Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 23

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-16


Verses 1-16:

Some time following the offering of Isaac on Mt Moriah, Abraham moved again to Hebron. There Sarah his wife died, being 127 years old. Isaac at that time was thirty-seven years of age. Abraham observed the proper time of mourning, then sought a burial-place for Sarah, among the "children of Heth." Heth was the son of Canaan (Ge 10:15), and his descendants were known as Hittites. History shows these were men of valor. Many found places of service in Israel during the reigns of the kings.

The narrative of Abraham’s negotiations for a burial plot is pictorial of Oriental trading. These negotiations were carried on in public assembly in strict protocol of the times. Abraham made a request, and the "sons of Heth" made an offer to "give" him the burial place at no charge. But Abraham insisted on paying for the burial site. He identified the plot he desired as the field and cave of Machpelah. This belonged to a Hittite named Ephron. It was situated near Hebron. The site is known today, but a Moslem mosque stands over the cave and entrance is forbidden to non-Moslems.

The negotiations concluded with Abraham paying the full price of the cave and its field, four hundred shekels of silver. The exact monetary value of this purchase is impossible to calculate. The "shekel" of Abraham’s time was not a coin of money but a measure of weight. According to the value of silver in today’s market, the cost of this burial plot would be in excess of $200, which-at that time was a considerable price.

Abraham declined the offer of the Hittites to share their own sepulchers. He chose instead to purchase this grave-site. It is worthy of note that although the entire Land of Palestine was Abraham’s by Divine grant, the only part he ever truly owned was a cemetery plot!

Verses 17-20

Verses 17-20:

The contract for the purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah contained the specifications of the property, just as do modern deeds. Included in the written terms was a description of all trees, foundations, buildings, etc. that appertained to it. The gathering of the men of the city to witness the purchase is true to Oriental life. The entire population gathers around the contracting parties, and all argue the pros and cons of the matter, just as if they themselves were making the purchase. The transaction was ratified in strict conformity to law and custom. It secured the title and ownership of the cave and field, in perpetuity.

No description is given of the embalming and burial process of Sarah. The science of embalming was highly developed at this time in Egypt, but there is no indication that Abraham did or did not follow this practice.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 23". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-23.html. 1985.
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