapacitated. Other scholars attribute the emphasis on the mother’s role to a matralineal family structure. In the Talmud, Rabbi Isaac called Bethuel a wicked man. A midrash identified Bethuel as a king.

In his retelling of the story, Josephus reported that Rebekah told Abraham’s servant, “my father was Bethuel, but he is dead; and Laban is my brother; and, together with my mother, takes care of all our family affairs, and is the guardian of my virginity.”

This is actually quite common in oral histories. The repetition makes it easier to remember.

The fact that there are differences is actually what surprises me.

Professor Pepperwinkle:

Actually, this is more a reference to the Jacob - Leah/Rachel marriage. The groom himself puts the veil over the bride’s face after seeing her, so he can’t be tricked into marrying the wrong woman, as Laban tricked Jacob (delivering his wife to him already-veiled).

(Not that this is a genuine concern in modern relationships, but like many aspects of Jewish ceremony it’s a way that we testify to our belief in the words of the Torah.)

The Midrash says that Bethuel was planning to poison the servant in order to steal all his gold jewelry and camels and stuff, but while the servant recited his story, an angel switched his plate with Bethuel’s, killing Bethuel instead, which necessitated the mother and brother stepping into what is (in ancient times) traditionally the father’s role in giving away a girl in marriage.

Yes, but he can only begin bargaining after he asks “the people of the land” to intercede. It’s unclear whether “people of the land” means the Hittites (different translations take different positions), or whether it means the ruling class or just folks in general. But he presumably couldn’t begin negotiation with Ephron until he had their consent intercession.

Ch 24
Abraham, having learned the importance of family, knows that Isaac can’t carry on the monotheistic concept just by having children. He needs a wife who will be a partner and help raise the children according to Abraham/Isaac’s moral standards. Thus, finding a wife for Isaac is necessary to complete Abraham’s story.

Note that the birth of Rebecca was announced back in Gen 22:23, prior to the death of Sarah in Chapter 23. There is a nice literary connection, the new matriarch is born and then the old one dies.

As Prof P says, the “senior servant” is presumably Eliezar of Damascus, whom we met in Gen 15:2; here, he’s not mentioned by name.

“Put your hand under my thigh.” Expanding slightly on what Prof P said: Gestures were (and still are) common when making an oath (even today, “raise your right hand” before being sworn in occurs in courts, inaugurations, etc .) This particular gesture of putting the hand under the thigh is a bit curious and not fully understood. “Thigh” almost certainly means “genitals.” This could be a reference to circumcision, the “sign of the covenant,” if the servant were also circumcised. But then, why not have him touch his own genitals? Alternately, the genitals are symbolic of procreation and posterity* so this could imply Abraham’s descendents would avenge any oath-breaking. [* - I was tempted to pun on “posterior” but I refrained.]

Note verse 24:12, the servant’s prayer is the first instance in the bible of spontaneous prayer, “praying for personal guidance at a critical moment.” [Sarna]

In this story, and throughout Genesis, acts of kindness are a statement of belief in the one God. Hence, the servant uses an act of kindness as the criteria for selecting a bride for Isaac. Kindness is often associated with treatment of animals; she draws water for his camels also. Later, in the Ten Commandments, even your animals must rest on the Sabbath.

Kindness to strangers is especially important – remember Abraham’s treatment of the three angels, back in Ch 18. And, of course, later there will be many injunctions to be kind to strangers, because you were mistreated when you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

This is a lesson it took Abraham and Sarah a long time to learn, that Isaac can’t just have children, he needs a wife as a partner in transmitting the message.

The descendents of Terah, Abraham’s father, all come back to the family of Abraham. Terah’s three children are Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. Abraham’s son Isaac marries his first cousin, Nahor’s daughter Rebecca. They produce Jacob, the twelve sons, including Judah, who (many centuries later) produces Boaz. Haran’s son Lot, many generations later, produces Ruth (Book of) who marries Boaz; their union leads to David. Note that Adam also had three sons, and so did Noah; they all failed to understand the primary message of monotheism, but the three sons of Terah succeed.

In verse 50, the literal translation is, ”The matter was decreed by the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good.” Recall the similar phrase earlier, the tree of the knowledge of “good and bad.” The term means “and everything in between”, as we might use “from A to Z.” Hence the NIV poetic translation, “one way or the other.”

