And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, 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, were made sure
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Before Mamre.—That is, opposite to it. The Haram wherein the bodies of Abraham and Sarah lie, is situated on the eastern side of the valley, so that Abraham’s oak-grove must have been on its western slope. The old Christian tradition, which places it at Ramet-el-Chalil, does not agree with this description, and is, moreover, too far away. The remains pointed out there as those of Abraham’s house, are the ruins of a heathen temple. But it is useless to look for any remains of the abode of a nomad dwelling in tents, especially after the site has been occupied by a great city. Moreover, Hebron itself has changed its position. For Benjamin of Tudela, who visited it nearly seven centuries ago, says that the old Hebron was on the heights, but had been abandoned, and that the new city lay in the valley.
The field, and the cave . . . —It is interesting to compare this document, so legally exact and full, with the numerous tablets of terra-cotta now in our museums, and which record with equal exactness the daily business transactions of the people of Ur-Chasdim, whence Abraham had migrated.
This chapter is interesting as containing the first record of mourning for the dead, of burial, of property in land, of purchase of land, of silver as a medium of purchase, and of a standard of weight. Mourning for the dead was, no doubt, natural on the first death. Burial was a matter of necessity, in order, as Abraham says, to remove the body out of sight, as soon as it was learned by experience that it would be devoured by beasts of prey, or become offensive by putrefaction. To bury or cover it with earth was a more easy and natural process than burning, and was therefore earlier and more general. Property in land was introduced where tribes became settled, formed towns, and began to practise tillage. Barter was the early mode of accommodating each party with the articles he needed or valued. This led gradually to the use of the precious metals as a "current" medium of exchange - first by weight, and then by coins of a fixed weight and known stamp.
The burial of Sarah is noted because she was the wife of Abraham and the mother of the promised seed. The purchase of the field is worthy of note, as it is the first property of the chosen race in the promised land. Hence, these two events are interwoven with the sacred narrative of the ways of God with man.
- The Marriage of Isaac
26. קרד qādad, "bow the head." השׁתחוה shâchâh, "bow the body."
29. לבן lābān, "Laban, white."
In this circumstantial account of the marriage of Isaac, we have a beautiful picture of ancient manners in the East, the living original of which the present customs of that cradle of mankind are a striking copy.
which was before Mamre; or over against it, the place where Abraham dwelt, which was in Hebron, Genesis 13:18,
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, were made sure; or "rose", or "stood up" (f). Jarchi thinks the reason of this phrase, or way of speaking, is, because this field, with all belonging to it, came into the hands of a greater person; out of the hands of a private man into the hands of a king; and so Abraham indeed is called by some Heathen writers (g); but Aben Ezra and Ben Melech much better interpret it,"it was confirmed and stood;''that is, it was ensured to him, and remained with him, even that, and all upon it and in it, throughout the whole circumference of it.And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, 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, were made sure
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. So the field of Ephron] This and the following verses contain, in language of legal minuteness, the description of the purchase. The sentence probably represents the form of a deed of sale, such as was included in Hebrew contracts. Similar minute details are found in Babylonian legal deeds of sale. Notice the particular mention of “the field,” “the cave,” “all the trees,” “all the border,” “made sure,” “in the presence of,” “all that went in at the gate of his city.”
before Mamre] i.e. “in front of” = “to the east of,” as in Genesis 23:19, cf. Genesis 16:12, Genesis 25:18; Numbers 21:11; Deuteronomy 32:49 (“over against”). For Mamre, a locality either identified with, or contiguous to, Hebron, cf. Genesis 13:18, Genesis 35:27.Verses 17, 18. - And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, - here the word is used as a proper name (vide supra) - which was before Mamre, - לִפְגֵי 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 operations 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 - literally, 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 sure without any written contract" ('Land and Book,' p. 579). Genesis 23:7), in the gate of the city (Genesis 23:10). As a foreigner and sojourner, Abraham presented his request in the most courteous manner to all the citizens ("all that went in at the gate," Genesis 23:10, Genesis 23:18; a phrase interchangeable with "all that went out at the gate," Genesis 34:24, and those who "go out and in," Jeremiah 17:19). The citizens with the greatest readiness and respect offered "the prince of God," i.e., the man exalted by God to the rank of a prince, "the choice" (מבחר, i.e., the most select) of their graves for his use (Genesis 23:6). But Abraham asked them to request Ephron, who, to judge from the expression "his city" in Genesis 23:10, was then ruler of the city, to give him for a possession the cave of Machpelah, at the end of his field, of which he was the owner, "for full silver," i.e., for its full worth. Ephron thereupon offered to make him a present of both field and cave. This was a turn in the affair which is still customary in the East; the design, so far as it is seriously meant at all, being either to obtain a present in return which will abundantly compensate for the value of the gift, or, what is still more frequently the case, to preclude any abatement in the price to be asked. The same design is evident in the peculiar form in which Ephron stated the price, in reply to Abraham's repeated declaration that he was determined to buy the piece of land: "a piece of land of 400 shekels of silver, what is that between me and thee" (Genesis 23:15)? Abraham understood it so (ישׁמע Genesis 23:16), and weighed him the price demanded. The shekel of silver "current with the merchant," i.e., the shekel which passed in trade as of standard weight, was 274 Parisian grains, so that the price of the piece of land was 52, 10s.; a very considerable amount for that time.
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