Genesis 23:3

In such a history the representative character of Abraham must be remembered. He was tried not only for his own sake, but that in him all the families of the earth might be blessed.

I. The PREPARATION for this great grace God and Abraham recognizing each other; the servant called by name, responding with the profession of readiness for obedience.

II. The COMMANDMENT is itself a secret communication, a covenant. Do this, and I will bless thee; follow me in this journey "as I tell thee," and thou shalt see my salvation.

III. The simple, childlike OBEDIENCE of the patriarch is reflected in the quiet demeanor of Isaac bearing the wood of the burnt offering, type of Jesus bearing his cross, inquiring for the lamb with lamb-like innocence and patience. "They went both of them together" (Vers. 6 and 8) - "together" in the beginning of the journey, "together" in the end, in the trial and in the blessing.

IV. FAITH which accepts the will of God and takes up the Divine mission WILL COMMIT THE FUTURE TO THE GRACIOUS PROVISION ON WHICH IT DEPENDS. "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Ver. 8). Already Abraham was saying, "The Lord will provide." We say it sometimes with a fearful burden upon our heart; but when we go steadfastly and hopefully forward we say it at last with the remembrance of a great deliverance sending its glory along the way of our future.

V. THE TRIAL OF THE TRUE HEART IS OFTEN STRETCHED OUT TO ITS LAST EXTREMITY, that the revelation which rewards faithfulness may be the more abundant and wonderful (Vers. 9, 10). We must take God at his word, otherwise we shall not experience the promised deliverance. "Take thy son, and offer him there" (Ver. 2). "And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son." What else could he do? The commandment must be obeyed. The obedience must be "good and perfect and acceptable" as the will of God.

VI. AT THE POINT OF ENTIRE SURRENDER APPEARS THE ANGEL, is heard the voice of relief, the assurance of acceptance, the change in the method of obedience, the opened eyes, the provided sacrifice, THE RETURNING JOY OF SALVATION (Vers. 11-13). There is a blindness of self-sacrifice which leads to a sight of immeasurable joy. Abraham saw nothing before him but the plain path of obedience; he went on, and at last "lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold' the self-sacrifice changed into peaceful offering of an appointed substitute (Ver. 13) "in the stead of his son."

VII. THE CLIMAX OF OUR EXPERIENCE AND OF DIVINE MERCY BECOMES TO US A NEW NAME OF JEHOVAH. We know him henceforth by that knowledge of fact. "Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide): as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be provided" (or seen) (Ver. 14).

1. Not before the mount, but in the mount; therefore go to the summit and wait.

2. What the Lord will provide will be better every way than what we could provide.

3. The offering on the mount is the great provision, the whole burnt offering for the sins of the world, by which the true humanity is redeemed and the true "joy" ("Isaac," laughter) is retained.

4. The last name of Jehovah which Abraham gave him was Jehovah the Everlasting; now he adds to that name that which brings the Everlasting into the sphere of daily life - "Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide." We name that name when we reach the mount where the great sacrifice was provided - Mount Moriah, Mount Calvary.

5. The end of the great trial and obedience was a renewal, a solemn republication, of the covenant. "God could swear by no greater; he swore by himself" (Hebrews 6:13). On the foundation of practical faith is built up the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord swears shall include all nations, and be supreme in all the earth. The notes of that kingdom are here in the history of the patriarch -

(1) acceptance of the word of God,

(2) self-sacrifice,

(3) faith instead of sight,

(4) withholding nothing,

(5) perseverance to the end. Beersheba became now a new place to Abraham, for he carried to the well and grove which he had named after the oaths of himself and Abimelech the remembrance of the Divine oath, on which henceforth he rested all his expectations. After this the man in whom all nations shall be blessed looks round and finds the promise being already fulfilled, and his kindred spreading widely in the earth. - R.

Abraham buried Sarah his wife.


1. His independence (vers. 4, 6).

2. His exactness (vers. 17, 18).

3. His courtesy.


1. He believed in immortality.

2. He believed that God would grant his posterity to inherit the land.

3. He believed in a future state of blessedness for the righteous.

(T. H. Leale.)

