Genesis 23:4
I am 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) A possession of a buryingplace.—While strangers might pasture their cattle upon the open downs, yet the consent of the natives seems to have been necessary before Abraham could occupy any spot permanently (Genesis 15:13; Genesis 20:15). He now wanted even more, and for the actual appropriation of any portion of the soil a public compact and purchase was required, which must be ratified not merely by the seller but by the consent of all the tribe, convened in full assembly at the gate of the city. Thus, in spite of his power and wealth, Abraham, as regards his legal position towards the inhabitants, was but a stranger and sojourner (Hebrews 11:9), and could secure a resting- place for his dead only by their consent.

Genesis 23:4. I am a stranger and a sojourner with you — Therefore I am unprovided, and must become a suiter to you for a burying-place. This was one occasion which Abraham took to confess that he was a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth. The death of our relations should effectually put us in remembrance, that we are not at home in this world. That I may bury my dead out of my sight — Death will make those unpleasant to our sight, who, while they lived, were the “desire of our eyes.” The countenance that was fresh and lively becomes pale and ghastly, and fit to be removed into the land of darkness.

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.

The privilege of burial hath been always sought and prized by all nations, whom nature and humanity teacheth to preserve the bodies of men, which have been the temples of reasonable and immortal souls, from contempt and violation; so especially by Christians, as a testimony and pledge of their future resurrection. See Numbers 33:4 Deu 31:23 Job 5:26. For which cause Abraham desires a distinct burying-place separated from the pagan people.

With you, in Canaan. There he, and after him other patriarchs, earnestly desired to be buried, upon this account, that it might confirm their own and their children’s faith in God’s promise, and animate their children in due time to take possession of the land. See Genesis 25:9 47:29,30 50:13,25 Exo 13:19 Hebrews 11:22.

That I may bury my dead out of my sight; so she that before was the desire of his eyes, Ezekiel 24:16, is now, being dead, become their torment.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you,.... Not a native of the place, only dwelt as a sojourner among them for a time; but had not so much as a foot of ground he could call his own, and consequently had no place to inter his dead:

give me a possession of a buryingplace with you; not that he desired it as a free gift, but that he might be allowed to make a purchase of a piece of ground to bury his dead in; so the Targum of Jonathan,"sell me a possession,'' &c. Genesis 23:9; and this he was the rather desirous of, not only because it was according to the rules of humanity, and the general custom of all nations, to provide for the burial of their dead; but he was willing to have such a place in the land of Canaan for this purpose, to strengthen his faith and the faith of his posterity, and to animate their hope and expectation of being one day put into the possession of it; hence the patriarchs in later times, as Jacob and Joseph, were desirous of having their hones laid there:

that I may bury my dead out of my sight; for, though Sarah was a very lovely person in her life, and greatly desirable by Abraham, yet death had changed her countenance and was turning her into corruption, which rendered her unpleasant, and began to make her loathsome; so that there was a necessity of removing her out of his sight, who before had been so very agreeable to him; and this is the case of the dearest relation and friend at death.

I am 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. a stranger and a sojourner] Abraham describes himself, in a proverbial phrase, as one whose origin is foreign, and whose period of residence is uncertain. LXX πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος, Lat. advena et peregrinus; cf. Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 105:12; Hebrews 11:9. The same phrase is employed by St Peter in 1 Peter 2:11 to describe the shortness and uncertainty of life on earth, and to indicate that the true citizenship is in heaven. The “stranger,” in the Heb., belongs to the phraseology of nomad life; “the sojourner,” of settled life.

Verse 4. - I am a stranger and a sojourner with you. Ger, one living out of his own country, and Thoshabh, one dwelling in a land in which he is not naturalized; advena et peregrinus (Vulgate); πάροικος καὶ παρ ἐπίδημος (LXX.). This confession of the heir of Canaan was a proof that he sought, as his real inheritance, a better country, even an heavenly (Hebrews 11:13). 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. Isaiah 22:16 (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. Genesis 23:4He 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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