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B'resheet/Genesis 25:5 And Avraham gave all that was his to Isaac
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This verse, falling as it does among the verses leading to the account of Avraham's passing, appears to be addressing the issue of physical inheritance: Isaac gets everything, Ishmael gets nothing. On the other hand, the context of the immediately surrounding verses is set before Avraham's death, at the time when Avraham's children from Keturah - whom he married only after Sarah had died - and his concubines were old enough to leave home and were sent off to the east with a gift to start their own lives and families. This statement: that "Avraham gave all that he had to Isaac", is juxtaposed with the following verse: "but to the sons of his concubines, Avraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward" (v. 6, NASB). There is a hint here that perhaps the text isn't talking about the physical estate after all. In the previous chapter, when Avraham's servant has gone back to Haran to find a wife for Isaac, the servant tells Rivka's family: "Now Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master in her old age; and he has given him all that he has" (24:36, NASB). Similar words, but that verse is held to be the point at which Avraham had transferred title in all his possessions over to Isaac, so that this later one must be talking about something else. Perhaps it is the transference of authority as head of the household, the responsibility of governing and caring for the rest of the family and the servants, the status among the other inhabitants of the land and a recognition that Isaac is now "the man".
Rashi says, "Rabbi Nechemiah said: Avraham gave Isaac his right to dispense blessing - for the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Avraham 'And you shall be a blessing,' (B'resheet 12:2) meaning that the blessings are given over to your hand, to bless whomever you wish. And Avraham gave them over to Isaac." The words of Rabbi Nechemiah come from B'resheet Rabbah 61:6 where the rabbis discuss what it was that Abraham gave Isaac. "Rabbi Judah said: It means the birthright. R. Nehemiah said: The power of blessing. The Rabbis said: The family vault and a deed of gift." The first suggestion, the birthright, was covered above and the last suggestion means a place to be buried, and the legal document proving that he owned the land - the field of Ephron and the Machpelah Cave. By picking up on the middle proposal, Rashi points to an important idea. When Abram (as he was then) was first called to leave Haran, HaShem told him, "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing" (B'resheet 12:2, NASB). From this, the rabbis concluded that HaShem was giving Avraham the power or ability to bless others; he had the ability to pass on or withhold the blessing to/from others. It was this power or ability, the delegated authority to direct blessing, that Rabbi Nechemiah suggested was being given to Isaac so that in turn, he would be a blessing to the people around him and so fulfill HaShem's promise that Avraham and his seed would be a blessing to the nations: "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (12:3, NASB).
This inheritance, then, could be described as Avraham's essence, his character, his relationship with G-d - perhaps these were the qualities that Isaac learned from and so inherited from his father; the means of being a blessing to others and to G-d. See also how Avraham gave of himself to Isaac: not stintingly or in part, but whole-heartedly and without measure; everything - or, as the Hebrew text literally translates, "all that was to him" - was invested into Isaac. Nothing was held back. The root of the Hebrew verb used here, , has the most common meaning, "to give", but can also mean "to grant, permit; to emit, yield or bear; to place, lay or put; to appoint; to make like" (Davidson) and could stretch to the idea of make an investment. Avraham poured himself into his son, so that he might be like him, he appointed him as his successor not only in physical and familial matters, but as the holder of the covenant with G-d, the means by which all the nations would eventually be blessed. Notice how much more powerful this investment is than the gifts which Avraham gave to his concubine's sons; this is to built character and purpose in the son to take the father's place, to represent him to the world and maintain the promise and the word of G-d, a deposit expecting a return or yield, while the gifts - well intentioned as they were - were simply material starting points to help each son find a wife, set up tents, purchase some livestock and establish their own family.
From here it is but a small step to perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, recited almost as many times as the Sh'ma (D'varim 6:4): "For G-d so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). G-d the Father, who poured Himself totally into His Son - so that the Bible says that Yeshua was "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3, NASB) and Yeshua Himself said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30, NASB) - and gave Himself, in the person of Yeshua, as a gift to the world as a deposit expecting a return and with a definite purpose: to save the world and raise up a family of believers who would follow and worship Him willingly because of His love for them. Yeshua shows the character and purpose of G-d, He represents G-d to the world and maintains the promise and the word of G-d, giving the gifts of His Spirit - the Ruach HaKodesh - that his brothers and sisters, the body of Messiah might grow in stature and become like Yeshua Himself.
What is the purpose of our lives? That we should give and invest of ourselves into the next generation, be that physical - for every man or woman's first field is their own family or children - or spiritual. We are called to be like Avraham, who himself modeled the character of G-d in this respect, and Yeshua, who gave His whole life to be a servant, investing our time, our money, our talents and skills, our very substance, into the job of raising up the next generation to follow us and labour in the harvest field of the Kingdom. Until the L-rd returns there will always be a harvest to be gathered, there will always be disciples to train and teach in the ways of the L-rd, so no shortage of investment opportunities for the resources of the Kingdom. May we all bring forth a harvest for Him who loved us: thirty-fold, sixty-fold or a hundred-fold!
Further Study: Zechariah 8:13; Colossians 1:18-19
Application: How many people do you invest in? Draw up an inventory and make sure that you know into whom G-d is calling you to invest your time and resources. Follow the model of Avraham and Yeshua and ask G-d how to make you a whole-hearted investor in people!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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