Genesis 23:20

And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying-place. Abraham's first and only possession in Canaan, a sepulcher. The importance of the par-chase appears in the careful narrative of the transaction. For himself he was content to live as a stranger and pilgrim (cf. 1 Peter 5:7); but Sarah's death led him to acquire a burying-place. Declining the offer to use any of the sepulchers of the people of the land (cf. the separation at death between God's people and aliens), he bought the field and the cave, and carefully prepared the evidence of the purchase. The purchase showed his faith in God's truth; one of the branches of Adam's temptation (Genesis 3:4). It had been promised that his seed, after dwelling in a land not theirs, should return and possess that whereon he stood (cf. Jeremiah 32:14, 15). Type of entrance into rest after pilgrimage (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1). It showed also his faith in a resurrection (cf. Psalm 16:10). The desire that he and his family should lie in the same sepulcher speaks of a life beyond the present. Parted by death, they were one family still. Sarah was to him "my dead." There was a link between them still. The living and dead still one family. Doctrine of communion of saints (cf. Matthew 22:32). Death was the gate of life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Canaan a type of the rest which remaineth; Abraham of the "children of the kingdom," pilgrims with a promise. No rest here. Life full of uncertainties. One thing sure, we must die. But -

I. WE ENTER THE HEAVENLY REST THROUGH DEATH; THE CITY OF GOD THROUGH THE VALLEY OF BACA. Here we walk by faith. Great and glorious promises for our encouragement, that we may not make our home here; yet we know not what we shall be. Sight cannot penetrate the curtain that separates time from eternity. Thus there is the trial, do we walk by faith or by sight? We instinctively shrink from death. It is connected in our mind with sorrow, with interruption of plans, with breaking up of loving companionship; but faith bids us sorrow not as those without hope. It reminds that it is the passing from what is defective and transitory to what is immortal. Here we are trained for the better things beyond, and our thoughts are turned to that sepulcher in which the victory over death was won; thence we see the Lord arising, the pledge of eternal life to all who will have it.

II. THE SEPULCHRE WAS MADE SURE TO ABRAHAM. In time he should enter it as one of the company gathered there to await the resurrection day; but meanwhile it was his. And if we look upon this as typical of our interest in the death of Christ, it speaks of comfort and trust. He took our nature that he might "taste death for every man." His grave is ours (2 Corinthians 5:14). We are "buried with him," "planted together in the likeness of his death.' The fact of his death is a possession that cannot be taken from us (Colossians 3:3, 4). He died that we might live. If frail man clings to the tomb of some dear one; if the heart is conscious of the link still enduring, shall we not rejoice in our union with him whose triumph makes us also more than conquerors?

III. THE FIELD AND CAVE. How small a part did Abraham possess in his lifetime, but it was an earnest of the whole; he felt it so, and in faith buried his dead (cf. Genesis 1:25; Hebrews 11:22). An earnest is all we possess here, but still we have an earnest. In the presence of the Lord (John 14:23), in the peace which he gives, in the spirit of adoption, we have the "substance of things hoped for," a real fragment and sample of the blessedness of heaven. - M.

Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
What lessons would such a man as Abraham learn in this house of mourning?


II. TO REALIZE THE FACT OF HIS OWN MORTALITY. "I may be the next to go."



(T. H. Leale.)

The true mourning a sanctified feeling of death.

1. A fellow-feeling of death with the dead.

2. An anticipation of death or a living preparation for one's own death.

3. A believing sense of the end or destination of death to be made useful to the life.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

1. On Mount Moriah we find Abraham doing God's will; here we find him suffering it.

2. Look at Abraham buying a grave; the best man of his age here bargains for burial ground. Ponder well this transaction, and consider that in return for four hundred pieces of silver Abraham gets a burying-place.

3. The behaviour of the children of Heth calls for appreciative notice. They treated Abraham with generous pity and helpfulness.

4. Man's final requirement of man is a grave. In the grave there is no repentance; the dead man cannot obliterate the past.

5. Abraham mourned for Sarah. Consecration to God's purpose does not eradicate our deep human love; say, rather, that it heightens, refines, sanctifies it.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Perhaps we who lead briefer and, at the same time, more stirring and varied lives, with rapid change and a multitude of interests to divide attention, cannot fully realize how the members of such a home circle as Abraham's grew into each other, or how one out of such a circle would be missed. Through long unbroken periods they lived constantly together, and were everything to one another. Of society, except that of their own slaves, there was little or none. The round of easy occupations which made up their shepherd life left ample leisure for domestic converse. It was inevitable that their lives should grow together as if welded into one. Husband and wife, parent and child, must have moulded one another's character to an extent hardly possible in other states of society. Stronger natures impressed themselves upon feebler ones. The older generation made that which succeeded it. The experiences and the teaching of the aged father created an unwritten family code, which ruled alike his son and his grandson. Each memorable incident in the family annals crystallized itself, no doubt, through constant repetition, and passed down with hardly any change of form as part of the family tradition. From such a close circle of relations the disappearance of one loved and familiar face would leave a blank never to be filled and scarcely ever to be forgotten. This must have been especially the case when death made its first breach in the family, and, at the ripe age of a hundred and twenty-seven years, Sarah, princess, wife, and mother, fell asleep. Her death made Abraham a lonely man. It broke the final link to his ancestral home. It robbed him of the only one who cherished with him a common memory of his father's house and the happy days of youth. She alone was left of those who, sixty-two years before, had shared his venturous emigration from Haran. He was her senior by ten years; and her removal must have come to him like a warning that before him likewise there lay another emigration, more venturous than the last — one final journey into a land still farther off.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)


1. Of Sarah, princess. Kings and great men die. "Wealth cannot deliver in the day of his power."

2. The wife of a great man. Derives her chief dignity from this connection. Little expected the honour that would befall her from this marriage. The source of Abraham's joy, as well as the occasion of some of his sins.

