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Bible Commentaries

Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Genesis 23

Verses 1-20

ISAAC ’S BIRTH , SARAH ’S DEATH

THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON (CHAP. 21)

There is little requiring explanation in this chapter, but Genesis 21:9-13 should not be passed without a look at Galatians 4:21-31 . Christians are the spiritual seed of Abraham, and those who would supplement faith in Christ by the works of the law are the children of the bond-woman, who have no place with the children of the promise.

God, however, is not unmindful of Hagar and Ishmael, nor of His promise to Abraham concerning the latter. Although the blessing on the nation is not to flow down through them, yet they are not precluded from partaking of it when it comes. Abraham, there can be little doubt, followed the steps of Ishmael with deep interest, although at the moment appearances are not that way. He was probably included in the gifts spoken of at Genesis 25:6 , while his presence at his father’s obsequies (Genesis 25:9 ) shows that the bond of affection between them was not broken.

We know little of Ishmael’s subsequent life except that gathered from Genesis 25:12-18 , but the presumption is that he afterward abandoned the religion of his father, since his descendants preserved no trace of it except the rite of circumcision.

ABRAHAM’S HARDEST TEST (Genesis 22:1-24 )

The shock communicated to Abraham by this command may have been qualified by the fact that the sacrifice of human beings, and even one’s own children, was not unknown to heathenism; but this could not have explained his patient obedience had it not been for that faith mentioned in Hebrews 11:17-19 . He knew that God’s honor and faithfulness were involved in the preservation or renewal of the life of Isaac, and reposed confidently in that fact. Indeed, there is reason to believe from Genesis 22:8 that he foresaw the very means by which God would interpose for his son.

That verse is a beautiful foreshadowing of the substitutionary work of Christ. Transpose the emphasis, and we learn that God is the source or originator of our salvation through Christ “God will Himself provide a lamb”; that God had as much necessity for Christ as we, since He purposed to redeem us “God will provide Himself a lamb”; and that God is the provision as well as the provider “God will provide Himself,” i.e., He is the lamb!

Note several other interesting things:

1. that Solomon built the temple to Jehovah on Matthew Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1 ), and that the eternal Father afterward sacrificed His only begotten Son in the same place; this circumstance of the sacrifice of the Son of God for the sins of men silences the charge of infidelity that it was barbarous for God to command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If it was not barbarous for God to sacrifice Christ, neither was it barbarous that it should have been prefigured in the history of Abraham; and

2. Isaac himself becomes a notable type of Christ, especially in the meek and submissive spirit shown throughout, and when we remember that although called a “lad” he was presumably twenty-five years old at this time (compare John 10:18 ).

3. What new name of God is suggested by this event (Genesis 22:14 )? This means “Jehovah will see” or “Jehovah will provide.” How does God now further confirm His promise and covenant (Genesis 22:16 )? Note the marginal references to Psalms 105:9 , Luke 1:73 , Hebrews 6:13-14 . What additional promise or prediction is now added to the original one (Genesis 22:17 )? The gate of ancient cities being the strongest part of the wall and the most stoutly defended, to possess it was to possess the city itself.

Do not pass this lesson without observing how Abraham showed his faith by his works (James 2:21-24 ). “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 ) as a ground of merit before God, but as the fruit of our faith obedience is of great price. Abraham’s faith without the works of obedience would have been a lie, while his work without faith would, in this case, have been a sin. The virtue of this act consisted in the fact that he obeyed God.

THE CAVE OF MACHPELAH (Genesis 23:1-20 )

That Sarah should have died not in Beersheba but in Hebron, and that Abraham should have “come” to mourn for her, are facts which the record nowhere explains; but the chapter affords an insight into the customs of the Orientals of this period. For “the children of Heth” compare Genesis 10:15 , etc. It will be seen by Genesis 23:10 that these people were the Hittites whom Joshua (Joshua 1:4 ) mentions as occupying a great territory in that day, of whom the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments speak as a cultured and powerful nation of antiquity, although until recently critics were disposed to say that they never existed because secular history had lost sight of them.

Let it not be supposed, however, that the courteous formality of this occasion meant that Ephron intended to give Abraham the field for nothing. It was the oriental way of raising the price, so that in the end Abraham paid many times its value. Four hundred shekels of silver were equal to about $240 of our money, the value of which at that time would be five or ten times as much.

QUESTIONS

1. Name books and chapters of the New Testament which refer allegorically to Sarah and Hagar.

2. Name books and chapters which show Abraham’s faith in the resurrection.

3. In what three ways does Genesis 22:8 foreshadow the work of Christ?

4. What three events are associated with Mr. Moriah?

5. Give chapter and verse which speak of Abraham’s fruit of faith.

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Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 23". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-23.html. 1897-1910.