To Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.
in the presence of the children of Heth; they being witnesses of the bargain, and of the payment of the money by Abraham, and of the surrender of the field unto him, for his own use:
before all that went in at the gates of his city; not of Abraham's city, for he had none, but of Ephron's city, which was Hebron, see Genesis 23:10; these are either the same with the children of Heth, and so the clause is added by way of explanation, and including all the inhabitants of the place; or else different from them, they intending the princes of the people that composed the assembly Abraham addressed, and these the common people, the inhabitants of the place. Aben Ezra takes them to be the travellers that passed and repassed through the gates of the city: however, the design of the expression is to show in what a public manner this affair was transacted, and that the field was made as firm and as sure to Abraham as it could well be, no writings on such occasion being used so early.Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. all that went in at] See note on Genesis 23:10. The necessary witnesses of the transaction. There is no document to be attested.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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