(Genesis 23, Questions and Answers Supplied)
Background and Printed Text: Genesis 23:1-20
Genesis 23:1 And the lives of Sarah were 100 year and twenty year and seven years, the years of the lives of Sarah. 2And Sarah died in the City-of-Four. He is Hebron in the land of Canaan. And Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
3And Avraham arose from upon the faces of his dead-one. And he spoke unto the sons of Khet to say, 4 “I am a sojourner and a dweller with you. Give to me a possession of a tomb with you, and I will entomb my dead-one from my faces.” 5And the sons of Khet answered Avraham to say to him, 6“Hearken-to us, my lord! Thou art a prince of Elohim in our midst. Entomb thy dead-one in a choice of our tombs. A man from us will not obstruct his tomb from thee from entombing thy dead-one.” 7And Avraham arose. And he prostrated to the people of the land, to the sons of Khet. 8And he spoke with them to say, “If there is with your being to entomb my dead from to my faces, hearken-ye to me and encounter-ye for me in Ephron the son of Tzokhar. 9And he has given to me the cave of the Makhpaylah that is to him that is in the edge of his field. He will give her to me in your midst for a possession of a tomb via the full silver.”
10And Ephron dwelt in the midst of the sons of Khet. And Ephron the Kheti answered Avraham in the ears of the sons of Khet to all comers of the gate of his city to say, 11“No my lord. Hearken-to me! I gave the field to thee and the cave that is in him. I gave her to thee to the eyes of the sons of my people. I gave her to thee to entomb from thy dead.” 12And Avraham prostrated to the faces of the people of the land. 13And he spoke unto Ephron in the ears of the people of the land to say, “But if thou— were— hearken-to me. I gave silver of the field. Take from me, and I have entombed my dead there.” 14And Ephron answered Avraham to say to him, 15“My Lord, hearken to me. A land of 400 shekels of silver is between thee and between me. What is he? Entomb thy dead-one.” 16And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron. And Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver that he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, crossed-over to a merchant.
17And the field of Ephron that is in Machpelah that is to the faces of Mamre, the field and the cave that is in him and all the tree that is in the field that is in all his borders around arose 18to Abraham for an acquisition to the eyes of the sons of Heth, and all comers of the gate of his city. 19And afterward, Avraham entombed Sarah his woman into the cave of the field of Machpelah upon the faces of Mamre. He is Hevron in the land of Canaan. 20And the field stood, and the cave that is in him, to Avraham for a possession of a tomb from the sons of Khet.
I. Sarah’s Death (verses 1-2)
Sarah had her first son at age 91 (see Genesis 17:17 and 17:21). She therefore had 36 years with her son before she died.
She died in the city of Hebron. Avraham came to mourn and weep for her.
1. Why is the English so strange in verse 1? The Hebrew language often uses the singular when the numbers are large. Therefore, it uses “100 year” instead of 100 years.
Something else is different about this verse. Instead of the normal Hebrew expression (“100 and 20 and 7 years”), it is divided up into three parts: “100 year and twenty year and seven years,” as if she had three separate parts to her lives (plural). If this is correct, she had one life that lasted 100 years, one that lasted 20 years, and one that lasted 7 years. This was one lifetime, but changes occurred for her when one part of her life turned to another. No other place in the Bible does this.
2. Why are her lives plural (instead of ‘life’)? Everyone’s lives are plural. Your lives are plural. You are living as a child at this time. Your life will change once you become a teenager. It will again change when you are a younger adult. It will change again when you become an older adult, and when you become a very old adult.
3. Why does the text twice mention, “the lives of Sarah”? This tells the reader that this is very important information. She truly had these years of her lives in these blocks of time.
4. Where is Hebron?
(See if you can find it on this map. Note the location of the Salt Sea, also known as the Dead Sea.) The Sea in the upper left corner is the Mediterranean Sea. The next map will show where that is. Africa touches the Mediterranean to the south.
5. Wasn’t Avraham present when Sarah died? If he had to come mourn for her, he must not have been. He was over a large group of cowboys and shepherds, and could have been away on business when this occurred.
6. What does mourn mean? This is all that is involved in greatly missing a person (or an item) who has died, feeling very sad for the loss, expressing sadness (sorrow), etc.
