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Song of Solomon
Genesis 23 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old:
the years of the life of Sarah.
And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old
the lives of Sarah were an hundred and twenty and seven years
); so that Isaac must have been thirty-seven, having been born in his mother's ninetieth year. Sarah, as the wife of Abraham and the mother of believers (
1 Peter 3:6
), is the only woman whose age is mentioned in Scripture.
These were the years of the life of Sarah
- an emphatic repetition designed to impress the Israelitish mind with the importance of remembering the age of their ancestress.
And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same
Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba
- or city of Arba, Abraham having again removed thither after an absence of nearly forty years, during which interval Murphy thinks the reign of Arba the Anakite may have commenced, though Keil postpones it to a later period (cf.
The same is Hebron
- the Original name of the city, which was supplanted by that of Kir-jath-arba, but restored at the conquest (Keil, Hengstenberg, Murphy; vide
in the land of Canaan
- indicating that the writer was not then in Palestine ('Speaker's Commentary'); perhaps rather designed to emphasize the circumstance that Sarah's death occurred not in the Philistines' country, but in the promised land (Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy).
And Abraham came
- or went;
(Vulgate); not as if he had been absent at her death (Calvin), either in Beersheba, where he retained a location (Clarke), or in Gerar, whither he had gone to sell the lands and other properties he held there (Luther), or in the pasture grounds adjoining Hebron (Keil, Murphy)'; but as addressing himself to the work of mourning for his deceased wife (Vatablus, Rosenmüller), or perhaps as going into Sarah's tent (Maimonides, Ainsworth, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary') -
to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
arrange for the customary mourning ceremony" (Keil); the first verb,
), referring to the beating of the breast as a sign of grief (cf.
1 Kings 14:13
); and the second,
, to flow by drops, intimating a quieter and more moderate sorrow. Beyond sitting on the ground and weeping in presence of (or upon the face of) the dead, no other rites are mentioned as having been observed by Abraham; though afterwards, as practiced among the Hebrews, Egyptians, and other nations of antiquity, mourning for the dead developed into an elaborate ritual, including such ceremonies as rending the garments, shaving the head, wearing sackcloth, covering the head with dust and ashes (
2 Samuel 3:31, 35
2 Samuel 21:10
Job 16:15, 16
). Cf. the mourning for Patroclus ('Il.,' 19:211-213).
And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
And Abraham stood up
- during the days of mourning he had been sitting on the ground; and now, his grief having moderated (Calvin), he goes out to the city gate -
from over the face
, - "Sarah, though dead, was still his" (Wordsworth) -
and spake unto the sons of Heth
. - the Hittites were descendants of Heth, the son of Canaan (
). Cf. "daughters of Heth" (
) and "daughters of Canaan" (
a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
I am a stranger and a sojourner with you
, one living out of his own country, and
, one dwelling in a land in which he is not naturalized;
advena et peregrinus
πάροικος καὶ παρ
(LXX.). This confession of the heir of Canaan was a proof that he sought, as his real inheritance, a better country, even an heavenly (
Give me a possession of a burying-place with you.
The first mention of a grave in Scripture, the word in Hebrew signifying a hole in the earth, or a mound, according as the root is taken to mean to dig (Furst) or to heap up (Gesenius). Abraham's desire for a grave m which to deposit Sarah's lifeless remains was dictated by that Divinely planted and, among civilized nations, universally prevailing reverence for the body which prompts men to decently dispose of their dead by rites of honorable sepulture. The burning of corpses was a practice common to the nations of antiquity; but Tacitus notes it as characteristic of the Jews that they preferred interment to cremation ('Hist.,' 5:5). The wish to make Sarah's burying-place his own possession has been traced to the instinctive desire that most nations have evinced to lie in ground belonging to themselves (Rosenmüller), to an intention on the part of the patriarch to give a sign of his right and title to the land of Canaan by purchasing a grave in its soil - cf.
(Bush), or simply to anxiety that his dead might not lie unburied (Calvin); but it was more probably due to his strong faith that the land would yet belong to his descendants, which naturally led him to crave a resting-place in the soil with which the hopes of both himself and people were identified (Ainsworth, Bush, Kalisch).
That I may bury my dead out of my sight
- decay not suffering the lifeless corpse to remain a fit spectacle for grief or love to gaze on.
