The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

VC: The Life of Sarah (Season 1: Episode 5)

We open within a dark tent. There is a body lying on the ground. The flap opens letting in the midday light from outside. The body is Sarah's. Avraham enters and mourns. [Roll opening credits]

The gate of Hevron. The town council is in session, with many of the townsfolk in attendance, when Avraham approaches them. Out of respect, they wait for him to speak.

"I am a stranger and resident amongst you. Grant me land for a grave with you, that I may bury my dead."

The council spokesman responds, "Hear us, my lord. You are a Prince of G-d with us. Take the best place and bury your dead. None of us will withhold a burying place. Bury your dead."

Avraham bows before them and stands again. "If this be your will, then please, I ask of Ephron ben Zohar the Cave of Machpelah on the edge of his field. I will pay him full price for it as grave."

There is a commotion amongst the onlookers. Ephron is pushed forward into the town council.

"My lord! It is yours. The field and the cave? Consider them yours. Before all those present, I have given it to you. Bury your dead."

Again Avraham bows.

"Listen to me, Ephron. I will pay you full price. Take it that I may bury my dead."

"No problem. What is 400 silver shekals? Good ones, mind. Bury your dead."

Avraham brings out his silver and weighs out to Ephron several large bars.


The cave entrance is in the side of a hill at the end of a field. The funeral procession reaches the cave, and Sarah is taken inside.

Avraham and Eliezer are in the shade of the tree we saw last episode, near the entrance of Avraham's tent. Avraham looks much older than when we last saw him. With Sarah's death, the years are beginning to weigh on him.

"Eliezer, I want you to swear that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canannites. I want you to go back to my family and bring him a wife from there."

"But what if she won't come with me? Shall I take him there?"

"No! Don't take him back there. G-d will guide you and you will find a wife for Yitzchak there. But if she won't come back, you are free of this oath. Just don't take my son there."

Eliezer swears the oath.


Eliezer is leading a group of men guiding a line of ten muzzled camels. As the sun drops low, they stop near a well outside a walled town. Eliezer prays to G-d that whichever girl he approaches for water, who is willing to also water his camels, she should be the one intended for Yitzchak.

We switch to inside the town. Walking towards the gate is a beautiful maiden carrying a large jar on her shoulder. She's friendly with her neighbours. Helping here and there as she walks. As she approaches the well, the water rises up and she easily fills her jug. She is turning to leave when a stranger comes up to her. It is Eliezer.

"Excuse me, miss. Might I have a drink of water from your jug?"

The girl looks at him and at the camels behind him. She gives him a drink, and then offers to water his camels, as well. She starts running back and forth between the well and the drinking trough. The camels move forward thirstily.

After they are finished drinking, Eliezer gives the girl some jewellery and asks her family, and whether they have place for him to stay the night.

"I am the daughter of Besuel ben Nahor. Of course we have place. Come along."


Eliezer falls upon the ground and praises G-d for guiding him to the house of Avraham's family.

The next shot is at Besuel's family compound. It is a busy place. Rivka's brother Lavan is directing the servants, when Rivka comes running in. She goes to her mother's house and Lavan, attracted by the gold, follows. Standing in the doorway, he overhears Rivka telling their mother about the stranger at the well. Lavan runs off.

Eliezer is still at the well when Lavan comes out to greet him and invite him back to his house. They enter into the city.

Back at the compound, Eliezer is sitting down to eat with Rivka's father and brother. Night has fallen. The room is lit by oil lamps. They place food on a low table in front of him, but he refuses to eat until he has spoken his piece. He tells them of his oath and the events at the well and then asks, "Now, if you intend to deal kindly and truly with my master, allow your daughter to be Yitzchak's wife?"

Lavan and Besuel answer, "From what you have said, this has been ordained by G-d. We cannot refuse you. Take Rivka as G-d has said."

As at the start of the ascent, Eliezer prostrates himself on the ground and praises G-d.


Rivka and her mother enter, while Eliezer goes out. He soon returns laden with rich gifts for everyone. They all eat and drink in celebration.

The next morning he meets Lavan and his mother in the compound.

"Send my to my master," he asks.

"You are free to go," they reply, "but let Rivka remain here yet a few months."

"Do not delay me after G-d has made me successful in my mission. Let us go."

"Well, let us ask Rivka what she wants."

The call for Rivka, and before long she comes. When asked, she agrees to go.

The camels are all loaded. Rivka is on one. Her nurse, Devorah is on another. They take their leave and head out into the desert.

It is another field and again it is evening. Yitzchak is walking in the fields. He looks up and we follow his glance. In the distance he sees camels approaching.

Rivka is looking back the other way and sees a lone man walking in the field. She falls part way off her camel. Eliezer helps her down and she asks "Who is that man?"

"He is my master."

Rivka turns back to the camel and rummages in her baggage until she finds what she is looking for. A veil, which she puts on. Yitzchak soon joins them.

Back at the tent, Yitchak brings her in and the darkness we saw earlier is dispersed.


Avraham with lots of family around him. His second wife, their six sons, and a whole pile of grandchildren.

Another funeral procession approaches the Cave of Machpelah. This time it is led by Yitzchak and Ishmael. Avraham is laid to rest beside Sarah.

Yitzchak and Rivka settle near Beer-Lahai-Roi. It is a quiet camp.

In contrast, we see scenes of Ishmael and his large family. Ishmael, too, dies and is buried. There are hundreds at the funeral.

Last update: 2006 Nov 17

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