Genesis 23: Sarah’s Death and Burial

1 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, 4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

-Other than showing honor to Sarah, a very faithful, wonderful example of a woman of God and a godly wife to Abraham, by mentioning her death which is quite worthy in itself, Why is this chapter that relevant to be included? I think the most important point about this chapter is the purchase of land. It would be easy to assume Abraham owned land or at least claimed land in his name but Abraham never owned any piece of land until this time. Abraham was always a traveler and stayed on other people’s lands like his ally Mamre and even made treaties with leaders like Abimelech. Abraham had great faith in waiting on the Lord but the land was never given to him by God before his death. The land would belong to his descendants.

5 The Hittites answered Abraham, 6 “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.”

-The Hittites are descendants of Heth who was a son of Canaan. These Canaanites obviously had tremendous respect for Abraham and it seems reasonable to conclude he dealt very well with the inhabitants here throughout his life. Remember, he even defeated the union of kings from the east who took Lot and conquered the five Canaanite cities. They call him a “prince of God” but it is unclear whether they mean God or just a god. The word used here is “elohiym” which is the plural of the word “mighty” but is the exact word used for God in the creation account of Genesis. In context however, it could be interpreted as “the gods” or “of mighty levels”. In other words, they may just be telling Abraham “You da man!” rather than acknowledging God Himself. We have no reason to believe a Canaanite tribe which was very war-like had a fear of God especially given their activities later. Instead, this seems like a healthy respect between a people and a very rich and well known Hebrew who has respected their land and caused no trouble over the years. He may have even done them a few favors over time but we don’t know any specific history.

7 Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. 8 And he said to them, “If you are willing 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 owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.”

-The cave of Machpelah is located right outside Hebron near Mamre, the place Abraham seemed to spend the majority of his time in all the years he lived in Canaan: . If this was Hittite territory, it seems reasonable he would have had many dealings with them over time and established a repore.

10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, 11 “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” 12 Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. 13 And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” 14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” 16 Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants. 17 So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

-Abraham seemed to be a clever businessman. He waiting until he knew what the cost of the field was and then dumped the money onto the Hittites anyway, even though that had no problem giving him the land free. Abraham is showing great honor as are the Hittites. It’s unknown whether God had a direct hand in the Hittites cooperation or this really was simply a good relationship Abraham was able to take advantage of when he finally had a need.

19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.

-The location of the cave in Machpelah where not only Sarah, but also later, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were buried has been known for centuries and a structure was built over it during the Second Temple Period (530 BC – 70 AD). For centuries; however, this structure housing the burial site has bee controlled by Muslims who designate the building as a Mosque and do not allow Jews inside. Here is a fascinating story of individuals who managed to get pretty close if not right in the midst of where the patriarchs are said to be buried:


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