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Genesis Twenty Three

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Genesis 23:1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

Genesis 23:2 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.

Genesis 23:3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

Genesis 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

Genesis 23:5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Genesis 23:6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

Genesis 23:7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.

Genesis 23:8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,

Genesis 23:9 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 me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Genesis 23:10 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 that went in at the gate of his city, saying,

Genesis 23:11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

Genesis 23:12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.

Genesis 23:13 And he spake 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 of me, and I will bury my dead there.

Genesis 23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Genesis 23:15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.

shekels of silver. At this time, the shekel was not a coin as such, but rather a specified weight, probably about two-fifths of an ounce.

Genesis 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

Genesis 23:17 And the field of Ephron, whichwas 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 made sure

Machpelah. There is a seeming discrepancy between this passage and the statement of Stephen (Acts 7:16) that Abraham's purchased sepulcher was in Shechem. A possible explanation is that he bought the latter for his later family born of Keturah (Genesis 23:1; 25:1). These children then eventually lost it to the Hivites, from whom Jacob repurchased it for an altar eighty-five years after Abraham's death (Genesis 33:20). It was later given to Joseph, and he and probably his brothers were eventually buried in it (Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:15, 16).

Genesis 23:18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

Genesis 23:19 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.

Sarah his wife. Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is given (Genesis 23:1). Isaac was thirty-seven when she died. As Abraham is called the father of all believers, so Sarah is considered mother of all believing women (1 Peter 3:5, 6), and she died in faith (Hebrews 11:13).

Genesis 23:20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying place by the sons of Heth.

a possession. Although God had promised Abraham a vast nation, the only land he ever owned in Canaan was this burial ground. Later, he, as well as Isaac and Jacob, Leah and Rebekah, would also be buried here (Genesis 25:9; 35:27, 29; 49:30, 31; 50:13). Today there is a Muslim mosque over the alleged site of this cave.

sons of Heth. This entire transaction has been illuminated by archaeology, and there is little doubt that it reflects accurately the customs of that period (around 1900 b.c.), especially among the Hittites, an early colony of which had settled in Canaan by then. Ephron, from whom Abraham purchased the cave, was a Hittite (Genesis 23:10), and the Hittites (known on the monuments as Hatti) were “sons of Heth,” who was a son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15). The great Hittite Empire was centered in what is now Turkey, but had colonies in various places. This covenant between Abraham and Ephron contains a number of words and concepts now known to be typical of Hittite documents.