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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 23

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Sarah Dies and Is Buried

A. The death of Sarah.

1. (Gen 23:1) The death of Sarah.

Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.

a. Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years: Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is recorded; it gives us some measure of how highly she is regarded in the Bible.

b. The life of Sarah: Nowhere in in the Bible are we told to look to Mary the mother of Jesus as an example of a godly woman. Twice we are told to look to Sarah as such an example (Isaiah 51:1-2 and 1 Peter 3:3-6).

2. (Gen 23:2) Abraham’s mourning.

So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

a. Abraham came to mourn for Sarah: Abraham felt his loss of Sarah deeply and wasn’t afraid to mourn, though he did not sorrow as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

i. “That is, he set himself deliberately to all the functions of a mourner.” (Boice)

b. And to weep for her: Abraham’s mourning was demonstrated in an appropriate way. The man of great faith, the friend of God, wept for the loss of Sarah’s companionship.

i. “To weep for a loved one is to show that we have been close, that the loss is keenly felt, that death is an enemy, and that sin has brought this sad punishment upon the human race.” (Boice)

B. Abraham buys land for Sarah’s burial.

1. (Gen 23:3-9) Abraham speaks with the sons of Heth.

Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, “I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, “Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.” Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you.”

a. I am a foreigner and a sojourner among you: Abraham did not feel this way because he came from Ur of the Chaldeans. It was because he recognized his real home was heaven. Moses knew the same, and commanded Israel to know it (Leviticus 25:23). David also knew this truth (1 Chronicles 29:14 and Psalm 39:12).

b. Give me property for a burial place among you: Abraham had a particular property in mind – the cave of Machpelah. That property was in the land of Ephron the son of Zohar.

2. (Gen 23:10-16) Abraham negotiates with Ephron the Hittite for the land of Sarah’s tomb.

Now Ephron dwelt among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the presence of the sons of Heth, all who entered at the gate of his city, saying, “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead!” Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.” And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, “My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.” And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.

a. I give you the field and the cave: This way of negotiating the price was typical of ancient and modern practices in that culture. As a gesture of kindness, the selling party may offer to give the property in question to the buyer, until the buyer insists on paying a price.

i. Ephron the Hittite followed the cultural customs of bargaining. First, the seller offered to give the item. Then, when that was refused, the seller suggested a price, which he claimed was modest but was really very high. This was understood to be the starting point, and from there the bargaining began.

b. Abraham bowed himself down to the people of the land: Abraham showed how a follower of God should conduct business with the world: courteously, fairly, prudently.

i. “They who, under the sanction of religion, trample under foot the decent forms of civil respect, supposing that because they are religious, they have a right to be rude, totally mistake the spirit of Christianity” (Clarke).

3. (Gen 23:17-20) Abraham buys the field and buries Sarah.

So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.

a. Were deeded to Abraham as a possession: The text emphasizes this property was Abraham’s land by deed, not only by the promise of God. If this was the only piece of land Abraham ever owned in the land promised to him, it showed that he was a real man of faith.

b. Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah: This is where Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham (Genesis 25:9). Isaac and Rebekah were both buried here (Genesis 49:31). Jacob buried Leah here (Genesis 49:31), and Joseph buried Jacob here (Genesis 50:13). The cave of Machpelah (near Hebron) was the great tomb of the Patriarchs.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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