Genesis (Part 93)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis: 23:1-4

23 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites,“I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

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From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(1) Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old.—Sarah is the only woman whose age at her death is mentioned in the Bible, an honour doubtless given her as the ancestress of the Hebrew race (Isaiah 51:2). As she was ninety at Isaac’s birth, he would now be thirty-seven years of age.

Here is the note from The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 23:1

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old (literally, and the lives of Sarah were an hundred and twenty and seven years); so that Isaac must have been thirty-seven, having been born in his mother’s ninetieth year. Sarah, as the wife of Abraham and the mother of believers (Isaiah 51:21 Peter 3:6), is the only woman whose age is mentioned in Scripture. These were the years of the life of Sarah—an emphatic repetition designed to impress the Israelitish mind with the importance of remembering the age of their ancestress.

Is there any perceived significance to the number 127? From gematriot.blogspot.com:

“Sara’s life was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years, the years of Sara’s life.” (Genesis 23:1)

“It was in the days of Achashveirosh. He was Achashveirosh who reigned from Hodu to Cush – seven and twenty and one hundred countries.” (Esther 1:1)

It won’t take long to figure that there a few things in common between these two verses. They are both the first verse of their respective places in the Tanach/Bible. The former verse is the FIRST verse of the FIFTH Parsha of the Torah – Chayei Sara, and the latter verse is the FIRST verse of the FIFTH of the five Megillot. Both of these verses mention the number 127 (which is the number of this post), howbeit in two very different ways of mentioning this number. And finally, both of these verses have something to do with righteous women – Sara & Esther respectively.

In case anyone thought that these two verses that mention the same number 127 don’t have any concrete connection between these two, we have to turn to the Midrash for this one. In the Yalkut Shimoni (Remez 102) on Parshat Chayei Sara, the story goes that students of Rabbi Akiva were falling asleep in the midst of his lecture. In order to arouse them, he asked: “What did Esther (Achashveirosh’s wife) see that she should reign over 127 countries? But let Esther, the descendant of Sara who lived 127 years come, and reign over 127 countries.”

Now, from this alone, some may come to the conclusion that Rabbi Akiva merely was attempting to find a way to keep his students awake mentioning riddles of Torah, but not necessarily because there is a connection of the number 127 between Sara & Esther. Perhaps if it would be a Bible professor giving this kind of lecture, one may indeed come to this conclusion. However, as our Rabbis tell us, even the mundane talk of Torah scholars need study, for a true G-d fearing Torah scholar doesn’t just talk words for no reason to shoot the breeze, or tell over a nice catchy story. In other words, if such a Torah scholar mentions something, it is for a reason. Hence, there has to be some type of connection here between Sara and Esther here as per the number 127.

To be sure, there are various explanations given for this, including the point Rabbi Akiva was making to his sleeping students with this point that he made so they would have to motivation to stay awake from now on during his lectures. However, taking one look at what this Midrash recounts, I have a question. What does it mean “What did Esther SEE that she should reign…?” If anything, it was Hashem who was pulling the strings, and as a result of Sara living her life to the fullest as implied by the wording of the verse describing Sara’s years of life as Rashi notes, Hashem rewarded Sara with having a descendant who would reign over 127 countries, who would be a righteous woman under whose rule Jews would be able to practice their religion freely as Jews without fear of persecution.

As we know, Esther being the most righteous Jewish woman of her time, would never begin to consider marrying a non-Jew for the sake of materialism. The fact that she did in fact marry the non-Jewish anti-Semitic Achashveirosh was not of her own choice
as the king picked her out from all the other women in the harlem to be his wife. While in fact, the sin of a forbidden sexual relationship is one of three things (the other two being idolatry and murder) that one is forbidden to commit under all circumstances should one be threatened to do based on the cost of one’s life, Esther did not resist from marrying Achashveirosh because she knew that she was put in this situation for the benefit of the Jews at that time. It must be remembered that the Jews were in the midst of the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, and it was a time of Hashem’s hiding His face, so to speak, from the Jewish people, as indeed, Esther’s very name denotes this very concept. Hence, the miracles that happened to the Jewish people that led to the holiday of Purim happened in a concealed way that wasn’t obvious to the average person that miracles were taking place like what happened in the era of the Exodus.