1. Observe the honour which the ancients paid to the dead. This proves that they had a secret glimmer of immortality.

2. Observe the transaction with the children of Heth. A scriptural precedent for exactitude in business.

3. Observe also how courteous phrases contain a higher excellence than they mean. "What is that betwixt me and thee?" The children of Heth had no intention whatever of being taken at their word any more than a man has now when he calls himself your humble servant or bids you command him. We must go back to an earlier age when phrases were coined and meant something, when gifts were gifts and nothing was hoped for in return, in order to catch the life that was once in our conventional phraseology. So now language preserves, as marble preserves shells of hoar antiquity, the petrified phrases of a charity and humbleness which once were living. They are dead, but they do at least this, they keep up memorials of what should be. So that the world, in its daily language of politeness, has a record of its duty. Take those phrases, redeem them from death, live the life that was once in them. Let every man be as humble, as faithful, as obedient as his language professes, and the kingdom of God has come!

4. Lastly, we find in connection with Sarah's burial a Divine provision for the healing of Abraham's sorrow. He was compelled to exert himself to obtain a place to " bury his dead out of his sight." Had he not had to arouse himself and procure a grave for Sarah, he would have brooded over his grief. This is the merciful plan of compensation which God has provided for us; the necessities of life call us from our sorrow. All these merciful provisions plainly show us that we are in a Father's world.

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




(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)


1. Because it has been the man's dwelling-place.

2. Because it has assisted the soul to express itself.

3. Because it is destined for a higher and nobler service.


1. It taught him that the highest earthly possessions terminate in a grave.

2. It implies that he waited for death.


1. Its purchase taught them that it would soon be theirs.

2. Its stillness taught them to be active.

3. Its solemnity taught them to seek that country where there is no grave.



II. ABRAHAM'S PURCHASE. Strange possession to be the first portion in the land which was promised! A place to bury the dead in — yet observe how this very purchase is an act of faith and a pledge for the future fulfilment of God's promises.

III. ABRAHAM'S HOPE (Hebrews 11:13-16). We Christians to whom more light has been granted concerning the hopes of "the heavenly city" beyond this earthly life can see how, in Jesus Christ and His gospel, the sorrow for the dead and the fear of death are changed into thankfulness and hope. In Christ's death, burial, resurrection we trace an upward course to life eternal. Death is conquered. "Paradise" is the peaceful resting-place of those who "sleep in Jesus." Heaven is the final fulness of joy.

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)

Abraham declares himself a stranger and a sojourner in the land, and humbly prays for a burying-place to bury his dead, once so dear and so lovely, "out of his sight"; expressing thus a sad, universal, and most humiliating fact, that death "changes the countenance" of its victims, as well as "sendeth them away"; and so changes them that disgust succeeds to delight, terror to affection; and so dreadful is the mixture of the memory of past beauty and the sight of present decay, that the survivor needs no exhortation to hide his friend in the grave, but with eager haste commits parent, or child, or brother, or wife, or lover, into the dust, and almost rejoices as he shuts the coffin to know that that disfigured countenance he shall see no more. What a strange view of the power and mystery of death is implied in the thought of not hatred, but love, crying out for the eternal removal of its object out of its sight! But often it is not the mere physical rottenness which awakens this desire; often, too, there arise painful, agonizing, terrible thoughts on the sight of a departed friend. The whole of the past history of the friendship or love; its first commencement and the joys connected with it; the trials and troubles, perhaps partial estrangement or complete alienation for a time, which darkened its progress; the exquisite pleasures, or no less exquisite pangs, which alternated; benefits received from the departed which were unrequited, or injuries done to them which were never fully repaid; every harsh look or word on the side of the living remembered, while on that of the dead all but their smiles and kindness are forgotten; the scenes of the sick-bed; the last farewell on the brink of eternity; all these heartquaking, melting, rending images arise, and clustered around and pictured as they are on the mirror of that pale face and shut eye, might drive to insanity and howling despair, were it not that a veil for that mirror of past joy became sorrow, and past grief became distraction, has been provided, in the merciful lid of the coffin — a lid which henceforth only the worm, the eye of imagination sometimes venturing to peep into darkness, but as speedily withdrawing the gaze, and the light of the last morning, shall be able to penetrate.

(G. Gilfillan.)

