[Caveat: I skipped yesterday’s reading and reflection due to illness (and I just didn’t feel like being on a computer). The readings are worth it, but I will be skipping the reflection for yesterday.]
As I read Genesis 23-24 today, I was struck by Abraham’s insistence on finding a wife for his son. The fact of a search was not that surprising. I think every dad hopes his son(s) find a wonderful wife.
No, what struck me was where the wife was to be found.
Not among the Canaanites – where Abraham and Isaac currently lived – but among Abraham’s previous home country.
This is surprising because Canaan was the land God promised to give Abraham. He was there. He was in it. In a way, Abraham was living the dream (or at least, within the boarders of the dream).
But notice Abraham’s dialogue with the Hittites.
“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.” – Genesis 23:3-4 (ESV)
Abraham asks for permission to buy a burial plot for his wife Sarah. The land is his by divine promise, but he doesn’t see fit to exploit that for his own advantage.
But what’s even more surprising is the response of the Hittites.
The Hittites answered Abraham, “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.” – Genesis 23:5-6 (ESV)
The Hittites had no problem with Abraham’s request for a burial plot. In fact, they wanted to give him the choicest of plots, and at no cost to him.
Finally through some back and forth reverse-negotiating, Abraham is able to buy the land for some pieces of silver.
This is some of what I think it means to be a faithful presence. It means living in such a way that the people around you can’t help but want you to be there.
It means being the kind of neighbor that others have no problem being there for, even if they don’t believe the same things you do, or live the same way you do.
It means seeking to live appropriately among your neighbors, without also taking on the things they believe, or live the way they live, that are antithetical to your beliefs and life-style convictions.
It means still seeking to honor and respect your neighbors, even when you don’t agree with them.
It means seeking what is best for all, instead of exploiting others for your own advantage.
All of this was done while Abraham was living in the promised land.
Kind of makes me think that Abraham was still looking for a better promised land (cf. Hebrews 11:8-15, see note below).
For Further Thought:
1. Do you think it was odd that Abraham went looking for a wife for Isaac from the land he had left, obeying God’s promises? Why or why not?
2. Was there an aspect of Abraham’s dealing with the Hittites that you thought was odd? Can you imagine yourself passing up free real estate? Why do you think Abraham did so?
From ESV Study Bible:
Gen. 23:4 a sojourner and foreigner among you. Abraham’s description of himself emphasizes his immigrant status. Even after 62 years of seminomadic existence in Canaan, Abraham has no permanent location to call his own. This is all the more noteworthy in light of God’s repeated promises to Abraham that his descendants will possess all the land of Canaan. The author of Hebrews develops the idea that Abraham chose to go on living in tents because he was looking for a city “whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9–10).
Gen. 24:2–6 Abraham is deeply concerned that Isaac should not marry a Canaanite; he fears that this will draw him away from worshiping the Lord. From ch. 9 onward, the Canaanites are frequently portrayed as being wicked (see notes on 9:24–27; 10:6–20; 13:11–13). Abraham entrusts the important task of finding a wife for Isaac to his most reliable servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had (24:2). To place his servant under oath, Abraham instructs him to put your hand under my thigh (v. 2). On the significance of this action, see note on v. 9. In spite of having left Haran in northern Mesopotamia almost a hundred years earlier, Abraham refers to it as my country (v. 4). He hopes that a wife may be found for Isaac from among his relatives there. Although Abraham insists that Isaac’s wife should come from his kindred in Mesopotamia (v. 4), he emphasizes that Isaac himself should not return there (v. 6). Isaac’s future is to be in Canaan, for God has promised this land to Abraham’s descendants. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob will get wives from the same region (29:1–28).