(Gen 23:1 NASB) Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
Gen 23:1: Sarah is the only woman whose age, death, and burial are distinctly noted in Scripture.
(Gen 23:2 NASB) And Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
Gen 23:2: Abraham was apparently gone when Sarah died. Abraham had several places of temporary residence due to the huge size of his flocks that had to be fed. It is likely that while he journied to Beer-sheba, Sarah died at Hebron which is 24 miles away.
The actions of Abraham here speak of the importance he placed on the proper burial of his wife. He wanted her to be placed in a proper place, but he apparently did not want her body close to him as a constant sorrowful reminder.
(Gen 23:3 NASB) Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying,
(Gen 23:4 NASB) “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
Gen 23:4: Abraham left the body of Sarah to go speak to the sons of Heth. The sons of Heth are descendants of Ham and Canaan.
(Gen 23:5 NASB) And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him,
(Gen 23:6 NASB) “Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.”
Gen 23:6: Among Abraham’s many blessings was being known as “a mighty prince.” He was revered by the people in that day and ever since.
(Gen 23:7 NASB) So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.
(Gen 23:8 NASB) And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish for me to bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and approach Ephron the son of Zohar for me,
(Gen 23:9 NASB) that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in your presence for a burial site.”
Gen 23:9: Abraham wanted to buy only the cave of Machpelah, but Ephron wished also to sell him the field in which it was located. Hittite law required Ephron to be responsible for dues on the entire property if he sold Abraham only the cave, but not if he sold him the entire parcel.
Abraham wanted to ensure that this land would be his property. Property ownership is not as secure as a gift as it is when it is purchased. Abraham wants to buy the land and not receive it as a gift that could possibly be contested in the future.
(Gen 23:10 NASB) Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; even of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying,
(Gen 23:11 NASB) “No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.”
Gen 23:11: Ephron, in a sign of respect and honor to Abraham, wants to give him the land. But Abraham will not accept it as a gift. He wants the resting place of his wifes body to be a place that he has purchased and sacrificed for, not a donation.
(Gen 23:12 NASB) And Abraham bowed before the people of the land.
(Gen 23:13 NASB) And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.”
Gen 23:13: The Cave of Machpelah is the world’s most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The cave and the adjoining field were purchased at full market price by Abraham some 3700 years ago. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca, and Leah are all later buried in the same Cave of Machpelah. These are considered the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. The only one who is missing is Rachel, who was buried near Bethlehem where she died in childbirth.
The double cave, a mystery of thousands of years, was uncovered several years ago beneath the massive building, revealing artifacts from the Early Israelite Period (some 30 centuries ago). The structure was built during the Second Temple Period (about two thousand years ago) by Herod, King of Judea, providing a place for gatherings and Jewish prayers at the graves of the Patriarchs.
(Gen 23:14 NASB) Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him,
(Gen 23:15 NASB) “My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.”
(Gen 23:16 NASB) And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard.
Gen 23:16: Abraham paid the full price for the land. This is the only land purchased and owned by Abraham in his life.
(Gen 23:17 NASB) So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over
(Gen 23:18 NASB) to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
Gen 23:18: Even at this early date in history, land was deeded when it was purchased. This would especially apply to that land which is in the land that was promised to Israel. Machpelah is in that promised land.
This follows the pattern that we later see in Revelation when Yeshua Messiah breaks the seals of the Book of Life which is the Title Deed to the Land of Israel in Revelation 6.
(Gen 23:19 NASB) And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
(Gen 23:20 NASB) So the field, and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.
Gen 23:20: The field and cave were deeded to Abraham and he buried his wife of many years. The end of this passage makes it clear that the property is owned by Abraham and can be transferrred to his descendents.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas