Genesis 23:6
Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
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(6) A mighty prince.—Heb., a prince of God. Comp. “wind of God” (Genesis 1:2); “wrestlings of God” (Genesis 30:8); “mountains of God” (Psalm 36:6); “cedars of God” (Psalm 80:10). So also “a sleep of Jehovah” for a deep sleep (1Samuel 26:12).

In the choice of our sepulchres.—The interview between Abraham and the Hittites is marked by the utmost courtesy on both sides, but it is a mistake to suppose that this acceptance of the patriarch’s proposal contained the idea that he might select a sepulchre without paying for it. The payment, in true Oriental fashion, is kept in the background, but is pre-supposed on both sides. After the acceptance of his proposal, it was Abraham’s turn to name the burying-place he wished, and the owner next consents, but while treating the purchase-money as a matter of small importance, he nevertheless asks a very high price, to which Abraham at once consents.

Genesis 23:6. Thou art a prince of God — So it is in the original, not only great, but good. He called himself a stranger and a sojourner, they call him a great prince; and well they might, considering his wealth, prosperity, and retinue, and the simple manners of those times.

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.

Hear us, my lord: here is a conjunction of the plural and singular number, because though but one person spake, yet he spake in the name of the whole community.

A mighty prince; Heb. a prince of God. Great and excellent persons or things are oft expressed by adding the name of God. See Genesis 13:10. Or, by prince of God, they understand a prince favoured and beloved of God.

In the choice of our sepulchres; for each family had a distinct sepulchre.

Hear us, my lord,.... One of them spake in the name of the rest, who calls Abraham not "our lord", but "my lord"; addressing him very honourably, and desires he would hear what he had to say on the behalf of others with himself; "hear us", representing not the body of the common people, but the princes among them, the heads of their families:

thou art a mighty prince amongst us; though he was pleased to call himself a stranger and a sojourner, yet they had an high opinion of him, as a person of great wealth and substance, and of great power and authority; and who lived like a prince, and was a potent one, having a large train of servants under him: or, "a prince of God" (x), as it may be rendered; one raised up to grandeur and dignity by him; with whom he was, find in whose sight he had favour, and was very grateful and acceptable; and by whom he was highly honoured, and had in great esteem as a friend of his:

in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; as they had many, every family a distinct sepulchre for itself, they made offer of them to him, to bury his dead in the choicest of them, the most grand and magnificent, or in which of them soever he pleased; which was very kind, generous, and respectful:

none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead; there is not a man among us but what has such a regard for thee, that he will not deny thee the use of his sepulchre to bury thy dead in; and therefore need not scruple to make use of any that may be judged most proper and convenient: no doubt the speaker full well knew the mind of those in whose name he addressed Abraham.

(x) "princeps Dei", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Vatablus, Drusius, Schmidt, &c.

Hear us, my lord: thou art a {b} mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

{b} That is godly or excellent: for so do the Hebrews speak of all things that are notable, because all excellency comes from God.

6. my lord] A title of respect, Adoni (see note on Genesis 18:3). LXX Κύριε, Lat. domine.

a mighty prince] Heb. a prince of God. The Hebrew idiom for the superlative, “a prince worthy to rank with the sons of God”: cf. Deuteronomy 33:1. For other instances, cf. Psalm 36:6, “the mountains of God” = A.V. “the great mountains,” Psalm 80:10, “cedars of God” = A.V. “the goodly cedars.” See note on Genesis 10:9, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” For “prince,” nâsî, cf. Ezekiel 12:10; Ezekiel 27:21; Ezekiel 30:13; Ezekiel 32:29; Ezekiel 38:2.

in the choice of, &c.] In the complimentary style of Orientals the preliminaries to a business transaction are characterized by the greatest deliberateness and the greatest generosity. The opening proposal is that Abraham should make use of one of the “choicest” Hittite sepulchres, for the burial of Sarah. Even if the offer was meant seriously, Abraham will not accept it; he wishes to possess a burial-place of his own. For the phrase “the choice,” cf. Isaiah 22:7; Isaiah 37:24. It means what we should express familiarly as “the pick of.”

Probably their complimentary phrase is intended to conceal their dislike of selling a grave.

Genesis 23:6He 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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