3. The mother of the free. The ancestress of Jesus, and those who believe in Him.

4. Died at Hebron = alliance. The alliance with Abraham dissolved, and her eternal alliance with Abraham's God, and one who was before Abraham (John 8:58), now inaugurated. Happy are those who compose the bride — the Lamb's wife; the day of death is with them the day of their espousals. The alliances of earth, abandoned for a better and more lasting one.


1. A cave. We are of the earth, earthy. Dust, and must return to dust.

2. Purchased. Abraham selected one that would receive his own remains. ("The family meeting-place" is an epitaph at Pere la Chaise.) Men sometimes think more of their sepulchres than of death; and make greater preparation for the temporary repose of the body than the eternal rest of the soul. It was all that Abraham purchased of the promised land. The country was given to the living. The promised land of heaven for the living is a free gift, and there will be no bargaining for graves there. Man sells a place for the dead, God gives a home for the living.

III. THE BURIAL. "That I may bury my dead out of my sight." The object that once most pleased the eye must be put " out of sight," as a loathsome thing. Life, a fountain of beauty and attractiveness. How glorious that world must be where they die no more, and are never put out of sight. Those who die in the Lord, and are put out of sight, will presently be in sight for ever. The aged man before the grave of his wife. The parting is not for long. A few more steps, and he will be at home with his princess for ever. But with all this Christian hope, the loss of dear friends and the sunderings of long companionships is painful. At such times may we be able to say, "Thy will be done." Learn:

1. The great and good and best loved must die.

2. The earthly dissolution may be the beginning of our eternal union.

3. It is little the world can furnish us besides a place to lie down in at the end of the journey.

4. Happy are those who, being saved themselves, have a good hope of meeting those who are "not lost, but gone before."

(J. C. Gray.)

In those tears of Abraham was anguish; but there might have been remorse. Apparently Abraham had nothing to reproach himself with. Quarrels in his married life are recorded, but in all he behaved with tenderness, concession, and dignity. In all things he had supported and cherished his wife, bearing, like a strong man, the burdens of the weak. But oh! let us beware. There are bitter recollections which enhance the sorrow of bereavement and change it into agony — recollections which are repeated to us in words which remorse will not cease to echo for ever and ever. "Oh, if they would but come again, I'd never grieve them more." It is this which makes tears scald. To how many a grown heart have not those childish words of the infant hymn gone home, sharp, with an undying pang!

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Constantine the Great, in order to reclaim a very worldly man, marked out, with a lance, a piece of ground the size of a human body, and then said, "If you could increase your possessions till you acquired the whole world, in a short time such a spot as this will be all you will have."

Abraham, Arba, Ephron, Heth, Hittites, Mamre, Sarah, Zoar, Zohar
Beersheba, Canaan, Hebron, Kiriath-arba, Machpelah, Mamre
Assured, Burial, Burying, Buryingplace, Burying-place, Cave, Deeded, Established, Field, Handed, Heth, Hittites, Hollow, Possession, Property, Rock, Sepulchre, Site, Sons, Sure, Therein
1. The age and death of Sarah.
3. The purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah;
19. where Sarah is buried.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 23:3-20

     7258   promised land, early history

Genesis 23:8-20

     4218   cave

Genesis 23:17-20

     4207   land, divine gift

Genesis 23:19-20

     5241   burial

Yet it Follows not that the Bodies of the Departed are to be Despised...
5. Yet it follows not that the bodies of the departed are to be despised and flung aside, and above all of just and faithful men, which bodies as organs and vessels to all good works their spirit hath holily used. For if a father's garment and ring, and whatever such like, is the more dear to those whom they leave behind, the greater their affection is towards their parents, in no wise are the bodies themselves to be spurned, which truly we wear in more familiar and close conjunction than any of
St. Augustine—On Care to Be Had for the Dead.

Epistle iii. To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari). Gregory to Januarius, &c. The most distinguished lady Nereida has complained to us that your Fraternity does not blush to exact from her a hundred solidi for the burial of her daughter, and would bring upon her the additional vexation of expense over and above her groans of sorrow. Now, if the truth is so, it being a very serious thing and far from a priest's office to require a price for earth that is granted to rottenness, and to wish to make profit
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Exhortations to those who are Called
IF, after searching you find that you are effectually called, I have three exhortations to you. 1. Admire and adore God's free grace in calling you -- that God should pass over so many, that He should pass by the wise and noble, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon you! That He should take you out of a state of vassalage, from grinding the devil's mill, and should set you above the princes of the earth, and call you to inherit the throne of glory! Fall upon your knees, break forth into
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

Man's Chief End
Q-I: WHAT IS THE CHIEF END OF MAN? A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Here are two ends of life specified. 1: The glorifying of God. 2: The enjoying of God. I. The glorifying of God, I Pet 4:4: That God in all things may be glorified.' The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. I Cor 10:01. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial;
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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