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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 23

Verses 1-2

The Death of Sarah

Before the next chapter Isaac gets his wife Rebekah, the death of Sara is mentioned first. In typology this is an important event. For we see here in the picture that first Israel – of which Sarah is a picture – is set aside, and that then the Lord Jesus – of whom Isaac is a picture – gets His bride, the church – of which Rebekah is a picture.

Sarah is the only woman whose age is mentioned in God’s Word. Her days are numbered by God. God also knows her faith. It seems as if she stood in the shadow of Abraham, but in Hebrews 11 there is also talk of her faith (Hebrews 11:11). It did not rely on Abraham’s faith, like Lot. She travelled the whole pilgrimage with Abraham and for sixty-two years she was a stranger and a sojourner. Together they have reached the goal, also in loyalty to each other. In all this she is an example to the believing woman now (1 Peter 3:5-Joshua :).

What she has meant to Abraham is shown by his reaction at her death. He mourns for her and spares no effort to give her a worthy funeral and a worthy grave. Here we find for the first time tears with Abraham. We do not read about this when he leaves Ur of the Chaldeans.

The natural feelings are not set aside by faith. Mourning and sorrow are not wrong, they have their place. There is a great distinction with those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The believer has sorrow when a beloved fellow believer falls asleep, but is not desperate. He will see his beloved again.

Verses 3-20

A Burial Site and a Burial

After mourning and weeping, “Abraham rose”. He doesn’t continue mourning. It is important not to be swallowed by grief, but after mourning and weeping to see what is needed then. There will come a time when we have to rise again. One cannot continue mourning. This is only possible if there is faith in the resurrection, a faith based on the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. There is a resurrection of the believers because He is risen (1 Corinthians 15:20-Ecclesiastes :).

Abraham knows what to do. He wants to buy a burial site. For that he goes to the owners of the land. He buys the burial site for four hundred shekels of silver, which is a huge amount. The price of a slave is twenty shekels of silver. In the time of Jeremiah an entire field is bought for seventeen shekels of silver. So much is it worth it to him that Sarah is buried there. He pays that price without negotiating.

He boldly confesses to them that he is with them as a stranger (Hebrews 11:13) and therefore has no right to any part of the land. The reaction of the sons of Heth shows the great respect they have for him and that during his stay he commanded among them by his behavior. A consistent attitude as a believer commands respect, unlike Lot, who was despised (cf. Genesis 23:6; Genesis 19:9).

The description of the purchase of the burial site for Sarah shows how much the place of burial matters. Abraham buried her in view of the resurrection. With the purchase of the burial site Abraham has acquired the only piece of Canaan he can call his property. With this purchase he confirms his belief in the resurrection. He knows that Sarah has received life from God. Therefore he assures himself of the rights at the place where the body of his beloved is laid until she will rise to receive the promised blessing.

Abraham does not bury ‘only the remains’, but buries “my dead” (Genesis 23:13), “his wife Sarah” (Genesis 23:19). When the Lord Jesus is buried, it does not say that His “remains” are buried, but that “Jesus” is placed in the tomb (John 19:40; John 19:42). The body, that is He.

Israel is now a dead people (Ezekiel 37:1-1 Kings :). But God has buried the people with care. He knows exactly where it is. He bought the field, that is the world. Abraham paid the full price. God also paid the full price: the blood of His Son.

It is the first time that Scripture mentions a burial. Nowhere we find a commandment to bury, nor do we find a prohibition to burn. By what we know from Scripture, it is clear that burial is according to God’s thoughts. We must ask ourselves what the point is. Jacob and Joseph want to be buried in the promised land. God has buried Moses Himself. The Lord Jesus is buried in a new tomb.

Burial is related to the resurrection. This is shown by the long chapter about the resurrection in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15. Paul begins that chapter making again known to the Corinthians what the gospel means. He has already done this once orally, when he came to the Corinthians. They accepted it then and they have been saved as a result. As he writes them his letter, he tells them again what the gospel is about: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-Numbers :).

Here is twice the expression “according to the Scriptures”. This divides the sentence into two parts. We then see that in the second part of the sentence ‘buried’ and ‘raised’ belong together. This is of great significance. Paul will return to this later in that chapter.

It is clear that it is not death and burial that belong together, but burial and resurrection belong together. Burying is sowing, and sowing is done with a view to a harvest. Burning always has to do with judgment (Joshua 7:25; Leviticus 21:9).

Abraham pays a high price. He does not want to get anything from the inhabitants of the country. Earlier he refused an offer to get something (Genesis 14:23). In the negotiations about the price he works correctly. Abraham is credible, also in his business. He pays the price among witnesses. People judge our religion in connection with our carefulness in earthly matters (2 Corinthians 8:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:12).

The purchase of the field at Machpelah and the cave that is in it as a burial site for Sarah testifies to his unshakeable faith that Canaan will become his property, according to God’s promise. God’s promises do not end with death. With this purchase he takes, as it were, an advance on the possession of the whole. Later he himself also (Genesis 25:10), and Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah will be buried there (Genesis 49:29-Obadiah :; Genesis 50:13). They and all other Old Testament believers died without receiving the promise, because God wanted them not to be made perfect without the New Testament believers (Hebrews 11:39-Matthew :).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 23". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-23.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.