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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 23

Verses 1-20


Death of Sarah and Purchase of the Buryingplace of Machpelah by Abraham

This section is from the Priestly source and dwells on the legal transaction.

2. Came] rather, ’went in,’ perhaps from his own tent to that of Sarah.

3. Stood up from before his dead] To sit upon the ground was the posture of mourning: cp. Job 2:13. Sons of Heth] i.e. the Hittites: see on Genesis 10:15.

6. After true Eastern custom, there was excessive courtesy in the transaction, but a large sum was in the end required. ’In Damascus, when a purchaser makes a lower offer than can be accepted, he is answered, “What, is it a matter of money between us? Take it for nothing, friend, it is a present from me”’ (Delitzsch).

9. The cave of Machpelah] This spot, over which now stands the great Mohammedan mosque at Hebron, is generally admitted to be the original buryingplace of the Jewish patriarchs, and the spot where their remains still rest. It is most religiously guarded by the Mohammedans (who regard Abraham as the founder of their race through Ishmael) from all intrusion. The cave is a double one, and visitors are permitted entrance only to the upper storey, where there is little to see except counterfeit tombs. ’Only one European, Pierotti, an Italian architect in the service of the Sultan, has succeeded, at the risk of his life, in entering the lower cavern. He noticed there sarcophagi of white stone, the true tombs of the illustrious dead, in striking corroboration of the statement of Josephus, that these were of fair marble, exquisitely wrought’ (Geikie). Machpelah] is not the name of the cave, but the name of the locality in which the piece of land containing the cave was situated: cp. Genesis 23:17, Genesis 23:19.

9. For a possession, etc.] RV ’in the midst of you for a possession of a buryingplace.’ Abraham wished that the Hittites should be present as witnesses of the purchase.

10. And Ephron dwelt] RV ’Now Ephron was sitting.’

12. Bowed] in thanks for granting his request.

13. In the audience of the people] The Hittites were thus witnesses to the agreement.

15. Four hundred shekels of silver] Reckoning the shekel at half-a-crown, this would be about £50, but the purchasing power of silver was much greater in those days.

16. Current money] Note that the word ’money’ is not in the original. The word ’shekel’ means ’weight,’ and it is believed that, in these early days, rings of silver of a marked weight were used, and not coins bearing a definite value. Abraham probably weighed them to show they were of full value. ’Coined money was not known to the Hebrews before the Captivity, when first Persian and then Greek or Syriac currency was employed, till Simon the Maccabee (about 140 b.c.) struck Jewish coins, especially shekels and half shekels, specimens of which have been preserved to us’ (Kalisch).

19. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah, were all buried here.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 23". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/genesis-23.html. 1909.