Genesis 23:20
And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.
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(20) Were made sure unto Abraham.—For the difficulties connected with St. Stephen’s apparent confusion of this transaction with that recorded in Genesis 33:19, see Note on Acts 7:16.

Genesis 23:20. A burying-place — It is worth noting, 1st, That a burying-place was the first spot of ground Abraham was possessed of in Canaan. 2d, That it was the only piece of land he was ever possessed of, though it was all his own in reversion. Those that have least of this earth find a grave in it.

23:14-20 Prudence, as well as justice, directs us to be fair and open in our dealings; cheating bargains will not bear the light. Abraham, without fraud or delay, pays the money. He pays it at once in full, without keeping any part back; and by weight, current money with the merchant, without deceit. See how anciently money was used for the help of trade, and how honestly it should be paid when it is due. Though all the land of Canaan was Abraham by promise, yet the time of his possessing it not being come, what he had occasion for he bought and paid for. Dominion is not founded in grace. The saints' title to an eternal inheritance does not entitle them to the possessions of this world, nor justify them in doing wrong. Ephron honestly and fairly makes a good title to the land. As that which is bought, must be honestly paid for, so that which is sold, must be honestly delivered and secured. Let us manage our concerns with punctuality and exactness, in order to avoid contention. Abraham buried Sarah in cave. or vault, which was in the purchased field. It would tend to endear the land to his posterity. And it is worth noting, that a burying-place was the only piece of the land which Abraham possessed in Canaan. Those who have least of this earth, find a grave in it. This sepulchre was at the end of the field; whatever our possessions are, there is a burial-place at the end of them. It was a token of his belief and expectation of the resurrection. Abraham is contented to be still a pilgrim while he lives, but secures a place where, when he dies, his flesh may rest in hope. After all, the chief concern is, with whom we shall rise.The completion of the sale is stated with great formality. No mention is made of any written deed of sale. Yet Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remained in undisturbed possession of this burial-ground. Undisputed tenure seems to have been acknowledged as a title. The burial of Sarah is then simply noted. The validity of Abraham's title is practically evinced by the actual burial of Sarah, and is recited again on account of the importance of the fact.

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.

19. Abraham buried Sarah—Thus he got possession of Machpelah and deposited the remains of his lamented partner in a family vault which was the only spot of ground he owned. No text from Poole on this verse.

And the field, and the cave that is therein, was made sure to Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace, by the sons of Heth. Who were witnesses of the transaction between Abraham and Ephron; and this was further made sure by Sarah's being buried in it, which was taking possession of it, for the use for which it was bought; and was a pledge and earnest of the future possession of the land of Canaan by the seed of Abraham: this was the first piece of ground in it possessed by Abraham and his seed; and it being called the possession of a buryingplace, shows that there is no contradiction between this and what Stephen says, Acts 7:5; he had a possession to bury in, but not to live upon; not any ground of his own to till and sow, or build upon. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace {f} by the sons of Heth.

(f) That is, all the people confirmed the sale.

20. were made sure] This verse repeats and summarizes the transaction which for all subsequent ages symbolized to the Israelites their ancestral connexion with, and sacred rights in, the land of Canaan.

a buryingplace] Besides Sarah there were buried in the cave of Machpelah, Abraham (Genesis 25:9), Isaac (Genesis 35:27; Genesis 35:29), Rebekah and Leah (Genesis 49:31), Jacob (Genesis 50:13).

The cave, which is traditionally identified with the burying-place of Abraham, is still regarded with immense veneration by the Mahommedans. A large mosque has been erected over it. In 1869 the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick, and in 1881 the late King Edward VII, who was then Prince of Wales, received permission to visit the cave. But, as a rule, Christians are not allowed to view it.

Verse 20. - 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 (Acts 7:16) 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 ipsissima verba 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 Αβραὰμ, which Luke and Stephen both had omitted, as the nominative to ὠνήσατο (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

(1) 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

(2) 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

(3) 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.

Genesis 23:20The repetition of the statement, that the field with the cave in it was conveyed to Abraham by the Hittites for a burial-place, which gives the result of the negotiation that has been described with, so to speak, legal accuracy, shows the great importance of the event to the patriarch. The fact that Abraham purchased a burying-place in strictly legal form as an hereditary possession in the promised land, was a proof of his strong faith in the promises of God and their eventual fulfilment. In this grave Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, were buried; there Jacob buried Leah; and there Jacob himself requested that he might be buried, thus declaring his faith in the promises, even in the hour of his death.
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