The Overlooked Parallels

A Sword Piercing the Soul

Right after Aqedat Itzhak, in Chapter 23 of Genesis, a new Torah Portion begins:  “Chayei-Sarah”. Despite the title: “Chayei-Sarah,” which means “Sarah’s life,” Sarah dies in this portion; moreover, she dies right away, in the second verse of Chapter 23. Then in the next chapter, the Torah moves to Isaac—to choosing a wife for him—as if to show that Hayyei-Sarah, Sarah’s life, was all about Isaac. Was Sarah’s death also connected to Isaac?

Last time, we spoke about Isaac being an adult in Genesis 22, and even mentioned his age – 37 years old. Where do we get this from? In the Jewish tradition, Sarah’s death in Genesis 23 is juxtaposed to the events of Genesis 22: Midrash Genesis Rabbah writes that, when Sarah heard that “her son was prepared for slaughter and was almost slaughtered, her soul flew out of her and she died.”[1] The Torah tells us that Sarah died at the age of 127[2], which means that Isaac was 37 when he was led to Mount Moriah. And, once again, Isaac’s obedience, his free consent and selfless readiness to be sacrificed, all become even more significant if he was a grown man and not just an obedient child. Many years later we still hear the echo of the enormous trauma that this grown man experienced on Mount Moriah, in the words of his son: several times, Jacob would refer to his father’s God as the “Fear of Isaac” ( פַ֤חַד יִצְחָק֙ ).

Commenting on the previous Torah Portion, I compared two mothers, Sarah and Mary (Miriam), Jesus’ mother, at the moment of their great joy—divine annunciation.  This portion, however, makes us think of the deep anguish that both mothers endured because of the suffering of their sons.  While blessing baby Jesus, Simeon said to Miriam: “a sword will pierce through your own soul also[3].  Both mothers indeed experienced this sword piercing their souls: as we think of Sarah dying of distress and grief for her son, we can’t help but also remember Jesus’ mother standing at the foot of the cross!

Three Years And Three Days

There is another parallel between Isaac and Jesus that is largely overlooked by Christian commentators – mainly because they assume Isaac was a child during the Aqedah.  However, if we believe that he was 37 years old, as I just wrote, then we arrive at a very interesting conclusion – because Aqedat Yitzhaq, the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, contains, among other enigmas, one more mystery that our sages have long pointed out. After all that happened on Mount Moriah—after the raised knife was stopped by the voice from heaven—Genesis 22:19 states: Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba. Isaac isn’t mentioned there at all, the Scripture informs us only about Abraham’s return. What happened to Isaac after the Aqedah? Where did he go? He vanishes, and does not reappear until Genesis 24, right before his meeting with Rebekah. How old was he then? We know that “Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca[4] – and that means that he had disappeared for exactly three years. For three years, nobody had seen him! Nobody?

Genesis 24:62 tells us that Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi. If you don’t know Hebrew, this name means nothing. In Hebrew, however, it is incredibly profound: The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me! This is the message of this name: while Isaac seemed to vanish from everyone else – to vanish from among the living – he never vanished from God’s sight. God saw him! The Living One Sees Me! Isaac’s three years after his suffering – just like Jesus’s three days after His suffering – were hidden from the people, but they were not hidden from God. This is another amazing parallel that we discover in these chapters.

Make This Day Happen Before Me

Like in a good family show, once the main female character of the previous chapters dies, almost immediately a new female character appears. In Genesis 23, Sarah dies; in Genesis 24, we witness Abraham’s servant being sent to Haran to find a wife for his young master. The story of Isaac and Rebecca’s love is one of the most beautiful love stories in Torah – however, before it became a truly romantic story of love, it was a story of faith. And of course, the first prominent character here is Abraham’s senior servant (probably Eliezer, though his name is not mentioned in this chapter). Although by this time, he must have already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had performed in his master’s life, it would still have taken a good deal of faith to even undertake this journey, and to trust that the Lord would send him to the right girl. When he is standing by the well (Another well! Be aware of the wells in the Bible – so many life-changing things happen at wells), he prays: O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. In English, he prays for “success” of his mission, for “good speed” or “good fortune”, depending on translation. However, if translated literally, he is asking God to “make this day happen before me” (הַקְרֵה-נָא לְפָנַי הַיּוֹם ). He is praying for God’s guidance – and it’s important to note that this is the very first prayer for divine guidance recorded in the Bible.

Then he prays for a kind and humble girl. Pay close attention: he does not pray for her looks or wealth; it is her kind and serving attitude and behavior that he is putting as a sign before God.