Thus, Esther SAW, knowing that Achashveirosh was the ruling power of the time, and wasn’t merely king over his immediate country of Persia, but of all the existing countries at the time, which were 127 countries. No doubt that Esther realized that there was a unique reason why she was being put in this position to be Achashveirosh’s wife, and as queen, she would in effect be ruler of these countries as well. She knew that it was not a mere coincidence that the number of countries were the same amount as the years of Sara’s life, and that just as Sara made the best use of her life, despite the challenges that she had, including being taken by two different kings to have sex with them but was saved as the end, so too, Esther realized that after all was said and done, the king asking to marry her was meant to be, and that it was meant for her to have rule over the 127 countries for the benefit of the Jews. (Note: No doubt that if Mordechai would have been against Esther giving in to the king’s demands of being his wife, he would have made it crystal clear to her not to do so, but he knew that this was meant to be for the sake of the Jewish people, and this was what is called a Heiter Sha’ah, a permit in Jewish law for the moment, though otherwise, it would be forbidden to marry a non-Jew).

(The article goes on and I suggest reading if you are curious.)

This is not the only place you will find significance in the number 127. From biblewheel.com:

The fundamental significance of the prime Number 127 is found in these words from Psalm 24:

King of GlorypicMelekh HaKavod= 127

There is a large ascending set of multiples of 127 relating to the Glory of God such as “The Glory of the Lord” (1143 = 9 x 127) and “The Glory of God” (1397 = 11 x 127). These identites add great insight into the Grace Manifest Holograph. The sequence culminates in the sum of the Second Commandment (= 12573 = 99 x 127).

The Number 127
The King of Glory [Ps 24.10]picMelekh HaKavod
The Heart of the King [Est 1.10]picLev HaMelekh
The Lord commanded [Ex 12.50]picYHVH Tsavah
The Holy Lord God (Ord) [1 Sam 6.20]picYHVH HaElohim HaQadosh

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Returning to the text, let’s look at verse 2. From Ellicott:

(2) Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron.—This was a very ancient city, built seven years before Zoan in Egypt (Numbers 13:22), probably by a tribe of Semites on their way to the Delta. It lies upon the very border of the Negeb of Judah, about twenty-two miles south of Jerusalem. Originally it was named Kirjath-arba, and though Arba is called “the father of Anak” (Joshua 15:13), yet the literal meaning City of Four (arba being the Hebrew numeral four)coupled with the fact that Hebron means alliance (Genesis 13:18), suggests that its building was the result of the union of four families; and afterwards, from the name of the city, Arba may have been often used as a proper name. At the conquest of Palestine there were descendants of Anak still dwelling there, and apparently they had restored the old title, but were expelled by Caleb (Joshua 15:14), who took it as his possession, and seems to have given its name to a grandchild, as a memorial of his victory (1 Chronicles 2:42). It is still an important town, with a population of 17,000 Moslems and about 600 Jews.

Abraham came to mourn.—At this period Abraham was in quiet possession of several headquarters, and apparently was himself at Beer-sheba when Sarah died at Hebron, where probably he had left Isaac in charge of his mother and the cattle.

From Hebron’s Wiki page, which confirms and adds to the note above:

The name “Hebron” appears to trace back to two Semitic roots, which coalesce in the form ḥbr, having reflexes in Hebrew and Amorite, with a basic sense of ‘unite’ and connoting a range of meanings from “colleague” to “friend”. In the proper name Hebron, the original sense may have been alliance.

