Genesis 23:8
And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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 now makes a specific offer to purchase the field of Makpelah from Ephron the son of Zohar. "Treat for me" - deal, use your influence with him. Abraham approaches in the most cautious manner to the individual with whom he wishes to treat. "The cave of Makpelah." The burial of the dead in caves, natural and artificial, was customary in this Eastern land. The field seems to have been called Makpelah (doubled) from the double form of the cave, or the two caves perhaps communicating with each other, which it contained. "For the full silver." Silver seems to have been the current medium of commerce at this time. God was known, and mentioned at an earlier period Genesis 2:11; Genesis 13:2. "A possession of a burying-ground." We learn from this passage that property in land had been established at this time. Much of the country, however, must have been a common, or unappropriated pasture ground.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.

Heb. If it be with, i.e. agreeable to, your soul, that is, your will, or good pleasure; for so the soul is sometimes taken, as Deu 23:24 Psalm 27:12 41:2.

And he communed with them,.... Entered into a discourse and conversation with them upon the above subject:

saying, if it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; that is, in some place belonging to them, otherwise they could have no objection to the burying of his wife anywhere else: if now what they had said were not spoken in a complaisant way, but it was their real mind and will, and they were sincere and hearty in it, and very desirous of obliging him with a place among them for the interment of his dead; then he had this favour to ask of them:

hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar; a principal man among the Hittites, who had a field and a cave in it, near where Abraham dwelt, and very convenient for him, and for this purpose of his now under consideration: this man seems to be present at this time, as appears from Genesis 23:10; but Abraham did not think fit to address him himself, lest he should not so well and so easily succeed; and therefore entreats the princes of Heth to unite in a request to Ephron for the favour after mentioned, which he supposed they would not be backward to, if they were hearty in this affair; and, if Ephron was present, as he seems to be, it was a very handsome, honourable, and modest address to him through his brethren, which he could not with any politeness well withstand. The request follows:

And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. communed with] Heb. “spake with.” The word “communed” is unnecessarily formal as a translation, cf. Genesis 18:33.

Verses 8, 9. - And he communed with them, saying, If it be year mind - literally, if it be with your souls, the word nephesh being used in this sense in Psalm 27:12; Psalm 41:3; Psalm 105:22 - that I should bury my dead out of my might; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar. The ruler of the city (Keil); but this is doubtful (Lange). "There is scarcely anything in the habits of Orientals more annoying to us Occidentals than this universal custom of employing mediators to pass between you and-those with whom you wish to do business. Nothing can be done without them. A merchant cannot sell a piece of print, nor a farmer a yoke of oxen, nor any one rent a house, buy a horse, or get a wife, without a succession of go-betweens. Of course Abraham knew that this matter of the field could not be brought about without the intervention of the neighbors of Ephron, and therefore he applies to them first" ('Land and Book,' p. 579). That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, - Machpelah is regarded as a proper noun (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch, Rosenmüller), as in Genesis 49:30, though by others it is considered as an appellative, signifying that the cave was double (LXX., Vulgate), either as consisting of a cave within a cave (Hamerus), or of one cave exterior and another interior (Abort Ezra), or as having room for two bodies (Calvin), or as possessing two entrances (Jewish interpreters). It is probable the cave received its name from its peculiar form, - which he hath (Ephron s ownership of the cave is expressly recognized, and its situation is next described), which is in the end of his field - "so that the cession of it will not injure his property" (Wordsworth). At the same time Abraham makes it clear that an honest purchase is what he contemplates. For as much money as it is worth - literally, for full silver (1 Chronicles 21:22). Cf. siller (Scotch) for money. This is the first mention of the use of the precious metals as a medium of exchange, though they must have been so employed at a very early period (vide Genesis 13:2) - he shall give it me for a possession of a burying-place amongst you. The early Chaldaeans were accustomed to bury their dead in strongly-constructed brick vaults. Those found at Mughheir are seven feet long, three feet seven inches broad, and five feet high, are composed of sun-dried bricks embedded in mud, and exhibit a remarkable form and construction of arch, resembling that occur ring in Egyptian buildings and Scythian tombs, in which the successive layers of brick are made to overlap until they come so close that the aperture may be covered by a single brick (Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' Vol. 1. p. 86). In the absence of such artificial receptacles for the dead, the nearest substitute the patriarch could obtain was one of those natural grottoes which the limestone hills of Canaan so readily afforded. Genesis 23:8He 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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