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Genesis 23

23
The Death of Sarah
1 Sarah lived 127 years.#tn Heb “And the years of Sarah were one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.” 2 Then she#tn Heb “Sarah.” The proper name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“she”) for stylistic reasons. died in Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.#sn Mourn…weep. The description here is of standard mourning rites (see K. A. Kitchen, NBD3 149-50). They would have been carried out in the presence of the corpse, probably in Sarah’s tent. So Abraham came in to mourn; then he rose up to go and bury his dead (v. 3).
3 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife#tn Heb “And Abraham arose from upon the face of his dead.” and said to the sons of Heth,#tn Some translate the Hebrew term “Heth” as “Hittites” here (also in vv. 5, 7, 10, 16, 18, 20), but this gives the impression that these people were the classical Hittites of Anatolia. However, there is no known connection between these sons of Heth, apparently a Canaanite group (see Gen 10:15), and the Hittites of Asia Minor. See H. A. Hoffner, Jr., “Hittites,” Peoples of the Old Testament World, 152-53. 4 “I am a temporary settler#tn Heb “a resident alien and a settler.” among you. Grant#tn Heb “give,” which is used here as an idiom for “sell” (see v. 9). The idiom reflects the polite bartering that was done in the culture at the time. me ownership#tn Or “possession.” of a burial site among you so that I may#tn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction expresses purpose. bury my dead.”#tn Heb “bury my dead out of my sight.” The last phrase “out of my sight” has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
5 The sons of Heth answered Abraham,#tn Heb “answered Abraham saying to him.” 6 “Listen, sir,#tn Heb “Hear us, my lord.” you are a mighty prince#tn Heb “prince of God.” The divine name may be used here as a means of expressing the superlative, “mighty prince.” The word for “prince” probably means “tribal chief” here. See M. H. Gottstein, “Nasi’ ‘elohim (Gen 23:6),” VT 3 (1953) 298-99; and D. W. Thomas, “Consideration of Some Unusual Ways of Expressing the Superlative in Hebrew,” VT 3 (1953) 215-16. among us! You may bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb to prevent you#tn The phrase “to prevent you” has been added in the translation for stylistic reasons. from burying your dead.”
7 Abraham got up and bowed down to the local people,#tn Heb “to the people of the land” (also in v. 12). the sons of Heth. 8 Then he said to them, “If you agree#tn Heb “If it is with your purpose.” The Hebrew noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here has the nuance “purpose” or perhaps “desire” (see BDB 661 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ). that I may bury my dead,#tn Heb “bury my dead out of my sight.” The last phrase “out of my sight” has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons. then hear me out.#tn Or “hear me.” Ask#tn Heb “intercede for me with.” Ephron the son of Zohar 9 if he will sell#tn Heb “give.” This is used here (also a second time later in this verse) as an idiom for “sell”; see the note on the word “grant” in v. 4. me the cave of Machpelah that belongs to him; it is at the end of his field. Let him sell it to me publicly#tn Heb “in your presence.” for the full price,#tn Heb “silver.” so that I may own it as a burial site.”
10 (Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth.) Ephron the Hethite#tn Or perhaps “Hittite,” but see the note on the name “Heth” in v. 3. replied to Abraham in the hearing#tn Heb “ears.” By metonymy the “ears” stand for the presence or proximity (i.e., within earshot) of the persons named. of the sons of Heth – before all who entered the gate#sn On the expression all who entered the gate see E. A. Speiser, “‘Coming’ and ‘Going’ at the City Gate,” BASOR 144 (1956): 20-23; and G. Evans, “‘Coming’ and ‘Going’ at the City Gate: A Discussion of Professor Speiser’s Paper,” BASOR 150 (1958): 28-33. of his city – 11 “No, my lord! Hear me out. I sell#tn Heb “give.” The perfect tense has here a present nuance; this is a formal, legally binding declaration. Abraham asked only for a burial site/cave within the field; Ephron agrees to sell him the entire field. you both the field and the cave that is in it.#tn The Hebrew text adds “to you I give [i.e., sell] it.” This is redundant in English and has not been translated for stylistic reasons. In the presence of my people#tn Heb “in the presence of the sons of my people.” I sell it to you. Bury your dead.”
12 Abraham bowed before the local people 13 and said to Ephron in their hearing, “Hear me, if you will. I pay#tn Heb “give.” to you the price#tn Heb “silver.” of the field. Take it from me so that I may#tn After the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction expresses purpose or result. bury my dead there.”
14 Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 “Hear me, my lord. The land is worth#tn The word “worth” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. 400 pieces of silver,#sn Four hundred pieces of silver. The standards for weighing money varied considerably in the ancient Near East, but the generally accepted weight for the shekel is 11.5 grams (0.4 ounce). This makes the weight of silver here 4.6 kilograms, or 160 ounces (about 10 pounds). but what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.”
16 So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price#tn Heb “listened to Ephron.” and weighed#tn Heb “and Abraham weighed out.” out for him#tn Heb “to Ephron.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. the price#tn Heb “silver.” that Ephron had quoted#tn Heb “that he had spoken.” The referent (Ephron) has been specified here in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons. in the hearing of the sons of Heth – 400 pieces of silver, according to the standard measurement at the time.#tn Heb “passing for the merchant.” The final clause affirms that the measurement of silver was according to the standards used by the merchants of the time.
17 So Abraham secured#tn Heb “And it was conveyed.” The recipient, Abraham (mentioned in the Hebrew text at the beginning of v. 18) has been placed here in the translation for stylistic reasons. Ephron’s field in Machpelah, next to Mamre, including the field, the cave that was in it, and all the trees that were in the field and all around its border, 18 as his property in the presence of the sons of Heth before all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city.#tn Heb “his city”; the referent (Ephron) has been specified in the translation for clarity.sn See G. M. Tucker, “The Legal Background of Genesis 23,” JBL 85 (1966):77-84; and M. R. Lehmann, “Abraham’s Purchase of Machpelah and Hittite Law,” BASOR 129 (1953): 15-18.
19 After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah next to Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So Abraham secured the field and the cave that was in it as a burial site#tn Heb “possession of a grave.” from the sons of Heth.

