Genesis 23:3
And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
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(3) Abraham stood up from before his dead.—His first care on arriving at Hebron had been to prostrate himself in Sarah’s tent, and give utterance to his grief. Only after this he rises to prepare for her burial.

The sons of Heth.—Up to this time we have read only of Amorites, Mamre and his toothers, at Hebron. It now appears that it was the property of the Hittites, a race who, while the Israelites sojourned in Egypt, became so powerful as to contend for empire with the Egyptians themselves. Their capital was Emesa in Northern Syria, and their history is now being made known to us not only by means of Egyptian records, but also of inscriptions in their own language (See Note on Genesis 10:15).

23:1-13 The longest life must shortly come to a close. Blessed be God that there is a world where sin, death, vanity, and vexation cannot enter. Blessed be his name, that even death cannot part believers from union with Christ. Those whom we most love, yea, even our own bodies, which we so care for, must soon become loathsome lumps of clays, and be buried out of sight. How loose then should we be to all earthly attachments and adornments! Let us seek rather that our souls be adorned with heavenly graces. Abraham rendered honour and respect to the princes of Heth, although of the ungodly Canaanites. The religion of the Bible enjoins to pay due respect to all in authority, without flattering their persons, or countenancing their crimes if they are unworthy characters. And the noble generosity of these Canaanites shames and condemns the closeness, selfishness, and ill-humour of many that call themselves Israelites. It was not in pride that Abraham refused the gift, because he scorned to be beholden to Ephron; but in justice and in prudence. Abraham was able to pay for the field, and therefore would not take advantage of Ephron's generosity. Honesty, as well as honour, forbids us to take advantage of our neighbour's liberality, and to impose, upon those who give freely.Abraham purchases a burying-ground in the land. "The sons of Heth." These are the lords of the soil. "A stranger and a sojourner." He is a stranger, not a Hittite; a sojourner, a dweller in the land, not a mere visitor or traveller. The former explains why he has no burial-ground; the latter, why he asks to purchase one. "Bury my dead out of my sight." The bodies of those most dear to us decay, and must be removed from our sight. Abraham makes his request in the most general terms. In the somewhat exaggerated style of Eastern courtesy, the sons of Heth reply, "Hear us, my lord." One speaks for all; hence, the change of number. "My lord" is simply equivalent to our "Sir," or the German "mein Herr." "A prince of God" in those times of simple faith was a chief notably favored of God, as Abraham had been in his call, his deliverance in Egypt, his victory over the kings, his intercession for the cities of the vale, and his protection the court of Abimelek. Some of these events were well known to the Hittites, as they had occurred while he was residing among them.Ge 23:3-20. Purchase of a Burying-Place.

3. Abraham stood up, &c.—Eastern people are always provided with family burying-places; but Abraham's life of faith—his pilgrim state—had prevented him acquiring even so small a possession (Ac 7:5).

spake unto the sons of Heth—He bespoke their kind offices to aid him in obtaining possession of a cave that belonged to Ephron—a wealthy neighbor.

To show his moderation in sorrow, and to take care for her burial, according to his duty.

And Abraham stood up from before his dead,.... The corpse of Sarah, by which he sat pensive and mourning, perhaps upon the ground, as was the custom of mourners, Job 1:13; where having sat awhile, he rose up and went out of the tent, to provide for the funeral of his wife as became him:

and spake unto the sons of Heth; the descendants of Heth the son of Canaan, see Genesis 10:15; who were at this time the inhabitants and proprietors of that part of the land where Abraham now was: saying; as follows:

And Abraham {a} stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

(a) That is, when he had mourned: so the godly may mourn if they do not pass measure, and the natural affection is commendable.

3. rose up] The use of this word is explained by the habitual attitude of prostration in mourning. Cf. 2 Samuel 12:16-17; 2 Samuel 12:20.

the children of Heth] See note on Genesis 10:15. Cf. Genesis 26:34, Genesis 27:46, Genesis 49:32 (P). Hittites seem to have amalgamated with native Canaanites. In P, here, and in Genesis 28:1; Genesis 28:8, they seem to be identified with Canaanites. The settlements of Hittites in the N. of Palestine may have extended in groups and families southwards. But “the children of Heth” are here spoken of as the native inhabitants of Hebron. Ezekiel regards “Amorites” and “Hittites” as original dwellers in Palestine (Genesis 16:3; Genesis 45).

Verse 3. - 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 before (literally, from over the face of) his dead, - "Sarah, though dead, was still his" (Wordsworth) - and spake unto the sons of Heth. - the Hittites were descendants of Heth, the son of Canaan (vide Genesis 10:15). Cf. "daughters of Heth" (Genesis 27:46) and "daughters of Canaan" (Genesis 28:1) - saying. Genesis 23:3He then went to the Hittites, the lords and possessors of the city and its vicinity at that time, to procure from them "a possession of a burying-place." The negotiations were carried on in the most formal style, in a public assembly "of the people of the land," i.e., of natives (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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