Genesis 23

1 Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah's life.
2 Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena'an; and Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her.
3 Then he got up from his dead one and said to the sons of Het,
4 "I am a foreigner living as an alien with you; let me have a burial site with you, so that I can bury my dead wife.
5 The sons of Het answered Avraham,
6 "Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us, so choose any of our tombs to bury your dead - not one of us would refuse you his tomb for burying your dead."
7 Avraham got up, bowed before the people of the land, the sons of Het,
8 and spoke with them. "If it is your desire to help me bury my dead, then listen to me: ask 'Efron the son of Tzochar
9 to give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he owns, the one at the end of his field. He should sell it to me in your presence at its full value; then I will have a burial site of my own."
10 'Efron the Hitti was sitting among the sons of Het, and he gave Avraham his answer in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city:
11 "No, my lord, listen to me: I'm giving you the field, with its cave - I'm giving it to you. In the presence of my people I give it to you."
12 Avraham bowed before the people of the land
13 and spoke to 'Efron in their hearing: "Please be good enough to listen to me. I will pay the price of the field; accept it from me, and I will bury my dead there."
14 But 'Efron answered Avraham
15 "My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels - what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead."
16 Avraham got the point of what 'Efron had said, so he weighed out for 'Efron the amount of money he had specified in the presence of the sons of Het, 400 silver shekels of the weight accepted among merchants [ten pounds].
17 Thus the field of 'Efron in Makhpelah, which is by Mamre - the field, its cave and all the trees in and around it - were deeded
18 to Avraham as his possession in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city.
19 Then Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Makhpelah, by Mamre, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena'an
20 The field and its cave had been purchased by Avraham from the sons of Het as a burial-site which would belong to him.

Genesis 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

The death of Sarah, Abraham applies for a burying-place. (1-13) Sarah's burying-place. (14-20)

Verses 1-13 The longest life must shortly come to a close. Blessed be God that there is a world where sin, death, vanity, and vexation cannot enter. Blessed be his name, that even death cannot part believers from union with Christ. Those whom we most love, yea, even our own bodies, which we so care for, must soon become loathsome lumps of clays, and be buried out of sight. How loose then should we be to all earthly attachments and adornments! Let us seek rather that our souls be adorned with heavenly graces. Abraham rendered honour and respect to the princes of Heth, although of the ungodly Canaanites. The religion of the Bible enjoins to pay due respect to all in authority, without flattering their persons, or countenancing their crimes if they are unworthy characters. And the noble generosity of these Canaanites shames and condemns the closeness, selfishness, and ill-humour of many that call themselves Israelites. It was not in pride that Abraham refused the gift, because he scorned to be beholden to Ephron; but in justice and in prudence. Abraham was able to pay for the field, and therefore would not take advantage of Ephron's generosity. Honesty, as well as honour, forbids us to take advantage of our neighbour's liberality, and to impose, upon those who give freely.

Verses 14-20 Prudence, as well as justice, directs us to be fair and open in our dealings; cheating bargains will not bear the light. Abraham, without fraud or delay, pays the money. He pays it at once in full, without keeping any part back; and by weight, current money with the merchant, without deceit. See how anciently money was used for the help of trade, and how honestly it should be paid when it is due. Though all the land of Canaan was Abraham by promise, yet the time of his possessing it not being come, what he had occasion for he bought and paid for. Dominion is not founded in grace. The saints' title to an eternal inheritance does not entitle them to the possessions of this world, nor justify them in doing wrong. Ephron honestly and fairly makes a good title to the land. As that which is bought, must be honestly paid for, so that which is sold, must be honestly delivered and secured. Let us manage our concerns with punctuality and exactness, in order to avoid contention. Abraham buried Sarah in cave. or vault, which was in the purchased field. It would tend to endear the land to his posterity. And it is worth noting, that a burying-place was the only piece of the land which Abraham possessed in Canaan. Those who have least of this earth, find a grave in it. This sepulchre was at the end of the field; whatever our possessions are, there is a burial-place at the end of them. It was a token of his belief and expectation of the resurrection. Abraham is contented to be still a pilgrim while he lives, but secures a place where, when he dies, his flesh may rest in hope. After all, the chief concern is, with whom we shall rise.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 23

This chapter treats of the age, death, and funeral of Sarah, and the place of her interment: of her age, Ge 23:1; of her death, Ge 23:2; of the motion Abraham made to the sons of Heth, to obtain a burial place among them, Ge 23:3,4; of the answer of them to him, giving him leave to bury in any of their sepulchres, Ge 23:5,6; of a second motion of his to them, to use their interest with Ephron the Hittite, to let him have the cave of Machpelah for the above purpose, Ge 23:7-9; of Ephron's consent unto it, Ge 23:10,11; of the purchase Abraham made of it for four hundred shekels of silver, Ge 23:12-16; and of its being secured unto him, which he interred Sarah his wife, Ge 23:17-20.

Genesis 23 Commentaries