The Arabic term derives from the Qur’anic epithet for Abraham, Khalil al-Rahman (إبراهيم خليل الرحمن) “Beloved of the Merciful” or “Friend of God”. Arabic Al-Khalil thus precisely translates the ancient Hebrew toponym Ḥebron, understood as ḥaber (friend).

Looking back at the Ellicott note, you’ll see the reference to Anak. From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

ANAKIM

an’-a-kim (`anaqim; Enakim, or Enakeim; also called “sons of Anak” (Numbers 13:33), and “sons of the Anakim” (Deuteronomy 1:28)):

The spies (Numbers 13:33) compared them to the Nephilim or “giants” of Genesis 6:4, and according to Deuteronomy 2:11 they were reckoned among the REPHAIM (which see). In Numbers 13:22 the chiefs of Hebron are said to be descendants of Anak, while “the father of Anak” is stated in Jos (15:13; 21:11) to be Arba after whom Hebron was called “the city of Arba.” Jos “cut off the Anakim …. from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, …. and from all the hill-country of Israel,” remnants of them being left in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21,22). As compared with the Israelites, they were tall like giants (Numbers 13:33), and it would therefore seem that the “giant” Goliath and his family were of their race.

At Hebron, at the time of the Israelite conquest, we may gather that they formed the body-guard of the Amorite king (see Joshua 10:5) under their three leaders Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai (Numbers 13:22Joshua 15:14Judges 1:20). Tell el-Amarna Letters show that the Canaanite princes were accustomed to surround themselves with bodyguards of foreign mercenaries. It appears probable that the Anakim came from the Aegean like the Philistines, to whom they may have been related. The name Anak is a masculine corresponding with a feminine which we meet with in the name of the goddess Onka, who according to the Greek writers, Stephanus of Byzantium and Hesychius, was the “Phoen,” i.e. Syrian equivalent of Athena. Anket or Anukit was also the name of the goddess worshipped by the Egyptians at the First Cataract. In the name Ahi-man it is possible that “-man” denotes a non-Semitic deity.

We see through the name Arba (Hebron) and Anak a connection to giants discussed elsewhere in the Bible and also to Greek deities (with their own stories of gods who had offspring with humans.)

Returning to the text in Verse 3 with the Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 23:3

And Abraham stood up—during the days of mourning he had been sitting on the ground; and now, his grief having moderated (Calvin), he goes out to the city gate—from before (literally, from over the face of) his dead,—”Sarah, though dead, was still his” (Wordsworth)—and spake unto the sons of Heth.—the Hittites were descendants of Heth, the son of Canaan (vide Genesis 10:15). Cf. “daughters of Heth” (Genesis 27:46) and “daughters of Canaan” (Genesis 28:1)—saying.

stood up = קוּם qûwm, koom; a primitive root; to rise (in various applications, literal, figurative, intensive and causative):—abide, accomplish, × be clearer, confirm, continue, decree, × be dim, endure, × enemy, enjoin, get up, make good, help, hold, (help to) lift up (again), make, × but newly, ordain, perform, pitch, raise (up), rear (up), remain, (a-) rise (up) (again, against), rouse up, set (up), (e-) stablish, (make to) stand (up), stir up, strengthen, succeed, (as-, make) sure(-ly), (be) up(-hold, -rising).

Genesis 10:15 15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth,

There is an apparent scholarly distinction between the Biblical Hittites and the Hittites known historically to scholars. From wiki:

The Hittites, also spelled Hethites, were a group of people mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Under the names בני-חת (bny-ḥt “children of Heth”, who was the son of Canaan) and חתי (ḥty “native of Heth”) they are described several times as living in or near Canaan between the time of Abraham (estimated to be between 2000 BC and 1500 BC) and the time of Ezra after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile (around 450 BC). Their ancestor was Heth (Hebrew: חֵת‎, Modern: H̱etTiberian: Ḥēṯḥt in the consonant-only Hebrew script).

