Genesis 23

1 And Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years old; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba (the same is Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke unto the sons of Heth, saying,
4 "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you. Give me a possession for a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
6 "Hear us, my lord: Thou art a mighty prince among us; in the choicest of our sepulchers bury thy dead. None of us shall withhold from thee his sepulcher, that thou mayest bury thy dead."
7 And Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.
8 And he communed with them, saying, "If it be in your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar,
9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he hath, which is in the end of his field. For as much money as it is worth he shall give it to me as a possession for a burying place amongst you."
10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying,
11 "Nay, my lord, hear me: The field give I thee; and the cave that is therein, I give it to thee. In the presence of the sons of my people give I it to thee; bury thy dead."
12 And Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land.
13 And he spoke unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, "But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me. I will give thee money for the field. Take it from me, and I will bury my dead there."
14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him
15 "My lord, hearken unto me: The land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between me and thee? Bury therefore thy dead."
16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed the silver for Ephron which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth: four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
17 And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field that were in all the borders round about, were secured
18 unto Abraham as a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (the same is Hebron) in the land of Canaan
20 And the field and the cave that is therein were secured unto Abraham as a possession for a burying place by the sons 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