Genesis 23

1 And Sara lived a hundred and twenty-seven years.
2 And she died in the city of Arbee which is Hebron, in the land of Chanaan: and Abraham came to mourn and weep for her.
3 And after he rose up from the funeral obsequies, he spoke to the children of Heth, saying:
4 I am a stranger and sojourner among you: give me the right of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead
5 The children of Heth answered, saying:
6 My lord, hear us, thou art a prince of God among us: bury thy dead in our principal sepulchres: and no man shall have power to hinder thee from burying thy dead in his sepulchre.
7 Abraham rose up, and bowed down to the people of the land, to wit, the children of Heth:
8 And said to them: If it please your soul that I should bury my dead, hear me, and intercede for me to Ephron the son of Seor.
9 That he may give me the double cave, which he hath in the end of his field: For as much money as it is worth he shall give it me before you, for a possession of a burying place.
10 Now Ephron dwelt in the midst of the children of Heth. And Ephron made answer to Abraham in the hearing of all that went in at the gate of the city, saying:
11 Let it not be so, my lord, but do thou rather hearken to what I say: The field I deliver to thee, and the cave that is therein; in the presence of the children of my people, bury thy dead.
12 Abraham bowed down before the people of the land.
13 And he spoke to Ephron, in the presence of the people: I beseech thee to hear me: I will give money for the field; take it, and so will I bury my dead in it.
14 And Ephron answered
15 My lord, hear me. The ground which thou desirest, is worth four hundred sicles of silver: this is the price between me and thee: but what is this? bury thy dead.
16 And when Abraham had heard this, he weighed out the money that Ephron had asked, in the hearing of the children of Heth, four hundred sicles of silver, of common current money.
17 And the field that before was Ephron’s, wherein was the double cave, looking towards Mambre, both it and the cave, and all the trees thereof, in all its limits round about,
18 Was made sure to Abraham for a possession, in the sight of the children of Heth, and of all that went in at the gate of his city.
19 And so Abraham buried Sara, his wife, in the double cave of the field, that looked towards Mambre, this is Hebron in the land of Chanaan
20 And the field was made sure to Abraham, and the cave that was in it, for a possession to bury in, by the children of Heth.

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