We all know that his prayer was answered immediately and precisely, and we also know that he was absolutely overwhelmed by this immediate answer. This “day” was indeed happening “before him”, exactly as he prayed – and he just watched in awe and amazement at what God was doing: And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. The word translated here as “remained silent”, might also mean: “to be speechless”. Eliezer was absolutely speechless as he saw God’s handwriting in this story and realized that God Himself had chosen the girl for Isaac.

Then we hear surprising words from Rebecca’s father and brother, after they listened to the servant’s testimony: Mi-Adonai Yatza Ha-Davar – “this thing came from YodHey-VavHey!” We seldom see non-believers use this unique, personal name of God in the Bible; perhaps the reality of God’s presence was so evident,  that even those who didn’t  know and worship Him, were still ready to admit His guidance in this story.

However, the most incredible character here is undoubtedly Rebecca herself—the most impressive part of this story is the faith of this young woman! When the servant appears from nowhere and presents before her the choice of her life: whether she will go with him to be a wife for Abraham’s son, as you can imagine, it was very different for her then that it would be now: they didn’t have phones or internet; they didn’t have cars or planes; and for her to leave her home like this meant to leave it for good and probably never see her family again. The fact that she was able to make this decision and leave behind everything and everyone she knew and loved bears witness to an absolutely outstanding character! She said “Yes!” – and this is yet another ‘Yes’ to God, as we see many times throughout this book—yet another story of entering God’s plan and God’s blessings by surrendering one’s life to Him.

[1] Gen. Rabbah 58:5

[2] Gen.23:1

[3] Luke 2:35

[4] Gen. 25:20

I  would like to remind you, dear friends that eTeacher offers a wonderful course, where you can learn from Parashot Shavua commentaries along with their New Testament interpretation. As always, you are welcome to contact me for more information! 

Excerpts from my books are included in this article  (and many other posts here), so if you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them   here 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Dorothy Healy

    Thank you Julia, for bringing out all the parallels in this story with the NT. This story is so profound. I would go even further: I believe that Eliezer foreshadows the Holy Spirit His name means “God of Help”, and the Holy Spirit is called our “Helper”. Just as Rebecca was called to leave all behind to follow him and be joined with Isaac, so we are also called to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and leave all behind to follow Jesus and be joined with Him. Indeed the Torah is filled with shadows of Yeshua, and our redemption through Him..

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your insightful comment, Dorothy. This Torah Portion is very profound indeed and it is full of “the overlooked parallels” – hence the title of this post!

  2. Nick

    Thanks Julia for showing Christians that their religion is much bigger than the warm feeling of personal salvation, although that’s how it often starts.
    Nick

  3. Schalk Van Der Sandt

    It occurred to me that, rather than striking fear into the heart of a young child, the Almighty Lord would opt for this “ordeal”, the sacrifice of Isaac, to be undertaken by two adults; Isaac still being subject to his father’s dominion.

    1. Julia Blum

      You are right, Schalk, somehow I’ve never thought about it, it’s a very interesting point.

  4. fara chang valdes (The Key of The House of David Ministries)

    Beloved sister Julia, I want to thank you wholeheartedly for all your writings. I really treasure them and keep them all. I treat them like precious jewish jewels! And with your permission I would like to teach about them, giving you credit of course, because as a bible teacher I encounter so many students that really desire to know the roots of our faith. After seeking the Father’s advice, I have decided to join your school to further my studies and continue to grow spiritually. Toda raba. Fara Chang Valdes. USA

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your very generous words, I am so glad you find these articles helpful and interesting. And many blessings on your decision to join the school, I think it’s a wonderful decision and you will greatly enjoy our courses!

  5. Gladys Fox

    Thank you Dear Teacher for your lesson . There are so many parallels that many Christians never see . I am thankful you are pointing them out .
    I once heard people arguing about whether a certain prophecy was about the Jewish people or the Messiah . It troubled me greatly and so I asked God for the answer . I believe with all my heart and soul that God said it was about both . Then I believe that God said that when He chose to place the Spirit of His Beloved Son in a Jewish Body He was like all good fathers of that time .He had found a bride for His Son and His bride is the Jewish people . Jesus and the Jewish people are One . To me Jesus represents the signed marriage contract. Many Christians feel that the Christian Church is His bride, but they are not .There will however be many many Christians included with the bride of Jesus . They will be those Christians that love God , Jesus and the Holy Spirit and they will also love the Jewish people . They will honor the Jewish people and learn from them . They will help and care for the Jewish people just as some people helped the Jews when they wandered in wilderness with Moses . Those who helped them were always welcome among the Jewish people as is shown in Scripture . They will not strip Yesuah ( Jesus) of His Jewishness .

    1. Julia Blum

      Dear Gladys, thank you for your comment. I feel and think the same almost on every point you’ve brought. And as you probably know, it’s one of the goals of this blog – to show the Jewishness of Jesus.