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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 23

 

 


Verses 1-20

THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF SARAH

The time arrives for Sarah's death at the age of 127 years. This illustrates another lesson as regards the aftermath of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Sarah is typical of the elect remnant of faith in the nation Israel, the godly, who virtually gave birth to the Lord Jesus. But after the cross, Israel practically withered away and died so far as any godliness was concerned, and since that time has not been revived to take any place of godly devotion to their Creator. The godly in Israel were cast out by their brethren, and were made to realize they were no longer part of Israel at all, but found that God had given them a place in the Church of God as members of the one body of Christ, of which Gentile believers also are members (Ephesians 3:6).

However, Sarah died in Hebron (v.2) meaning "communion," which has sweet significance for any believer. Such a death has beautiful promise of resurrection. Abraham mourned for her, as God also sorrows for the demise of godliness in the nation Israel. Then he speaks to the natives of the land, the children of Heth. Heth means "fear," reminding us of those who, "through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). He asks, as a stranger among them, for only "a possession of a burying place" (v.4). He was not one of them, for he was not afflicted in any way by the fear of death, as he proved in chapter 22. He had no inheritance among them, and desired of them nothing but a burying place.

They were fully willing to give this to him without charge, for they recognized his dignity as "a mighty prince" (v.6). However, Abraham is firm and decided that he will pay the full value of the place in money. In this history it is lovely to see the respect they showed to each other. Abraham asks that he might buy a field with a cave belonging to Ephron, whose name means "he of dust," another reminder of death (dust returning to dust). The name of the cave is Machpelah, meaning "doubling." Does this not suggest the thought of resurrection, a doubling back from the direction one had come?

Ephron personally expressed his willingness to give Abraham the place without charge (vs.10-11), but Abraham in response insisted that he should pay the full value of the land (v.13). We may be sure that this is intended to be compared to Matthew 13:44, where we are told of a man finding a treasure hid in a field, then going and selling all that he had in order to buy the field. The field is the world, and the Lord Jesus has sacrificed everything in order to buy it, just for the sake of the treasure. Though Satan was a usurper who had no proper right to be "the god of this world," yet man has allowed him to take possession, and the Lord Jesus would not simply demand it back, nor would He accept it on any other terms but paying the full price for it. Of course Abraham's treasure was Sarah, whom he would hide in the field. The treasure therefore is the godly in Israel; the field is the world. The eventual revival of Israel will be virtually "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15). Ezekiel 37:1-14 confirms this in its parable of the valley of dry bones.

Abraham therefore paid the current proper price of four hundred shekels of silver for the property, with witnesses being present. Four is well known as the world number, the world having four directions. The book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Bible, is the book of Israel's testing as they pass through a wilderness world. This payment however reminds us of the infinitely greater payment of the Lord Jesus in the sacrifice of Himself at Calvary, by which He has purchased the whole world. Purchase is not the same as redemption, however. The Lord has bought the whole world, but has redeemed only those who have received Him as Savior. His buying the world gives Him title to do with it as He pleases. But He is pleased to redeem every true believer today, that is, He has set them free from the bondage of sin by means of the price He has paid. The nation Israel will be redeemed only when they recognize the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, bowing in faith to His gracious rule. But Abraham buried Sarah in the calm confidence that she would rise again.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 23:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-23.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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