Genesis – Chapter 23

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The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 23


The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.


She died in Kiriatharba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham performed the customary mourning rites for her.


1 Then he left the side of his dead one and addressed the Hittites:


2 «Although I am a resident alien among you, sell me from your holdings a piece of property for a burial ground, that I may bury my dead wife.»


The Hittites answered Abraham: «Please, sir,


listen to us! You are an elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial sites. None of us would deny you his burial ground for the burial of your dead.»


Abraham, however, began to bow low before the local citizens, the Hittites,


while he appealed to them: «If you will allow me room for burial of my dead, listen to me! Intercede for me with Ephron, son of Zohar, asking him


to sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns; it is at the edge of his field. Let him sell it to me in your presence, at its full price, for a burial place.»


3 Now Ephron was present with the Hittites. So Ephron the Hittite replied to Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites who sat on his town council:


«Please, sir, listen to me! I give you both the field and the cave in it; in the presence of my kinsmen I make this gift. Bury your dead!»


But Abraham, after bowing low before the local citizens, addressed Ephron in the hearing of these men:


«Ah, if only you would please listen to me! I will pay you the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.»


Ephron replied to Abraham, «Please,


4 sir, listen to me! A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver – what is that between you and me, as long as you can bury your dead?»


5 Abraham accepted Ephron’s terms; he weighed out to him the silver that Ephron had stipulated in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver at the current market value.


Thus Ephron’s field in Machpelah, facing Mamre, together with its cave and all the trees anywhere within its limits, was conveyed


to Abraham by purchase in the presence of all the Hittites who sat on Ephron’s town council.


After this transaction, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.


Thus the field with its cave was transferred from the Hittites to Abraham as a burial place.

1 [3] The Hittites: a non-Semitic people in Canaan; their relationship to the well-known Hittites of Asia Minor is uncertain.
2 [4] A resident alien: literally «a sojourner and a settler,» i.e., a long-term resident alien. Such a one would normally not have the right to own property. The importance of Abraham’s purchase of the field in Machpelah, which is worded in technical legal terms, lies in the fact that it gave his descendants their first, though small, land rights in the country that God had promised the patriarch they would one day inherit as their own. Abraham therefore insists on purchasing the field and not receiving it as a gift.
3 [10] Who sat on his town council: probable meaning of the literal translation, «who came in at the gate of his city»; so also in ⇒ Genesis 23:18.
4 [15] Four hundred shekels: probably an exorbitant sum; Jeremiah (⇒ Jeremiah 32:9) paid only seventeen shekels for his field in Anathoth, though the Babylonian invasion no doubt helped to reduce the price.
5 [16] The current market value: the standard weight called a shekel varied according to time and place.