And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
Verses 5, 6.
And the children of Heth answered. Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord. My lord
(Adoni) = sir,
. One acts as the spokesman of all; the number changing from plural to singular. The LXX., reading
, after the Samaritan Codex, render
, Not so, my lord; but hear us.
Thou art a mighty prince among us
. Literally, a
prince of Elohim
; not of Jehovah, since the speakers were heathen whose ideas of Deity did not transcend those expressed in the term Elohim. According to a familiar Hebrew idiom, the phrase might be legitimately translated as in the A.V. - cf. "mountains of God,"
; "cedars of God,"
(Calvin, Kimchi, Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'); but, as employed by the Hittite chieftains, it probably expressed that they regarded him as a prince or phylarch, not to whom God had given an elevated aspect (Lange), but either whom God had appointed (Gesenius), or whom God manifestly favored (Kalisch, Murphy). This estimate of Abraham strikingly contrasts with that which the patriarch had formed (Ver. 4) of himself.
In the choice of our sepulchers bury thy dead; none of us will withhold from thee his sepulcher, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
This remarkable offer on the part of the Hittites Thomson ('Land and Book,' p. 578) regards as having been merely compliment, which Abraham was too experienced an Oriental not to understand. But, even if dictated by true kindness and generosity, the proposal was one to which for many reasons - faith in God, love for the dead, and respect for himself being among the strongest - the patriarch could not accede. With perfect courtesy, therefore, though likewise with respectful firmness, he declines their offer.
Hear us, my lord: thou
a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land,
to the children of Heth.
And Abraham stood up
(the customary posture among Orientals in buying and selling being that of sitting),
and bowed himself to the people of the land
, even to the children of Hath - an act of respect quite accordant with modern Oriental manners (
Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 579).
And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
Verses 8, 9.
And he communed with them, saying, If it be year mind
if it be with your souls
, the word
being used in this sense in
that I should bury my dead out of my might; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar.
The ruler of the city (Keil); but this is doubtful (Lange). "There is scarcely anything in the habits of Orientals more annoying to us Occidentals than this universal custom of employing mediators to pass between you and-those with whom you wish to do business. Nothing can be done without them. A merchant cannot sell a piece of print, nor a farmer a yoke of oxen, nor any one rent a house, buy a horse, or
get a wife
, without a succession of go-betweens. Of course Abraham knew that this matter of the field could not be brought about without the intervention of the neighbors of Ephron, and therefore he applies to them first" ('Land and Book,' p. 579).
That he may give me the cave of Machpelah
, - Machpelah is regarded as a proper noun (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch, Rosenmüller), as in
, though by others it is considered as an appellative, signifying that the cave was double (LXX., Vulgate), either as consisting of a cave within a cave (Hamerus), or of one cave exterior and another interior (Abort Ezra), or as having room for two bodies (Calvin), or as possessing two entrances (Jewish interpreters). It is probable the cave received its name from its peculiar form, -
which he hath
(Ephron s ownership of the cave is expressly recognized, and its situation is next described),
which is in the end of his field
- "so that the cession of it will not injure his property" (Wordsworth). At the same time Abraham makes it clear that an honest purchase is what he contemplates.
For as much money as it is worth
for full silver
1 Chronicles 21:22
(Scotch) for money. This is the first mention of the use of the precious metals as a medium of exchange, though they must have been so employed at a very early period (
he shall give it me for a possession of a burying-place amongst you.
The early Chaldaeans were accustomed to bury their dead in strongly-constructed brick vaults. Those found at Mughheir are seven feet long, three feet seven inches broad, and five feet high, are composed of sun-dried bricks embedded in mud, and exhibit a remarkable form and construction of arch, resembling that occur ring in Egyptian buildings and Scythian tombs, in which the successive layers of brick are made to overlap until they come so close that the aperture may be covered by a single brick (Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' Vol. 1. p. 86). In the absence of such artificial receptacles for the dead, the nearest substitute the patriarch could obtain was one of those natural grottoes which the limestone hills of Canaan so readily afforded.
That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which
in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.
And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth,
of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth
(Vulgate), in the sense of resided amongst, but
(LXX.); was then present sitting amongst the townspeople (Rosenmüller), but whether in the capacity of a magistrate or councilor is not stated.