Circumstances test the true quality of men. Irreverence in the presence of grief is an infallible sign of the deepest degeneracy; it marks the ultimate deterioration of the human heart. On the other hand, to be chastened by sorrow, to be moved into generous pity and helpfulness, is to show that there is still something in the man on which the kingdom of Jesus Christ may be built. Never despair of any man who is capable of generous impulses. Put no man down as incurably bad, who will share his one loaf with the hungry, or give shelter to a lost little one. Poor and crude may be his formal creed, very dim and pitifully inadequate his view of scholastic theology; but there is a root in him which may be developed into much beauty and fruitfulness. For this reason, I cannot overlook the genial humanity and simple gracefulness of this act of the Hittites.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

It was quite in accordance with Eastern usage that Abraham did not apply directly to the proprietor of the plot in which the cave lay, Ephron by name, the son of Zohar, but made interest with him through the leading men of the city. Courtesy required, too, that their consent should be secured for the proposed arrangement. The whole narrative, which is most minute, wears the strongest local colouring. Abraham's respectful attitude, his repeated prostrations with his face to the ground, the polite hospitality of the townsmen, the difficulty in coming to a bargain, the offer of Ephron to waive the question of price, his indirect mention of the four hundred shekels, the conclusion of the sale at the city gate in the place of concourse, the weighing of uncoined rings or ingots of silver which served for a medium of exchange, and the copious phraseology as of a legal document, by which, before witnesses, the cave, with the field, the fence around it, and the trees on it, were all conveyed in perpetuity to their new owner — these particulars correspond, we are assured by Dr. Thomson, a competent witness, to what may be seen at this day in Eastern bargain-making. It is true that nowadays the courtesy is merely formal, and such generous phrases as those of Ephron and his fellow-citizens are grown very hollow indeed. Still, it seems questionable to conclude, as Dr. Thomson himself has done, that they meant no more in that simple age, when the ceremonies of intercourse were newer and more truly reflected its spirit. Besides, it is hardly fair to place an occasion like that before us quite on a level with the ordinary chaffering of an Arab market-place. One must take care, no doubt, not to read all the incidents of a story, which is sacred as well as ancient, through such an unreal light as will invest them with fictitious dignity. On the other hand, we may equally err if, in our efforts to be realistic, we rob the record of its native dignity, or vulgarize the manners of antiquity because the manners of to-day are vulgar.

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

Around the grotto which thus became the sepulchre of Abraham's family, and which afterwards was to receive, not only his own dust, but that of his son and grandson with their wives, there has grown up an interest as enduring, and an obscurity as deep as attach to any grave on earth save one. The piety of some unknown age, probably Jewish, erected round the spot massive walls of noble masonry, which still exist. Inside these walls the devotion of early Christians consecrated a church, and over the church the devotion of the Mussulman a mosque. The gates of that mosque, the famous Haram of Hebron, had been closed against Western unbelievers for six centuries, when with extreme difficulty access to it was procured for the Prince of Wales and his suite in the year 1862. What they saw inside an enclosure so jealously guarded has been told with his accustomed precision of statement by Dean Stanley. Railed off, each one within its separate chapel, there lie the coffin-like shrines to which are attached the venerable names of Sarah and Abraham, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Leah and Jacob. These, however, are only empty monuments. The real tombs, if they exist at all, must be sought beneath the floor of the building, in the rocky cavern underground. To this vault a trap-door in the pavement promises to give access; but as yet its darkness remains unvisited and unviolated. So far as could be ascertained through such a brief and partial inspection of the mosque, it is clear that the contents of that sacred place answer exactly to the requirements of the scriptural narrative. Unfortunately, more than this cannot be said. It is reserved for some explorer more fortunate than even the Prince of Wales to disclose the well-kept secret of the tomb of the patriarchs.

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

Only one European, Pierroti, an Italian architect in the service of the Sultan, has ever seen more than the floor of the upper chamber, with its six tawdry erections, placed there in accordance with a practice usual in Mahometan sepulchres. Pierotti, daringly pressing after the chief Sanon, or priest of the mosque, when he was entering the lower story on a special occasion, found the entry was by a horizontal door in the porch. First a carpet, then a grated iron door, was lifted; after which a narrow stair appeared, cut in the rock. Undeterred by blows and violence, he managed to descend this far enough to see into the lower cavern in a northern direction, and to notice sarcophagi of white stone; the true tombs of some of the illustrious dead, in striking corroboration of the statement of Josephus, that they were of fair marble, exquisitely wrought. There can be little doubt, indeed, that the remains of the three generations of patriarchs and their wives, Rachel alone excepted, still lie safely in this their venerable sepulchre.

