Isaac

1. Let me start by saying that a sermon is not the same with bible study. You don’t simply preach only the results of your study of the passage. Your study should serve as the foundation of the sermon, of course, but your sermon should be much more than that. How you deliver your sermon is as important as (if not more than) what you will be delivering. It is tiring to listen to a flatly delivered sermon, without hills or valleys and void of climaxes. Not that the quality of a sermon should hinge on your rhetoric skills, but that a sermon is more about a proclamation rather than reading news.

2. Anyway, the passage is Gen 24, about Abraham looking for a wife for Isaac. The immediate context is Gen 23, the death of Sarah. So, I wonder whether Rebekah is simply a replacement for Sara. Isaac just lost his mom and Abraham now must find someone who can fill this huge loss. It is similar to what Peter Leithart commented on the final chapter of the Song of Songs: “Freud, stand aside; Solomon already knew that every love is a memory of Moma.” Well, stand aside Solomon. Isaac might have the Oedipus complex as well.

3. Martin has pointed out rightly that Isaac was married when he was 40 years old, which is a symbolic threshold for one generation. So, the story might simply mean the coming of age for Isaac and it’s about time for his father to find a wife for him. Not to mention that there was a four year gap between Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage, such that the arranged marriage is not immediately after Sarah’s death in time but only in the narrative.

(For example: Israel wandered around the desert for 40 years as a symbol that the first generation, who was disobedient, would not enter Canaan. Moses’ life was divided into 3 parts, 40 years each. Saul, David, and Solomon ruled Israel for 40 years each.)

4. Nevertheless, it is still intriguing to see how this juxtaposition of Isaac’s arranged marriage and Sara’s death works out. First, it has been noted that Isaac is not a dominant man/alpha male. If anything Isaac might as well be a beta male or a gamma male. He was born when Abraham and Sarah were already well into their golden age after so many years of waiting (a miracle, really), so (without psychoanalyzing too much into it) there is a possibility that they overprotected Isaac. For example, when Ishmael mocked Isaac, Sara immediately told Abraham to banish Ishmael and Hagar from their sight. Another case in point of course is when Rebekah wanted Jacob to be blessed and not Esau and somehow managed to trick Isaac into her plan.

5. Moreover, in the passage itself, immediately after Isaac saw Rebekah coming, he “brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen 24.67) I still don’t know what exactly bringing her into the tent of Sarah means, but the fact that he did this is fascinating in itself.

6. Finally, if this interpretation holds true, it could shine a light as well on what it means when it is said, “He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.” (Gen 24.63) BK pointed out the difference between the English translation (“Isaac went out to meditate”) and Indonesian translation (“Isaac sedang keluar untuk berjalan-jalan”/Isaac went out to take a walk) and preferred the English translation as it showed how, despite his weaknesses, actually Isaac still has the leadership required of men by meditating in the field (by assuming it showed his priestly quality, and that the husband should become the priest in the family). Well, when I checked my Bible, there is a footnote saying that the meaning of the word is uncertain. So, the Indonesians decided to translate it as “berjalan-jalan”/taking a walk while most English translations as “meditating”. Given the motif of Sara/Rebekah that I wanted to champion, one could imagine how Isaac, deep in his mourning for his mom’s death, went out to wait for his servant to come back with his future wife, whom he hoped would be able to soothe him and comfort him. And he was comforted indeed when Rebekah came and became his wife (Gen 24.67).

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