And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Hath, even of all that went in at the gate of his city,
- this does not imply that he was the chief magistrate (Keil), but only that he was a prominent citizen (Murphy). On the gate of the city as a place for transacting business
Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that
therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee
- an Oriental mode of expressing willingness to sell. Ephron would make a present of cave and field to the patriarch, - "and just so have I had a hundred houses, and fields, and horses given to me" ('Land and Book,' p. 578), - the design being either to obtain a valuable compensation in return, or to preclude any abatement in the price (Keil), though possibly the offer to sell the entire field when he might have secured a good price for the cave alone was an indication of Ephron's good intention (Lange). At least it seems questionable to conclude that Ephron's generous phrases, which have now become formal and hollow courtesies indeed, meant no more in that simpler age when the ceremonies of intercourse were newer, and more truly reflected its spirit (Dykes, 'Abraham, the Friend of God,' p. 287).
In the presence of the ions of my people give I it thee
have I given
, the transaction being viewed as finished):
bury thy dead.
And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
Verses 12, 13.
And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
To express his sense of their kindness, and appreciation of Ephron's offer in particular; aider which he courteously but firmly urged forward the contemplated purchase.
And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me
if thou, I would that thou wouldst hear me
, the two particles
being conjoined to express the intensity of the speaker's desire.
I will give thee money for the field.
of the field, i.e.
the value of the field in money. This seems to indicate that Abraham at least imagined Ephron's offer of the field and cave as a gift to be not wholly formal. Had he regarded Ephron as all the while desirous of a sale, he would not have employed the language of entreaty.
Take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou
wilt give it
, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take
of me, and I will bury my dead there.
And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
Verses 14, 15.
And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver.
The word "shekel," from
, to weigh, here used for the first time, was not a stamped coin, but a piece of metal of definite weight, according to
, equal to twenty gerahs, or beans, from
, to roll. Coined money was unknown to the Hebrews until after the captivity. In the time of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 15:6) silver coins were struck bearing the inscription
. According to Josephus (Ant., iii. 8, 2) the shekel in use in his day was equal to four Athenian drachmae; and if, as is believed, these were one-fifth larger than the old shekels coined by Simon Maccabeus, the weight of the latter would be equal to three and one-third drachms, or two hundred grains, reckoning sixty grains to a drachm. It is impossible to ascertain the weight of the shekel current with the merchant in the time of Abraham; but reckoning it at a little less than 2s. 6d. sterling, the price of Ephron's field must have been somewhat under £50; a very consider able sum of money, which the Hittite merchant begins to depreciate by representing as a trifle, saying,
What is that betwixt me and thee?
- words which are still heard in the East on similar occasions (
' Land and Book,' p. 578) -
bury therefore thy dead.
My lord, hearken unto me: the land
four hundred shekels of silver; what
that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current
with the merchant.
And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron
(either as knowing that the price he asked was reasonable, or as being in no humor to bargain with him on the subject);
and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver
, - "Even this is still common; for although coins have now a definite name, size, and value, yet every merchant carries a small apparatus by which he weighs each coin to see that it has not been tampered with by Jewish Clippers" ('Land and Book,' p. 578) -
which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth
(the stipulation and the payment of the money were both made in the presence of witnesses),
four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant
silver passing with the
merchant, or goer about,
with merchandise; from
, to go about (cf..
). The Canaanites, of whom the Hittites were a branch, were among the earliest traders of antiquity (cf. Job 40:30;
); and the silver bars employed as the medium of exchange in their mercantile transactions were probably stamped in some rude fashion to indicate their weight.
And the field of Ephron, which
in Machpelah, which
before Mamre, the field, and the cave which
therein, and all the trees that
in the field, that
in all the borders round about, were made sure
Verses 17, 18.
And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah
, - here the word is used as a proper name (
which was before Mamre,
over against (Lange), to the east of (Keil), the oak grove -
the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about
, - "In like manner the
in the contract are just such as are found in modern deeds. It is not enough that you purchase a well-known lot; the contract must mention everything that belongs to it, and certify that fountains or wells in it, trees upon it, &c., are sold with the field" ('Land and Book,' p. 578) -
were made sure
stood up or arose, i.e.
were confirmed (cf.
