Genesis 23

The Grave of Sarah

The Death and Mourning of Sarah (1-9)

After a long season in the land of the Philistines, Abraham moved once again to Hebron, the Oaks of Mamre, and there Sarah died at the age of 127. After Abraham had mourned her death, he needed to bury her quickly. He had earlier purchased a burial spot at Shechem (Acts 7:16) but it seems to have been too great a distance away so he wanted a grave closer (1-2). Abraham went to the Hittites, realizing a gravesite was not a right nor a demand he could make, and asked to buy the property from them. It was the Amorites who earlier owned or ruled this region but had been subsequently conquered by the Hittites.

The Hittites viewed Abraham as not only a blessing to their community but a prince among them and not someone to cross swords with, so they offered to sell him the best of their grave-worthy properties (3-7). Abraham eventually entered into negotiations with Ephron for the purchase of the cave of Machpelah at the end of one of his fields. Abraham offered full price for the cave and wanted the deal to be made in public and surrounded by witnesses (8-9).

The Negotiation With Ephron (10-18)

Ephors did not want to sell just the cave; he wanted to get rid of the whole field. So at the gate of the city, Ephron began to haggle with Abraham over the price (10). When Ephron was saying, "I give you the field," he was not saying he wished to give it to Abraham for nothing, but this was a nice way of saying, "I want to give you the whole field for the right price." It would be like a car salesman saying, "I want to put you in the seat of this brand new Porsche." Abraham agreed to buy the whole field (11-13).

Here is the important part of the story: Ephron asked for 400 shekels of silver for the land. All of this haggling seems so generous, but behind the graciousness and decorum was greed. The amount of 400 shekels would have been an outrageous price.

Abraham, without countering an offer, weighed out the price and bought the field (14-16). Right there for everyone to see was Abraham who thought no price too high to pay for a park and associated cemetery for his wife. He paid the price without complaint. Abraham made the deal public so no one could accuse him of being crafty or shrewd (17-18).

The Burial of Sarah (19-20)

Abraham had been promised the land of Canaan over sixty years before his wife died, and yet Abraham did not even own a piece of property to bury his wife. Abraham had to buy a field from a shifty, greed-obsessed Hittite in a moment of grief to have an adequate resting place for his beloved Sarah. So important was the event of having no property that a chapter is given to explaining the purchase of Sarah's gravesite. Yet without property, Abraham believed on.