(C. Geikie, D. D.)

When he required this sepulchre, he offered so much money we are told — shekels of silver — and this money was weighed. This informs us that silver came so early as this period of the world to be currency. I mentioned, I think, before, that the earliest money was cattle. Hence, the Latin word pecunia, from which our expression pecuniary transactions is derived, comes from pecus, which means cattle. And it is very singular that in the Greek language every word that is used for purchase or property is a derivation from some other word denoting an animal. Thus the Greek word αρνυσθαι, which means, "to bargain," is derived from a Greek word that means a lamb. Again, πωλεω, to sell, is derived from the word used for a colt. Again, the Greek word ωνεομαι, to profit, comes from a word signifying an ass. Again, the Greek word προβιας, revenue, is derived from the Greek word προβατον, sheep or cattle. In short, all the words in Greek and Latin that mean property transactions, buying and selling, are derived from cattle, and the earliest figures that were struck upon ancient coins were figures of cattle. A man was said to be possessed of so many thousand oxen or sheep, and when they entered into a bargain, they gave so many sheep or so many oxen to the person from whom they were purchasing. Here, for the first time, we have silver introduced as currency — that which, in fact, is still the currency of the greatest portion of the nations of the earth — gold being restricted to very few countries, as the representative of property — mainly, I believe, in this country; whereas on the continent it is, I believe, chiefly silver.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

What I wish to emphasize here is the open, manly honesty of Abraham. There was no cheapening of the price — nothing of "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: and when he is gone his way, then he boasteth." Here were only civility, courtesy, and integrity. He did everything in a business way, but he had respect for others as well as for himself. He recognized that there was another hearer than the multitudes assembled at the city gate, even God Himself, and he did not choose that He should hear anything of rudeness, or selfishness, or dishonesty from his lips. Oh, how much more pleasantly business would be conducted among ourselves if we were to act in this way! But too many of us are constantly on the watch for an advantage! The seller's maxim too frequently is the selfish one of the Romans, "Caveat emptor" — "let the buyer look out for himself." And the buyer, on his side, is too frequently just as eagerly anxious to over-reach the seller. It is far too often "diamond cut diamond" between them. But that both are bad does not excuse either, and God is listening to both. Ah! if we all remembered that, our stores would be different places from what they often are, and business would rise to its ancient and irreproachable renown. Faith in God — such faith as Abraham had-that is still the great necessity of life. For pureness, for integrity, for liberality, for courage, for courtesy, this is what we mainly need. It is as true to-day as when John wrote the words, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

It is related of Pope Clement XIV. (Ganganelli), that when he ascended the papal chair, the ambassadors of the several states represented at his court waited on him with their congratulations. When they were introduced, and bowed, he returned the compliment by bowing also; on which the master of the ceremonies told his highness that he should not have returned their salute. "Oh, I beg your pardon," said the good pontiff, "I have not been pope long enough to forget good manners."

Moral and Religious Anecdotes.
When old Zachariah Fox, the great merchant of Liverpool, was asked by what means he contrived to realize so large a fortune as he possessed, his reply was, "Friend, by one article alone, in which thou may'st deal too if thou pleasest — civility."

(Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)

After the battle of Poitiers, in which the Black Prince fought and defeated the French king, the prince waited upon his captives like a menial at supper; nor could he be persuaded to sit at the king's table. This was quite in accordance with the chivalry of the day.

(Little's Historical Lights.)

Abraham, Arba, Ephron, Heth, Hittites, Mamre, Sarah, Zoar, Zohar
Beersheba, Canaan, Hebron, Kiriath-arba, Machpelah, Mamre
Beside, Dead, Heth, Hittites, Presence, Riseth, Rose, Saying, Sons, Spake, Speaketh, Spoke, Stood, Wife
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 23:1-4

     5076   Abraham, life of

Genesis 23:3-16

     5242   buying and selling

Genesis 23:3-20

     7258   promised land, early history

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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