Genesis 23

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Read Genesis 23

The Death of Sarah

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.

Go Deeper

Today’s reading is somewhat “basic.” A wife dies, her husband mourns her, and then he makes arrangements to bury her. It doesn’t seem to have too many spiritual applications at first glance–heck, most of the chapter is devoted to Abraham bargaining for the burial plot! But it’s included in the Bible for a reason. In this story’s mundane humanity, we learn a valuable lesson. And it’s a lesson that death often teaches us: this world is not our forever home.

In this chapter, Abraham says, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you.” While he is speaking literally, because he has been a wanderer and traveler for most of his life, he is also speaking spiritually. The author of Hebrews picks up on this theme and says: By faith he (Abraham) made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10) Abraham was living in this world with another one in mind–a heavenly one. 

Death always reminds us that this world is fleeting. It won’t last forever, and neither will we. By stating that he was a foreigner and a stranger in this land, Abraham was reminding himself that this world is passing by. He was reminding himself to look up and work for the things that matter, not the ones that will pass away and decay. Are you living with that same eternal perspective? Do you remind yourself daily that this world is not your eternal home-that you’re just passing through as a foreigner? We may say that Heaven is our ultimate home, but does the way we live our life here in this world reflect the truth we believe about the world to come?

  1. Even though he has faith in the world to come, Abraham still mourned the death of his wife. What does that show us about faith and feelings?

  2. Death often reminds us that this world is not permanent and that we are not permanent in it. How does understanding your own mortality affect your understanding of this life?

  3. How would you spend today differently if you truly believed this world was not your true home and final destination? What would you spend your time, money, energy, & thoughts on?

Did You Know?

Sarah is the only woman in all of Scripture whose age at the time of her death was recorded. She is also referenced three times in Scripture as an example of a woman who was highly regarded (Isaiah 51:1-2, 1 Peter 3:3-6, Hebrews 11: 11). We should pay attention to these facts and see what we can learn from her life and the faith she exemplified. She has much to teach us!

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