Leviticus 27:14, 19
unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of the city.
"This also is true to life. When any sale is now to be effected in a town or village, the whole population gather about the parties at the usual place of concourse, around or near the gate where there is one. There all take part and enter into the pros and cons with as much earnestness as if it were their own individual affair. By these means the operation, in all its circumstances and details, is known to many witnesses, and the thing is made
without any written contract" ('Land and Book,' p. 579).
Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same
Hebron in the land of Canaan.
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife
- with what funeral rites can only be conjectured. Monumental evidence attests that the practice of embalming the dead existed in Egypt in the reign of Amunophth I. (
), though probably originating, earlier. (Sharpe's 'Egypt, vol. 1. p. 31); and an examination of the Mugheir vaults for burying the dead shows that among the early Chaldaeans it was customary to place the corpse upon a matting of reed spread upon a brick floor, the head being pillowed on a single sun-dried brick, and the body turned on its left side, the right arm falling towards the left, and the fingers resting on the edge of a copper bowl, usually placed on the palm of the left hand (
Rawlinson s 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 87) -
in the cave of the field of Machpelah before: Mamre
. In which also in succession his own remains and those of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were deposited, Rachel alone of the great patriarchal family being absent. This last resting-place of Abraham and his sons, as of Sarah and her daughters, has been identified with
, an hour's journey to the north of Hebron (which is too distant), where the foundations of an ancient heathen temple are still pointed out as Abraham's house; but is more probably to be sought for in the Mohammedan mosque
, built of colossal blocks, and situated on the mountain slope of Hebron towards the east (Robinson, Thomson, Stanley, Tristram), which, after having been for 600 years hermetically sealed against Europeans, - only three during that period having gained access to it in disguise, - was visited in 1862 by the Prince of Wales and party (
Stanley, 'Lectures on Jewish Church,' App. 2.).
The same is Hebron in the land of Canaan
And the field, and the cave that
therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.
And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying-place by the sons of Heth
. The palpable discrepancy between the statements of the Hebrew historian in this chapter concerning the patriarchal sepulcher and those of the Christian orator when addressing the Jewish Sanhedrim (
) has been well characterized as
praegravis quaedam et perardua, et quorundam judicio inextricabilis quaestio
(Pererius). Of course the Gordian knot of difficulty may be very readily cut by boldly asserting that a mistake has been committed somewhere; either by Stephen, the original speaker, under the impulse of emotion confounding the two entirely different stories of Abraham's purchase of Machpelah and Jacob's buying of the field near Shechem (Beds, Clarke, Lange, Kalisch, Alford, and others); or by Luke, the first recorder of the Martyr's Apology, who wrote not the
of the speech, but simply his own recollection of them (Jerome); or by some subsequent transcriber who had tampered with the original text, as, e.g., inserting
, which Luke and Stephen both had omitted, as the nominative to
(Beza, Calvin, Bishop Pearce). The Just of these hypotheses would not indeed be fatal to the Inspiration of the record; but the claims of either Luke or Stephen to be authoritative teachers on the subject of religion would be somewhat hard to maintain if it once were admitted that they had blundered on a plain point in their own national history. And yet it is doubtful if any of the proposed solutions of the problem is perfectly satisfactory; such as
that the two purchases of Abraham and Jacob are here intentionally, for the sake of brevity, compressed into one account (Bengel, Pererius, Willet, Hughes); or
that Abraham bought two graves, one at Hebron of Ephron the Hittite, as recorded by Moses, and another at Shechem of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem (Words. worth); or
that the words "which Abraham bought for a sum of money" should be regarded as a parenthesis, and the sentence read as intimating that Jacob and the fathers were carried over into Shechem, and (afterwards) by the sons of Hamor the lather of Shechem interred in Abraham's sepulcher at Hebron (Cajetan). Obvious difficulties attach to each of them; but the facts shine out clear enough in spite of the encompassing obscurity, viz., that Abraham bought a tomb at Hebron, in which first the dust of Sarah was deposited, and to which afterwards the bodies of himself, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were consigned, while Joseph and the twelve patriarchs, who all died in Egypt, were brought over to the promised land and buried in Jacob's field at Shechem.
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