The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 23

Gen 23:1

Gen 23: Outline: The age and death of Sarah: vv 1,2; Abraham respected by the Gentiles: vv 3-7; he purchases the cave of Machpelah: vv 8-16; Abraham's sole possession in the Land of promise: vv 17-20.

Abraham keeps himself separate, distinct, proclaiming himself as a stranger, and accepts no favors at their hands. He refuses intermarriage between his race and theirs; refuses the gift (if it really was a gift!) of a sepulcher from Ephron, and the spoils from the king of Sodom. The tomb of Machpelah is a constant reminder of this separateness (cp Act 7:5).

Sarah is the only woman whose age at death is given in the Bible. Note Isaac's sorrow at the death of his mother: Gen 24:69.

Gen 23:2

SHE DIED IN KIRIATH ARBA: Sarah is the only woman whose age, death, and burial are so distinctly noted in the Bible.

ABRAHAM WENT TO MOURN FOR SARAH: Does this imply that Sarah died while Abraham was away from the compound, perhaps tending his flocks in another area?

Gen 23:8

Making an Arab contract always requires intermediaries, and is very delicate and tedious in negotiation (LB 578).

Gen 23:11

GIVE... GIVE... GIVE: Merely an Arab form of speech, meaning "sell". Absolutely no intention to give away free (LB 578). Cp v 15n.

Gen 23:13

Why did Abraham insist on buying the land? One of the lessons could be that which he stated himself in v 4 -- that he was a "stranger and sojourner with you". To give him a section of the land might imply that it was already his in some way at that time. But his insistence on buying that small section showed that the land as a whole was not his then. Of course he knew that it would be his in the future -- an everlasting inheritance. But the future was not then. See Act 7:5. Also it is likely that Abraham did not want to feel obligated to Ephron in any way. Cp Rom 13:8: "Owe no man anything" (KJV).

Gen 23:15

400 SHEKELS OF SILVER: An exorbitant price (cp Jer 32:9, where Jeremiah buys a field for seventeen shekels of silver). Abraham agrees to the first mentioned price. Those who bargain overmuch run the risk of caring for material things too much (Mat 6; cp Pro 20:14). Also, this was not the time and place to do any bargaining, since Sarah had just died. But even in different circumstances, it is unlikely Abraham would have done any differently.

Gen 23:16

Abraham is in sorrow, and in no mood to bargain. It is unthinkable to accept the first price offered.

WEIGHED OUT: Eastern merchants commonly carry scales to test the weight of coins (LB 578).

Gen 23:17

The contract must enumerate all the landmarks that pertain to a piece of land. A characteristic trait in Hittite business documents is the consistent listing of the exact number of trees on a tract (Tes 49:321).

Gen 23:18

"Up to this day, in this very city, a purchase thus witnessed is legal, while the best drawn deeds of a London lawyer, signed and sealed, would be of no avail without such living witnesses" (LB 579).

Gen 23:19

The cave of Machpelah is only one of a very few Biblical sites known with absolute certainty. Described in LB 580-582. Here are buried: I - Isaac; S - Sarah; R - Rebekah; A - Abraham; L - Leah.

Gen 23:20

DEEDED: "Made sure" (AV). All the land is "made sure" to Abraham and Sarah as a future possession!

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