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Genesis 23

23 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.  He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
(Genesis 23:1-20 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 22, Abraham had passed God’s test of faithfulness and was living in Beersheba.  As we begin Chapter 23, we see God calling Sarah home at the age of 127.  Sarah was at Hebron when she died, and Abraham appeared to not be with her when she died, as he came and wept over her.  He was probably not far away, less than a day’s journey, according to scholars – probably overseeing his herds or exploring the land as God had instructed.

As far as I can tell, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible (either Old or New Testaments) whose age is told.  This was God’s way of honoring Sarah, to show her faithfulness and holiness through her life.  Peter makes mention of Sarah as an example of a godly woman in 1 Peter 3:3-6.

The majority of the chapter is about Abraham working hard to honor Sarah by giving her a proper burial.  Abraham goes back to a place near the oaks of Mamre (maybe one of Sarah’s favorite places?) to buy a burial plot for her.  Mamre was where Abraham and Sarah were living when Abraham separated from Lot (13:18), and where Abraham and Sarah lived when the Lord visited and promised the birth of Isaac (18:1).

Abraham approached the Hittites who lived in the area to buy a cave as a burial site for Sarah.  The Hittites knew Abraham and generously offered to give him a burial site.  Abraham insisted on buying the burial site and having it deeded to him for generations to come.

The owner of the cave would not sell Abraham just the cave – he insisted on selling the cave plus the field in front of the cave for an exorbitant price of 400 shekels of silver.  Abraham knew the price was too much, but did not negotiate.  He paid full price for the field and cave, and closed the transaction at the city gate with many witnesses at hand.

It is interesting that the Lord had given Abraham the land (13:14-17, 15:20, 17:8), yet Abraham bought the field and burial plot.  Abraham presented himself humbly before the Hittites as an alien (non-resident) living in the country (15:13-16, 17:8, 23:4).  Abraham’s humility and generosity made it possible to obtain a burial place where he could honor Sarah one final time with a proper and respectful burial.

May we learn much from Abraham’s and Sarah’s lives, moving from fear to faith, from shaming to honor, trusting in the Lord for all our needs and the future of our families.

May we finish well as Sarah did.

Blessings,
~kevin

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