7. What does weep mean? That is what we call crying, when tears are shed. When the Bible uses cry, it normally means to call out loud.
II. Approaching the People for a Burying Place (verses 3-9)
Avraham mourned and wept over Sarah.
He then arose, and spoke unto the sons of Khet on whose land he was grazing the cattle and sheep. He needed a place to put her body.
Avraham told the sons of Heth that he is a sojourner and a dweller with them. He asked them to give him a possession of a tomb.
The sons of Heth recognized Avraham as a prince of Elohim among them. They told him to choose one of their tombs to place his dead one. None of their men would keep him from taking one of their tombs.
Avraham stood, and he then prostrated before the people of the land, the sons of Heth.
Avraham spoke to them; if there was ‘with their being’ to entomb his dead from his faces, that is, from his sight, if they would encounter in (speak directly with) Ephron the son of Tzokhar, that will result in his giving the cave of the Makh-pay-lah located in the edge of his field. Ephron will give her (the cave) to Avraham in the midst of their land for a possession of a tomb, and at the full price of its value in silver.
1. How long did Avraham mourn and weep for Sarah before he began to discuss with the sons of Heth regarding a burial place? The text doesn’t say. Bodies of the dead needed to be placed into the ground (or preserved) very soon, since the smell would very quickly become very bad.
2. Why didn’t Avraham use the word sell instead of give? His request, “Give to me a possession of a tomb with you,” was not a request for free land. The expression, “Give,” in Hebrew, might be for pay, or it might not. He didn’t use the word sell because even with an exchange of money, the local people needed to give him a possession. If they sold him the land, they might later reclaim it. If they gave him a possession, he would have it and a clear title (ownership that no one would dispute).
3. Did the sons of Heth (Khet, in Hebrew, meaning hot in English) believe in Elohim? Just because they spoke of Avraham as a prince of Elohim doesn’t mean they believed in Elohim. Many today speak of ‘Jesus’, and very few know anything about Him that is right. They don’t believe in Him, but they really think they do. The same was true in Avraham’s day. The sons of Khet didn’t believe in Avraham’s Elohim; they had their own elohim (gods) in which to believe.
4. Why was Avraham friendly with them (if they didn’t believe in Elohim)? Men and women who fear Elohim (who fear Yehovah) will certainly be very gracious and kind to neighbours who don’t believe in Him; Yehovah is kind to them! Anyone who claims to believe in the Biblical God but who holds a grudge against someone because that person doesn’t believe in the Biblical God doesn’t know anything that is important about the Biblical God.
5. What did the sons of Khet mean by, “Thou art a prince of Elohim”? They knew that Avraham believed in Elohim, and they saw how Elohim had blessed him, making him a ruler over many cowboys and shepherds. He therefore was a prince over his cowhands and sheephands. Since he was living in the midst of the sons of Khet, he was therefore a prince among them. He treated them very well, and was a true friend.
6. Why would no one among the sons of Khet obstruct Avraham’s choosing any tomb among them, since tombs were often very expensive and difficult to construct? They greatly respected Avraham. He had been a friend to them.
7. Why did Avraham prostrate to the people of the land, and who are they? They are the common folks, and in this case are the sons of Khet. Avraham prostrated to them to show his willingness to serve them, and to show that he was humble and not arrogant.
8. Why didn’t Avraham ask Ephron for himself? If Ephron might feel as if he had to acquiesce if Avraham directly approached him. If his fellow citizens approached him, the refusal would be much softer.
9. Did did Avraham insist on paying the full price, and refused to seek a bargain? Avraham was a prophet. He knew that this land would be his at a later time. Had he obtained the land at a bargain price, that would have given reasons for dwellers in the region to see Avraham and his offspring as cheats rather than as good neighbours.
Early Americans purchased land from American Indian groups for prices far below the land values. This now is a problem, since modern American Indians know how their ancestors were cheated. Avraham had no desire to give reasons to Middle Eastern occupants to see Avraham and his offspring as cheaters.
III. The Supposed Price (verses 10-16)
Ephron was now present. He spoke to Avraham in front of witnesses: the sons of Khet and all comers to the city gate.
