The “hidden” teaching tools of Scripture can be so fascinating to look for, that I don’t want to forget the most important teaching tool of Scripture. So far we have seen as teaching tools, the Hebrew Language, Repetition, Pattern, Breaks in Pattern, and Chiastic Structure, and also, I would add, signs of the Messiah. And while there is a chiastic structure in today’s reading, the thing that leaped out at me was, how Abraham interacted with the people around him. That teaching tool is Learning from the Narrative, and is probably the most important and common one of all!
The people Abraham dwelt among were Canaanites, Hittites, and Philistines. They were pagan idolaters and did not walk in the way that Abraham walked. But he followed the cultural norm for conducting a business transaction in that time and place.
He was 137 years old at the time of Sarah’s death, the sons of Heth themselves saying of him that he was a mighty prince among them, but even though he was elder, even though he was mighty, he did not deal with them arrogantly or with superiority. He bowed himself down before the sons of Heth. He treated them with courtesy, respect, and honor.
In our culture, in our time and place, courtesy, respect, and honor is not the norm. And idolaters and atheists are in the land, who do not walk in the way we walk. May I learn from the narrative of Scripture, from Abraham the father of all who believe, how to treat those around me, who dwell outside my tent! And if courtesy, honor, and respect is the standard for the pagan idolaters around me, how much more those dwelling under my roof!
For further study: Can you find the chiastic structure in this chapter? The central axis of the structure is the passage of Scripture God has put neon flashing lights around. Why is that passage important to God?
Finding Messiah: Consider that Abraham and Sarah were “foreigners and visitors” in the land of their sojourning, and they had no place of their own to lay their head, until their head was laid to rest in burial. Jesus said of Himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the airhave nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” (Mat 8:20), that is, until His head was laid to rest in burial.
For further reading:
The Hittites and the Old Testament (pdf, Tyndale Old Testament Lecture, 1947)
The Cave of the Patriarchs (Wikipedia)
Associates for Biblical Research (archealogical finds, ancient history)