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This parashah begins with the end of Sarah’s life. Abraham buys a burial cave and after the mourning period, he has Eliezer, his servant and guardian of all he owns (like Joseph was for Potipher’s household) go back to Abrahams’ old village to find a wife for Isaac from amongst Abraham’s own family. God goes ahead of Eliezer and Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s brother, Nachor, is the one God has chosen. After she is brought back and joined with Isaac, the parashah ends with a note about the other sons Abraham had through his second wife, Keturah- 6 more sons. Finally, we are told of Abraham’s death and burial. The last lines of this parashah give us the names of the sons of Ishmael, who become 12 nations.
I need to confess some pridefulness on my part in that I have always thought that the numberless amount of descendants that God promised Abraham would beget (Gen. 15:5) are the Jewish people. I never really thought of anyone else that came from Abraham’s loins as being part of that number. Oh, yes- I recognized that the Arab peoples were brothers, way, way back somewhere since they also came from Abraham, but I always thought the descendants that counted were just the Jewish people.
Lately, I have had discussions with other people who claim they are one of the tribes sent into the Diaspora and are just now tracing themselves back to their Israelite tribe. The 10 tribes that have been dispersed throughout the world have also lost their origins, having been assimilated into the culture and bloodlines of the geographical locations to which they went. And these locations are worldwide, from Asia through Africa, in Europe- all over!
We all know that Abraham had 2 sons, Ishmael and Isaac- one became the Arab nations and the other the Jewish nation. But do you recall that in this parashah we are told of 6 other sons that Abraham had? He gave them all gifts and sent them on their own way, and since his first two sons grew into nations that numbered (and still do) in the millions, it only seems reasonable to believe that God’s promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens would also be fulfilled through these other 6 sons. That means that we know of at least 24 tribes from Ishmael and Isaac, alone, and who knows how many more tribes from the other 6 sons?
Over the past 5 Millennia, that’s a heck of a lot of people! Even when we consider that some of the Semitic tribes have been destroyed, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, that still leaves plenty of descendants.
My point is that God’s promise to Abraham may not have been restricted to just the Jewish descendants. There may be more “sons and daughters of Abraham” around than I ever thought there were. My “special” condition, being a Jewish descendant of Abraham, may not really be oh-so-special, after all. And I confess I felt a little let down by that realization; on the other hand, after I thought it over a bit more, I started to think this is a good thing.
God promised Abraham his descendants would be more numerous than the stars, more than the grains of sand on the beach, and when we think about that promise as including the adopted children of Abraham, that fits in perfectly with what we are told in the Bible.
John 10:16– “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd”
Gal. 3:29– “For if you belong to Messiah, you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise”
Isaiah 56:6-8 –“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
Psalm 86:9– All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.
Hosea 2:23– “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”
That verse in Hosea is, contextually, dealing with the regathering of Israel, but the adopted sons and daughters will be the regathered, as well.
There are many other verses throughout the Bible, Old and New Covenants, which indicate God’s plan to bring all the nations- not just those that are the direct descendants of Abraham- into his salvation.
I have met many people over the years, especially those that have seen my testimony, who have stated they wished they had been born Jewish. Others have come to me or have posted that they are just now finding out that their grandparents were Jewish (many European and Sephardic Jews hid their Jewish lineage for fear of being persecuted or killed.)
The truth I have now accepted is that being a “Jew” is not so special, after all, since I have many brothers and sisters who are all children (either directly or adopted) of Abraham, throughout the world. And they are, indeed, as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
The conclusion I have come to is this: being a Jew by birth is not what is special. What is special is to accept Yeshua as my Messiah and to live my life as my Messiah did, worshiping the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through obedience to his Torah.