In verse 58, Rebecca responds “I will go,” the verb is “walk” – the verb has been used often with Abraham, that he “walked out.”

In verse 62, Isaac is at Beer-lahai-roi where (back in Gen 16:14), Hagar cried out to God and was answered at a well. There is a midrash that Isaac came here to atone for his mother’s sin against Hagar, and that he can’t establish his own household until he does.

Note the traditional sequence: marriage, then sex, then love. Us silly moderns, we go in the reverse order. This is the first mention of romantic love in the bible; the only prior mention of love between two humans is Abraham’s love of Isaac.

(My apologies for three long posts, they cover different topics. These are sections full of literary and historic comment and explanations.)

On the repetition of the story by the servant:

Agreeing with BigT that repetition is common in oral histories, and note things like the servant asking, “Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” and she replies,”There is … room to spend the night.” That kind of repetition is common in other stories that began as oral traditions, such as the Iliad. This particular example is possibly the longest such repetition in the bible. However, wait until we get to the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus – pages and pages of instructions for construction, and then pages and pages of the actual construction.

The variations also help relieve the monotony, but I agree with cmkeller entirely. For example, the servant’s account emphasizes Abraham’s great wealth (compare verse 35 to verse 1) – this is a nice negotiating ploy in broaching the subject of marriage. He emphasizes Isaac’s birth to Sarah in old age (another sign that Abraham is favored by God, so it would be good to marry into his family), and that Isaac (the prospective groom) is the sole heir to his father’s huge fortune. He mentions the oath – this is serious stuff, you should be flattered – and explains why Isaac has not yet married (can’t take a Canaanite wife). He (tactfully) does NOT mention how Abraham left his family, or that Abraham refused to allow Isaac to go to them.

Note also in the retelling, he first asks “Who are you” and then gives her the gold. In the actual occurrence, he first gives her the gold and then asks “Who are you.” The telling emphasizes that he came to seek a bride from Abraham’s family; the reality was that he first found someone who was kind to him and the animals, and only then asked about her family.

So the differences, although slight, are certainly consistent with a servant who knows how to put spin on his tale.

CK Dexter Haven:

Not at the same time, though. (discounting the “…and begot sons and daughters” in Genesis 5:4, you’re obviously referring to the three who were specifically mentioned in the Bible)

Because the covenant was with Abraham. It’s true that circumcision of Abraham’s servants was a requirement of fulfilling the covenant, but there is no covenant between G-d and the servants, there is only a covenant between G-d and Abraham (and his heir, Isaac).

It also makes the point that while the servant was a man of faith, he knew that his audience were people of trickery and deceit. He knew that if he told them that (having trusted in the sign from G-d) he gave her the gold without first asking her family name, they’d take him for a fool and try to take advantage of him.

Prof. Pepperwinkle:

Thanks for the reference. I was able to get to a nearby Yeshiva library which has a copy of Yalkut Reuveni. It’s not a work of original scholarship, but rather, is a compilation of Midrashic and Kabbalistic statements arranged in order of the Torah. The statement that Moses and Zipporah are buried in the Cave of Machpela (re-buried there by angels) is taken from a Kabbalah book called “Sefer Temunah” which the library didn’t have a copy of. It immediately follows two pages of quotes from other sources that say Moses was buried, as per the plain meaning of the text in Deuteronomy, on the plains of Moab, and reasons why that’s important in the grand scheme of things. So I don’t know that Reuveni can be seen as commpletely endorsing the Temunah’s statement.

It’s possible that the Temunah is expanding on a statement in the Sifri (also quoted by Reuveni, and which I was able to see an original of) that there is an underground passage that links Moses’s burial place with the Cave of Machpela. So maybe the Temunah considers it to be “in” the Cave of Machpela by virtue of that connection.

Yes, it’s amazing what convolutions people go through to support an idee fixe. I’m guessing the idea was that with the patriarchs and most of their wives buried there, and maybe Adam and Eve, why leave out Moses? I’m just surprised I didn’t find someone trying to have Noah in the Cave of Machpela as well.

And thank you for the follow-through on the research. I find tracking these things down fascinating.