Genesis 23 – Strangers in a strange land

Gen 23:1  And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

Gen 23:2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

Gen 23:3  And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

Gen 23:4  I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

Gen 23:5  And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Gen 23:6  Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

Gen 23:7  And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.

Gen 23:8  And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,

Gen 23:9  That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Gen 23:10  And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,

Gen 23:11  Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

Gen 23:12  And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.

Gen 23:13  And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.

Gen 23:14  And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Gen 23:15  My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.

Gen 23:16  And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

Gen 23:17  And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure

Gen 23:18  Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

Gen 23:19  And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Gen 23:20  And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.

Gen 23:1  And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

Gen 23:2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

 

Here is the first mention of the death and burial of a Hebrew, and the only mention of a woman in Scripture.  It shows us just how important Sarah was and is in the eyes of the Lord, as well as the Jewish people.

 

Hebrew tradition tells us that her death was caused by the trauma she suffered over her only son Isaac’s experience on Mt. Moriah.

This trauma destroyed the health of this aged woman.

 

While Abraham was engaged in the sacrifice, Satan went to Sarah, and appeared to her in the figure of an old man, very humble and meek, and said to her: “Dost thou not know all that Abraham has done unto thine only son this day? He took Isaac, and built an altar, slaughtered him, and brought him up as a sacrifice. Isaac cried and wept before his father, but he looked not at him, neither did he have compassion upon him.” After saying these words to Sarah, Satan went away from her, and she thought him to be an old man from amongst the sons of men who had been with her son. Sarah lifted up her voice, and cried bitterly, saying: “O my son, Isaac, my son, O that I had this day died instead of thee I It grieves me for thee! After that I have reared thee and have brought thee up, my joy is turned into mourning over thee. In my longing for a child, I cried and prayed, till I bore thee at ninety. Now hast thou served this day for the knife and the fire. But I console myself, it being the word of God, and thou didst perform the command of thy God, for who can transgress the word of our God, in whose hands is the soul of every living creature? Thou art just, O Lord our God, for all Thy works are good and righteous, for I also rejoice with the word which Thou didst command, and while mine eye weepeth bitterly, my heart rejoiceth.” And Sarah laid her head upon the bosom of one of her handmaids, and she became as still as a stone.

She rose up afterward and went about making inquiries concerning her son, till she came to Hebron, and no one could tell her what had happened to her son. Her servants went to seek him in the house of Shem and Eber, and they could not find him, and they sought throughout the land, and he was not there. And, behold, Satan came to Sarah in the shape of an old man, and said unto her, “I spoke falsely unto thee, for Abraham did not kill his son, and he is not dead,” and when she heard the word, her joy was so exceedingly violent that her soul went out through joy.

When Abraham with Isaac returned to Beer-sheba, they sought for Sarah and could not find her, and when they made inquiries concerning her, they were told that she had gone as far as Hebron to seek them. Abraham and Isaac went to her to Hebron, and when they found that she was dead, they cried bitterly over her, and Isaac said: “O my mother, my mother, how hast thou left me, and whither hast thou gone? O whither hast thou gone, and how hast thou left me?” And Abraham and all his servants wept and mourned over her a great and heavy mourning,” even that Abraham did not pray, but spent his time in mourning and weeping over Sarah. And, indeed, he had great reason to mourn his loss, for even in her old age Sarah had retained the beauty of her youth and the innocence of her childhood.

The Legends of the Jews By Louis Ginzberg [1909]

 

 

Abraham and his family were living in Hebron during this time because God’s promise of the land set aside for him and his generation had, and would not come to pass for a very long time.

He would need to bury her here in a stranger’s land; something that we can all, as children of the Lord, identify with.

 

Gen 23:5  And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Gen 23:6  Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

Gen 23:7  And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.

Gen 23:8  And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,

Gen 23:9  That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Gen 23:10  And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,

Gen 23:11  Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

Gen 23:12  And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.

Gen 23:13  And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.

Gen 23:14  And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Gen 23:15  My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.

Gen 23:16  And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

Gen 23:17  And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure

Gen 23:18  Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

Gen 23:19  And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Gen 23:20  And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.

 

In those times, Abraham and his family would have been aliens and foreigners, no matter their status.  Land was a precious commodity.  It was everything and a catastrophe if a family lost theirs.

A foreigner could not purchase land, it was an abomination.

 

But it did occur, and it was legal.

 

The importance was in how the land was acquired.

  1. Abraham couldn’t just accept the land offered him.

It would have been considered an insult and would have opened the door for the legality to be challenged later on.

  1. If he bought it at a price that did not seem fair to later generations, then they could try to take the land back.
  2. The transaction occurred in front of the Hittite citizens as witnesses.

 

 

 

 

  1. Abraham had faith in the Word of God

Heb 11:8  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should

after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

 

  1. Abraham was a stranger in a strange land

 

Heb 11:9  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

Heb 11:10  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

 

Gen 23:3  And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

Gen 23:4  I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

 

He used the land of others, he lived in a land governed by others, and he didn’t possess any territory at all, aside from a little cave that he would use to bury his wife.  This cave would eventually be used for his burial, as well as his children and Jacob

 

  1. Sarah had faith as well

 

 

Heb 11:11  Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Heb 11:12  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

 

  1. They are both an example for what we should be looking for and how we should be living our lives

 

Heb 11:13  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Heb 11:14  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

Heb 11:15  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

Heb 11:16  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

 

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About Clint Rodgers

I am a father of 2 wonderful children and the husband of a beautiful woman who has taught me more about compassion for goofballs than I could have ever learned. I have know Jesus for many years but about 5 years ago I truly met Him and now I do my best to follow Him as I walk in this world
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