Last week, in Parasha Vayeira, Abraham and Lot separately entertained angels who declared that life-changing events were to come.
To Abraham, who had remained faithful to God, the angels announced that Sarah would give birth to a son in a year. To Lot, who was living in the midst of a depraved society, they announced the destruction of the city.
Although Chayei Sarah means the life of Sarah, this week’s Parasha actually begins with her death in Kiryat Arba (Hebron) at age 127.
Abraham buys a parcel of land for 400 shekels of silver as a family burial site—the Cave of Machpelah and its adjoining field—from Ephron the Hittite. There he buries his wife, Sarah.
“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.” (Genesis 23:6)
After the death of Sarah, Abraham instructs his senior servant to find a wife for Isaac among Abraham’s relatives.
His servant sets out for the town of Nahor with 10 of Abraham’s camels, each laden with gifts. When he arrives at the village well, he asks God for a sign:
“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.” (Genesis 24:12–14)
God answers his prayer, and Rebecca, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, provides water for him and his camels.
Rebecca returns with Abraham’s servant to the land of Canaan, and Isaac marries her, finding comfort after the death of his mother.
“Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebecca. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Genesis 24:67)
In this Parasha, Abraham outlives Sarah by 38 years. He marries Keturah and fathers several more children with her (Genesis 25:1–4).
Although he sends these children to the east to protect Isaac and the covenant that was to transform the world through him, he treats his children well by providing for them generously throughout his lifetime.
When he dies at the age of 175, his sons Isaac and Ishmael bury him next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah. Everything he owns is left to Isaac.
Aged King David Plans for the Future
“Now King David was old and advanced in years.” (1 Kings 1:1)
The Prophetic portion (Haftarah) is related to the Parasha by the theme of aging. The other theme that connects the Haftarah and the Parasha is that of passing the torch of leadership to the next generation, in other words, planned succession.
Both Abraham and David are described as old, and both make plans to secure their legacy to future generations.
Just as Abraham must take steps to ensure that all of his sons understand that Isaac will be his sole heir, King David, one of the greatest men of God of all times—a man after God’s own heart—must take proper steps to ensure that the right man sits on the throne after his death.
In this reading, David’s son Adoniyah takes advantage of his father’s age and feebleness and declares himself king.
God, however, had chosen David’s son Solomon to sit on the throne, not Adoniyah (1 Chronicles 28:5–7).
To save the life of Solomon and Bat Sheva, his mother, the prophet Nathan encourages her to go to King David to let him know what is transpiring with Adoniyah, and to plead with him to reaffirm Solomon as his successor.
While she is pouring out her heart to David, Nathan arrives to confirm everything that she is saying.
David responds immediately to the situation, swearing to Bat Sheva:
“As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” (1 Kings 1:29)
Securing the throne for his son, Solomon, was his last act before he passed.
The Fruit of Discipline: Peace in the Home and Children Who Honor Their Parents
The readings this week present a stark contrast between Abraham’s household and David’s.
Abraham’s son Isaac so respected and trusted his father that he was willing to receive his direction and guidance even with something as important as the choice of a wife—and this at 40 years of age!
And when Abraham died, it seems, Isaac’s inheritance was unchallenged by his brothers.