Quest for the Bride of Isaac

The quest for Rebekah, the bride of Isaac, alludes to the redemption of Israel, the bride of the Messiah.

Rebecca Meets Isaac by the Way (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot via Wikimedia Commons).

Chayei Sarah

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Chayei Sarah (חיי שרה | Sarah's life)
  • Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 1:1-31
  • Gospel: John 4:3-14

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 23:1 | Sarah's Death and Burial
    • Genesis 24:1 | The Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah
    • Genesis 25:1 | Abraham Marries Keturah
    • Genesis 25:7 | The Death of Abraham
    • Genesis 25:12 | Ishmael's Descendants
  • Prophets
    • 1Ki 1:1 | The Struggle for the Succession
    • 1Ki 1:28 | The Accession of Solomon

Portion Summary

The fifth reading from the book of Genesis is named Chayei Sarah (חיי שרה). It means "Sarah lived," because the narrative begins with the words "Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years" (Genesis 23:1). This portion of the Torah is filled with romance and sorrow. It tells the story of how Abraham mourned his wife after her passing, and how he procured a wife for his son Isaac. At the end of this portion, Abraham is laid to rest beside his beloved wife.

Abraham wanted to find a worthy bride for his son Isaac. Abraham looked for a woman of the same caliber as his righteous wife Sarah. He sought a woman who would bear children worthy of inheriting his legacy and the covenantal promises. The quest for Isaac’s bride tells an important chapter in the story of the Messiah in that Rebekah became one of the mothers of the Jewish people and an ancestor of the Messiah.

Some rabbis read the story of Isaac and Rebekah as an allegory about God and the Jewish people. The prophets often describe the relationship between the LORD and His people as that of a husband to a wife. In view of this metaphor, the death of Sarah can be compared to the exile—her empty tent can be compared to Jerusalem.8 The mission to bring Rebekah out of Aram and into the promised land can be compared to the final redemption when the Messiah will gather the exiles of Israel and lead them to the land. “For as a young man marries a virgin … and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,” the LORD will rejoice over Zion in the final redemption (Isaiah 62:5):

The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Jeremiah 33:11)

Moreover, as the bride of Isaac, Rebekah symbolizes Messiah’s bride. Isaac prefigures Messiah in several ways. He is the promised “seed of Abraham,” the only begotten son who was sacrificed. In a symbolic manner Isaac represents Messiah. If we carry that imagery forward into this parashah, we can look to the story about Rebekah for insight into the bride of Messiah and her relationship with Isaac.

Abraham commissioned his servant Eliezer and sent him on a mission to seek out a suitable bride. In Hebrew, a person sent on a mission is called a shaliach (שליח), which means “sent one.” The same word translates into Greek as apostolos (ἀπόστολος), which in turn enters English New Testament translations as “apostle.” In that sense, Abraham commissioned and sent Eliezer as his apostle.

Yeshua commissioned His apostles with a similar assignment. He sent them to make disciples for Himself. These disciples, in turn, constitute the Assembly of Messiah, which the New Testament metaphorically refers to as the “bride of Messiah.”9 When read in this light, Genesis 24 becomes a textbook for evangelism and transmitting the good news of the kingdom.

The Messiah Himself is the Shaliach of God, sent by the Father to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. In the Gospel of John, Yeshua repeatedly reminds His disciples that He was sent from the Father. He refers to God as “The One who sent me,” “the Father who sent me,” “He who sent me,” and so forth. Yeshua used the term in various formulas at least forty times throughout the book. In that regard, He models the work of the shaliach for us.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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