Genesis Chapter Twenty-Three


Read Genesis 23:1-2 – Sarah’s Death


v.1-21And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2And 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.”


            From the time of Abraham’s deception of Abimelech he has moved about 30 miles northeast to the area of Hebron.  He is almost in the center of what would become the land of the tribe of Judah.  He had lived there before:


Genesis 13:18  Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.”


            We note again that the Holy Spirit in directing Moses in the writing of Genesis gives us both the ancient name of that region and the “modern” name, i.e. that name being used by Israel.


Joshua 14:15And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war.”


The Anakims were a people of very large stature, commonly called giants.

            Sarah dies here and Abraham mourns for her.  This is now approximately 37 years after the birth of Isaac.


Read Genesis 23:3-16 – Abraham Seeks a Burial Ground


v.3-4And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 4I 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.”


            Called the “SONS OF HETH” here, these are the Hittite people who ruled this region before Israel became a nation.  Abraham is a stranger and sojourner in their land, owns no land himself, not even a plot big enough to bury someone in because God gave none of the land to him in his lifetime.


Acts 7:5And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.”


Hebrews 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:”


v.5-6And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 6Hear 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.”


            Abraham calls himself a stranger and sojourner but the sons of Heth consider him a great and good prince.  Abraham was very rich in herds and goods even when he came into Canaan:


Genesis 13:2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.”


And his wealth and consequently his power did nothing but grow.  It grew not only from the fact that it’s been about 50 years since Abraham entered Canaan, God has blessed and prospered him but also because of the gifts from the Pharoah of Egypt and Abimelech over their problems with Abrahams deception about Sarah.

            The sons of Heth or the Hittite people call Abraham a “MIGHTY PRINCE” among them and offer him the use of any sepulchre in their land but that is not what Abraham wants.  He wants to bury his dead “OUT OF SIGHT”, he doesn’t want a monument.  This appears to be the providence of God working because if a monument had been erected and preserved future generations would have worshiped at it.  As we will see later, they did anyway and still do.


v.7-8and Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth. 8And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,”


            Though he does not want the bury Sarah in one of their sepulchres Abraham does have a request of the Hittite people.  He wants them to help him negotiate for a burial place where he can bury his dead out of sight.  That negotiation needed to be conducted with Ephron, one of their men who owned the location that Abraham wanted.


v.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.”


            We noted with an earlier verse that perhaps Abraham wanted a burying place “OUT OF MY SIGHT” due to the providence of God and that people would want to make a religious shrine out of it.  This is exactly what has happened.  When we study the name Mach-pe’-lah, we find that:


”The Cave of Machpelah is the world's most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

The double cave, a mystery of thousands of years, was uncovered several years ago beneath the massive building, revealing artifacts from the Early Israelite Period (some 30 centuries ago). The structure was built during the Second Temple Period (about two thousand years ago) by Herod, King of Judea, providing a place for gatherings and Jewish prayers at the graves of the Patriarchs.”

Source:  “The Jewish Virtual Library”, on-line at


            Abraham is being fair in his dealings with Ephron.  He is willing to pay whatever Ephron feels that this cave at the end of his field is worth.  This will become the only possession of Abraham in Canaan.  It was purchased with money, not given to him by God as a possession.


v.10And 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,”


            Ephron is actually present with the children of Heth that Abraham is meeting with at this time.  Consequently he answers Abraham and makes him an offer.


v.11Nay, 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.”


            Ephron wants to give Abraham both the field and the cave that is at the end of it.  He even swears his covenant publicly before the inhabitants of the city.


v.12-13. “And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. 13And 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.”


            But Abraham isn’t willing to accept the burying ground as a gift.  He is like King David who would not accept a gift to offer to God when he was commanded to make a sacrifice.


All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. 24And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.” II Samuel 24:23-24


v.14-15And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, 15My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.”


            Even though the Jewish shekel wasn’t created or regulated until much later, Moses uses it to show the value of the land purchased by Abraham from Ephron.  We find the shekel being used as an offering:


Exodus 30:13This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.”


In Judah’s time of trouble God had to regulate the value of the shekel and did so this way:


Ezekiel 45:12 And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh.”


v.16And 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.


            The shekel was a weight as well as a coin and equaled 220 grains of silver or a little less than half a troy ounce which equals 480 grains.  So with a calculator you can determine that the silver measured to pay for the field weighed about 183.2 troy ounces and at this week’s prices was worth about $2400.

            The transaction was paid in current money weighed in the present of all of the sons of Heth.


Read Genesis 23:17-20 – The Burial of Sarah


v.17And 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.”


            The next step in this transaction is very similar to that which we might to today.  Where line fences were in place a survey may not be necessary but it was always considered proper to walk the land, see the fences or borders as it is in this case and generally prove that both parties of the transaction understand what is being purchased and what is being sold.  All these things must be made sure to prevent future problems.


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


            So the transaction was completed, as we might say, “on the spot” before the sons of Heth returned to their homes in the city.


v.19-20And 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. 20And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.


            So the possession of this land by Abraham was made sure.  We don’t know how that was done, today we would accept a deed or some document that would guarantee our ownership.  It would be sufficient to say that something very similar to that described by the prophet Jeremiah took place:


Jeremiah 32:10-11And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. 11So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:”


            The evidence of the transaction was sealed, the agreed amount of money was exchanged and everything was done in accordance with the law and custom of that time.

            Now being free to use the land as he purposed Abraham buries Sarah.  And this cave was used to bury Isaac, Rebekah, Leah and later Jacob.