Day 6 – Jacob and Two Women: Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent

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About the Art: Gustave Dore’, The Burial of Sarah, 1866, engraving, private collection. Click here to see the full work.

Gustave Dore’ (1832-1883) was a French artist who worked in etching and wood carving, primarily. During his life, he illustrated Lord Byron, Cervantes, Poe, Milton, Tennyson, and much of the Bible.

This particular etching is a great example of an entire narrative (Genesis 23) being told in a single frame. There are a lot of little things going on in this work that most certainly did not all happen at once. But this is what good artists do—they take your eye through a story by presenting you with vignettes carefully arranged throughout the composition.

Abraham and Sarah had walked a long road together, and this image captures the last time Abraham would see his wife this side of eternity’s door. There are ten distinct people in this image, but Dore’s emotive composition leaves you feeling like there are only two—a dead woman and her grieving husband. Both are being ushered to the worlds to which they belong – parted by death, but only for a season.

 

Consider

“The entire time he lived in the land promised to his descendants, Abraham never owned so much as an acre. Nor would he until he bought the field near Machpelah for his beloved Sarah.

“If the defining moments in Abraham’s life were captured as stills on canvas, each picture would be of a place miles away from the one before and from the one to follow. They would depict a journey with ever-changing geography, faces, and definition. Yet there was one constant for Abraham in every memory and moment: Sarah, lovely and dignified, filled with passion and imagination. She bore her husband’s burdens as though they were her own. This journey was her story too, and Abraham loved her for it.

“But now the mother of his son, Isaac, this woman the Lord had renamed ‘Princess’ and then made into a queen, had died. So Abraham went to some of the wealthy rulers in the land, the Hittites, to buy a place to bury his wife…

“And so it was, at last, that the Father of Nations took his first possession of the land the Lord swore to his descendants. It wasn’t a fertile valley or a palace or a vineyard. It was a burial site. And there he buried the wife of his youth, his queen, his beloved Sarah.”[1]

 

Examine

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Much of Abraham’s story deals with promises God made to him that would actually be fulfilled for his descendants later. To what extent do you see Abraham as a man who needed God to act in his life more quickly? What shapes your answer?

Where in your life are you wishing or even demanding that God act more quickly than he seems to be? Is your heart sick because of a hope deferred right now? What is it? What would fulfillment of that desire look like for you?

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[1] Ramsey, Russ. Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2011. pgs. 37-38.

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Russ Ramsey
Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003). Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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