He first spoke as if he were in an argument with Avraham: “No my lord. Hearken-to me!” He then stated, “gave the field to thee and the cave that is in him.” He next stated, “I gave her to thee to the eyes of the sons of my people.” Still, as if that wasn’t enough, he stated, “I gave her to thee to entomb from thy dead.”
Avraham prostrated himself (went flat down on his stomach) to the faces of (straight in front of) the people of the land. He spoke unto Ephron so that the people of the land could hear: “But if thou— were— hearken-to me. I gave silver of the field. Take from me, and I have entombed my dead there.” Avraham determined to purchase the field, not take it as a gift.
Ephron then spoke of the price and his and Avraham’s relationship: “My Lord, hearken to me. A land of 400 shekels of silver is between thee and between me. What is he? Entomb thy dead-one.”
Avraham then hearkened to Ephron and weighed the silver to him that Ephron had determined. The silver was the same kind that “crossed over to a merchant,” the same kind used in stores.
1. Where was Ephron before this? The text doesn’t say. The way the text is worded, it seems that the sons of Khet went and spoke to him, and that he then came to speak directly with Avraham. He then could tell Avraham face to face that he was giving the field and the cave to him.
2. Why did Ephron answer Avraham “in the ears of the sons of Ket to all comers of the gat of his city”? He wanted witnesses to hear that he was giving that field and its cave to Avraham. He also knew that having witnesses hear this was important to Avraham.
3. Why did Ephron start by saying, “No, my lord. Hearken to me”? It was as if Ephron and Avraham had disagreed. It was a very friendly disagreement in which Ephron had given the field and its cave to Avraham, but Avraham had wanted to purchase it.
4. Why did Ephron state, “I gave” three times? He was determined to make sure that all realized that he had done this.
5. What does “to the eyes of the sons of my people” mean? It means directly in front of and in full view of the citizens who were his people.
6. The expression, “to entomb from thy dead” is not the way speakers of the English language would say this. What does it mean? The word from means away, at a distance. Thus, “to entomb from thy dead” means “to place into a tomb in order to be at a distance that that Avraham is no longer where her dead body is located.
7. Explain “But if thou— were— hearken-to me”: It is as if Avraham is having a very difficult time with words. He wanted Ephron to take silver for the field, not to give it to him as a gift.
8. Why did Avraham insist on giving silver for the field instead of taking it as a gift? Avraham knew that folks from Epron’s people in later generations would resent (feel a strong anger) the gift to Avraham and his people, and they might reclaim the field and the cave as their own, as if Avraham never truly gained title (official ownership) to it. He had to make certain that the transaction (act of doing business) was both legal and public.
9. Was 400 shekels of silver a lot? No. That is why Ephron said, “A land of 400 shekels of silver is between thee and between me. What is he?”
10. Why was the fact that the silver was crossed over to a merchant important? This showed that it was normal currency, not something that might later be viewed as an unusual currency by which Avraham got a great bargain, cheating Ephron.
IV. The Receipt (verses 17-20)
The text explains what arose to Avraham for an acquisition (something that a person acquires: gets, obtains, and now owns):
- The field of Ephron located in Machpelah, straight in front of Mamre
- The field and the cave in the field
- All the tree (we would say trees) in the field in all the fields borders.
The sons of Khet and all covers of the gate of this city saw this transaction.
Avraham entombed Sarah in the cave of this field. The other name of this location is Hevron (most call it Hebron) in the land of Canaan (named after the most powerful race present, the Canaanites). The text again stated that the field and its cave stood for a possession of a tomb from the sons of Khet.
1. Why are so many words used to indicate that Avraham truly acquired the field from the sons of Khet by legal means? Yehovah knows the future. He knew that this acquisition would be challenged in a future generation.
There is another reason. This is the only part of the entire land that Avraham acquired. Yehovah made a Covenant (a vow that is made with a god/God as a witness to enforce the vow) with Avraham. This Covenant stated that Avraham would acquire all of this land. That never happened, and Avraham died. Either Yehovah did not keep His word (which isn’t true) or He will keep it by resurrecting (bringing back to life in a human body) Avraham from the dead and giving him the land!