In the late 19th century, the biblical Hittites were identified with a newly discovered Indo-European-speaking empire of Anatolia, a major regional power through most of the 2nd millennium BC, who therefore came to be known as the Hittites. This nomenclature is used today as a matter of convention, regardless of debates about possible identities between the Anatolian Hittite Empire and the biblical Hittites.

For those interested, the wiki article includes both arguments for and against identifying the biblical Hittites with the Anatolian Hittites.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary links the Biblical and Anatolian Hittites:

Verse 3

(3) Abraham stood up from before his dead.—His first care on arriving at Hebron had been to prostrate himself in Sarah’s tent, and give utterance to his grief. Only after this he rises to prepare for her burial.

The sons of Heth.—Up to this time we have read only of Amorites, Mamre and his toothers, at Hebron. It now appears that it was the property of the Hittites, a race who, while the Israelites sojourned in Egypt, became so powerful as to contend for empire with the Egyptians themselves. Their capital was Emesa in Northern Syria, and their history is now being made known to us not only by means of Egyptian records, but also of inscriptions in their own language

In verse 4, Abraham seeks to take uncontested possession of land for Sarah’s burial.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 23:4

I am a stranger and a sojourner with youGer, one living out of his own country, and Thoshabh, one dwelling in a land in which he is not naturalized; advena et peregrinus (Vulgate); πάροικος καὶ παρ ἐπίδημος (LXX.). This confession of the heir of Canaan was a proof that he sought, as his real inheritance, a better country, even an heavenly (Hebrews 11:13). Give me a possession of a burying-place with you. The first mention of a grave in Scripture, the word in Hebrew signifying a hole in the earth, or a mound, according as the root is taken to mean to dig (Furst) or to heap up (Gesenius). Abraham’s desire for a grave m which to deposit Sarah’s lifeless remains was dictated by that Divinely planted and, among civilized nations, universally prevailing reverence for the body which prompts men to decently dispose of their dead by rites of honorable sepulture. The burning of corpses was a practice common to the nations of antiquity; but Tacitus notes it as characteristic of the Jews that they preferred interment to cremation (‘Hist.,’ 5.5). The wish to make Sarah’s burying-place his own possession has been traced to the instinctive desire that most nations have evinced to lie in ground belonging to themselves (Rosenmüller), to an intention on the part of the patriarch to give a sign of his right and title to the land of Canaan by purchasing a grave in its soil—cf. Isaiah 22:16 (Bush), or simply to anxiety that his dead might not lie unburied (Calvin); but it was more probably due to his strong faith that the land would yet belong to his descendants, which naturally led him to crave a resting-place in the soil with which the hopes of both himself and people were identified (Ainsworth, Bush, Kalisch). That I may bury my dead out of my sight—decay not suffering the lifeless corpse to remain a fit spectacle for grief or love to gaze on.

property / possession = אֲחֻזָּה ʼăchuzzâh, akh-ooz-zaw’; feminine passive participle from H270; something seized, i.e. a possession (especially of land):—possession.

burying place = קֶבֶר qeber, keh’-ber; or (feminine) קִבְרָה qibrâh; from H6912; a sepulchre:—burying place, grave, sepulchre.

TheTorah.com published an article title, Giving Miriam and the Matriarchs Their Proper Funerals. It touches on a number of topics, but I thought the following (which includes Sarah) was interesting.

Despite being both a leader and a prophetess, the report of Miriam’s death conforms to the reports of the deaths of heroines in the Bible in its short, formulaic style. Post-biblical rewritings of this account – and of the matriarchs’ deaths — are frequently more elaborate, including details taken from biblical depictions of the demise of male protagonists. In some cases, the deceased woman is praised, in others she is given Graeco-Roman style public funerals. Hereby, Second Temple Jewish authors represent biblical heroines as significant and praiseworthy women whose death, burial, and mourning reflect the honor they deserve.

So if you want to get a feel for how the Matriarchs were viewed by Jews and early Christians, then one must seek out writing (Jubilees, Josephus, and Philo) from that time period.

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