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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Genesis 23

Verses 1-20

Chapter 23

And so Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old. And she died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah ( Genesis 23:1-1.23.2 ),

Now evidently Abraham had been away with the flocks or something when Sarah died and he wasn't at her side at her death, which is a sad thing indeed. He came to mourn,

and to weep for her. And he stood up from before his dead, and he spake to the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession for a buryingplace with you, that I might bury my dead out of my sight ( Genesis 23:2-1.23.4 ).

Now Abraham didn't really possess anything. He was a stranger and a sojourner in the land of promise, knowing that God was going to someday give that land to him and to his descendants.

The children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us will withhold from thee his sepulchre, that you may bury your dead ( Genesis 23:5-1.23.6 ).

So Abraham called the men together and he said, Look, I need a place to bury my dead. And they said, "Take your pick. All of our sepulchres, none of us will hold back from you and you can just use ours".

Abraham stood up, and he bowed himself to the people of the land, to the children of Heth. 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 to Ephron the son of Zohar, 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 and give it to me for a possession for a buryingplace among you ( Genesis 23:7-1.23.9 ).

And so he's asking now for a particular area and he's asking that they will entreat this man that he will sell or that he would give this area to Abraham.

Now Ephron was among the children of Heth ( Genesis 23:10 ):

And he was in the crowd that was there.

And so he answered Abraham in the audience of all the children, and he said, Nay, my lord, hear me: the field I will give to you, and the cave that is therein, I will give it to you; in the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you: to bury thy dead ( Genesis 23:10-1.23.11 ).

And so he gives a very generous offer, which is typical of the culture. In other words, the polite thing was to say, "Oh, I give it to you". But it would be extremely impolite for Abraham to take it. In other words, it was one of those things, you know, it's the way that they would deal and barter with each other; bow and they'd say, you know, "Oh", in the audience of all the people I give it to you. But it would be, oh, if Abraham took it then man, you know, flames and fire and all would come.

And so,

Abraham bowed himself before the people of the land. And he spake to Ephron in the audience of the people, and he is saying, But if you wilt give it, I pray, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. So Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; but what is that between us? You take and bury your dead ( Genesis 23:12-1.23.15 ).

Now four hundred shekels of silver is greatly overpriced. They always start off with a high price. And then they enter into this haggling where the guy offers a high price and you come back with about forty percent of what he offered and you expect to buy it for about fifty to sixty percent. But it's just like a game. They'll never give you the selling price for the first price. First price is always the sucker's price.

You go over there today, the same thing. They, if you don't haggle with them, they get disappointed, because it's just like a game. They love the haggling. It's just a part of their culture and you've got to say, "Ah, no, I don't want it, you know, at that price"; and you go to turn. "Wait a minute, wait, come back, come back. How much will you give me for it?" "Oh, I'll only give you fifty cents". That's not worth much. Oh, fifty cents, go away. That's terrible. Get out of here. You start to leave. "Come back, come back, come back. If I sell this to you for fifty cents, the business is going to be lost. I can't afford to. My grandfather owned this business and he gave it to my father, my father has given it to me. And now we're going to lose the business if I sell for fifty cents. Sixty-five". You know. And it's just a game with them. They love to haggle like that.

And so Abraham is going through the old typical thing, you know, I will not take it but I want to buy it from you. Oh, it's worth four hundred shekels of silver but what's that between us? And suddenly, surprise, Abraham pulls out and rather than haggling, because of course it's the thing now of a place to bury his dead and all, he doesn't enter into the game. He just measures out the four hundred shekels of silver and he buys it at the inflated price. Everybody's disappointed. Abraham didn't get into the haggle but because of the death and the whole emotional thing, rather than haggling he pays the inflated value for the land in order that he might have the burying place for Sarah. And thus he buried Sarah in this cave there at Machpelah, which is in view of Mamre, where he was dwelling near Hebron.

Now there is one difficulty with this. According to the seventh chapter of Acts in the New Testament, as Stephen is rehearsing their history, he speaks of Joseph and Jacob being buried in the cave in Shechem that Abraham bought from Hamor. And so either Stephen didn't know the facts or made a mistake in the facts or a copyist made a mistake in the facts or what is probably correct is that not recorded. Abraham also bought a field in Shechem at an earlier or a later time from Hamor, also for a burying place. So that Abraham actually purchased two parcels; one in Shechem, the place where he first came, and now this parcel in Hebron, the cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried. But it's nothing to lose your faith over. There's easy explanations.

Next week we get into the bride for Isaac, one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible as the servant goes into the far country to get a bride for his master's son and we see the beautiful sequel of the Holy Spirit in this world, drawing out a bride for the son of God, Jesus Christ. "





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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 23". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-23.html. 2014.