Read Genesis 23
We last left Abraham returning from Mount Moriah where his faith was tested by God and a prophetic picture was painted of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here in chapter 23 we see Abraham experience the loss of his wife Sarah. She died at one hundred twenty-seven years old in the land of Canaan at Kiriath Arba, also called Hebron. The name Hebron means fellowship which speaks of Sarah’s fellowship with both her husband Abraham and her Lord the God of Abraham. She is the only woman in the Bible whose age of death is given, presumably to honor her as she’s cited in 1 Peter 3:1-6 as an example of how a wife should relate to her husband.
Sarah had married Abraham when she was at the very most, fifty years old, and she most likely was much younger than that. So they had been married for an absolute minimum of seventy-seven years but it could be that they were married for as long as over one hundred years. It’s not surprising then when in verse two we read that Abraham went to mourn for her and to weep over her.
And it’s here in verse two that we see the first mention of weeping in the Bible. Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll are they not in your record? David said in Psalm 56:8. God doesn’t discount what you’re going through. You’re dark hour doesn’t go unnoticed. On the contrary, our Lord lists every one of your tears, He takes account of them all. He knows.
In the next verse however we read that Abraham rose up from the body of his wife and went to address the people of the land, the Hittites. So though our Lord records Abraham’s tears, at the same time, He doesn’t want Abraham to mourn forever, nor, I’m sure, does Sarah. And neither does God want you or I to mourn forever for a loved one whose passed. Ultimately we’re to rise up and continue our sojourn through to the finish line.
I’m a stranger here… Abraham says in verse 4…
A friend and Christian brother of mine, retired firefighter John Webb, lost his wife recently after a six month battle with cancer. They had been married for almost fifty years. I’ll never forget that sunny afternoon that I met up with John just five or six hours after she passed away. He had this gentle smile on his face, he was so obviously content. I just marveled as we stood there at the end of his driveway in front of his house as he told me of Fran’s increased interest in the scriptures and in her relationship with the Lord over the year previous to her diagnosis of cancer. I was blown away at John’s faith in that he seemed perfectly composed and completely satisfied in the knowledge that his wife was now with her Savior in heaven. I came to encourage him but wound up encouraged myself. I left inspired by his trust in Jesus. The goodness of Christ often manifests itself most noticeably during times of trial.
I’m a stranger here, Abraham says after he rose up from the body of his wife. And so are you and so am I. Though Abraham and my friend John were living in the shadow of the loss of their wives, they both realized they and their wives were/are just passin’ through.
They also realized that when you’re living in a time of shadow, in order for there to be a shadow in the first place there has to be Light coming from somewhere.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has put eternity in your heart. It’s when you’re focused on the Light of the eternal that you can rise up from the death and dearth around you. It’s when you realize that you’re a stranger here, a sojourner that you can be strong and of a good courage and know that the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9 KJV)
Dr. Barnhouse tells the story of a young woman who received news that her husband died in the war. She immediately told her mother that she was going upstairs to her bedroom. When her father came home and heard about what happened he went up to her room and found her kneeling by her bed praying, “Oh my heavenly Father, oh my heavenly Father, oh my heavenly Father…” He returned downstairs to his wife and said, “She’s in better hands than mine.”
It’s a focus on our eternal Father in heaven, it’s a realization that we’re strangers here in the temporal, we’re just passing through, it’s a recognition that nothing here on this earth is ever going to satisfy us, that’s what’ll get you through the dark shadow you’re walking through now.
Eternity is where it’s at.
That’s what to look toward, to point toward, and to draw inspiration from.
It’s about eternity. It’s about our eternal Father in heaven.
Back to Abraham: Now Abraham is moving forward with his life and he begins to address a problem. He’s a foreigner in the land of Caanan and doesn’t own any property that is suitable for Sarah’s burial, so he enters into a negotiation with the Hittites of the land:
I’m a stranger here, and I need to bury my wife, so how about if you sell me some property for a burial site for her.
The Hittites reply in verse 6, Hey, listen, you’re a prince among us. Pick whatever tomb you like, the best of the best. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burial.
You know, living for Christ can cost you in the short term. Those times when you choose to live for Him are sometimes awkward with your coworkers, classmates, friends, or even family. A life of holiness and humility is generally out of sync with the world. But it’s interesting that Lot, who wanted to influence Sodom by engaging in the culture of Sodom, ended up influencing no one. In fact we see in Genesis 19:9 that the Sodomites actually said to Lot, “Who are you?” (see previous post on Genesis 19) But Abraham, who lived for the Lord without regard for the Caananite culture, now has the reputation of a Prince among the Hittites. In the end, Abraham had a huge influence on the people around him. I’ve found that if you’re living a life that’s sold out for Christ, while you may be seen as a stranger in the world, as Abraham was, eventually you may be honored, as Abraham was, for God tells us that those who humble themselves shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Then Abraham bows down in humility before the Hittites and says, If you’re willing to let me bury my dead here in your land, then talk to Ephron the son of Zohar for me. Ask him to sell me the the cave of Machpelah which is at the end of his field. I’ll pay full price.
Now Ephron happened to be sitting there in the crowd and he heard Abraham’s request. So he hopped up and replied to Abraham and said, Listen, Abraham, I’ll give you the field and I’ll give you the cave. With everyone here as a witness, I’m telling you I’ll give them to you. Go and bury your wife.
But Abraham humbly bows down again and replies, Look, I’ll pay the price. Go ahead and accept whatever price you ask of me and I’ll go ahead and bury my dead.
Then Ephron says something that would be comical were it not for the circumstances, he says, Well, the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver (about ten pounds or 4.6 kilograms) but what’s four hundred shekels of silver among friends? Go ahead and bury her.
“Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” the king of Sodom said to Abraham in verse 21 of Genesis 14. But Abraham wouldn’t accept anything from the king of Sodom. In Genesis 23, Ephron tells Abraham three times that he’ll give him the property for free. But Abraham wouldn’t accept anything from Ephron either. Gifts from the world come with strings attached. Be wise, as Abraham was, and avoid accepting temporal gifts that are offered for “free.” (see previous post onGenesis 14)
So Abraham, taking Ephron’s not so subtle hint, agrees to his terms, weighs out the silver, and the field and the cave are deeded over to Abraham in front of the Hittites at the gate of the City of Hebron. And there he buries Sarah.
Abraham, promised of God the entire land of Caanan, in his lifetime, possesses only one field and a tomb. It speaks of the truth that even the longest liver must die at last. (Abraham was rich but even the poorest of the earth will possess a grave of some sort) When we lose loved ones we can say with certainty that, they are gone, and, we are going. (Matthew Henry)
Life is short, eternity is forever, so invest wisely.
Invest in eternity.
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.[a] 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.”
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. “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.”
Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 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.”
Ephron answered Abraham, “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.”
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.
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 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 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. So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.