Genesis 23

23
Purchase of a Burial Plot.#The occasion for purchasing the land is the need for a burial site for Sarah, for it would be unthinkable to bury Sarah outside of the promised land. One of the two great promises to Abraham, that of progeny, has been fulfilled (21:1–7). And now the promise of land is to be fulfilled, through a kind of down payment on the full possession that will take place only with the conquest under Joshua and during the reign of David. This purchase has been prepared for by Abimelech’s recognition of Abraham’s claim to the well at Beer-sheba (21:22–34). Among the ancestral stories this narrative is one of two that are entirely from the P source (chap. 17 being the other). The Priestly writers may have intended to encourage the generation of the exile to a renewed hope of repossessing their land. 1The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years. 2She died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her. 3Then he left the side of his deceased wife and addressed the Hittites:#The Hittites: in the Bible the term is applied to several different groups—inhabitants of the second-millennium Hittite empire in Asia Minor and northern Syria, residents of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms in northern Syria in the first part of the first millennium, and (following Assyrian terminology) the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine. The third group is meant here. 4“Although I am a resident alien#A resident alien: such a one would normally not have the right to own property. The importance of Abraham’s purchase of the field in Machpelah, which is worded in technical legal terms, lies in the fact that it gave his descendants their first, though small, land rights in the country that God had promised the patriarch they would one day inherit as their own. Abraham therefore insists on purchasing the field and not receiving it as a gift. among you, sell me from your holdings a burial place, that I may bury my deceased wife.”#Gn 33:19; Acts 7:16; Heb 11:9. 5The Hittites answered Abraham: “Please, 6sir, listen to us! You are a mighty leader among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial sites. None of us would deny you his burial ground for the burial of your dead.” 7Abraham, however, proceeded to bow low before the people of the land, the Hittites, 8and said to them: “If you will allow me room for burial of my dead, listen to me! Intercede for me with Ephron, son of Zohar, 9so that he will sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns; it is at the edge of his field. Let him sell it to me in your presence at its full price for a burial place.”
10Now Ephron was sitting with the Hittites. So Ephron the Hittite replied to Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, all who entered the gate of his city: 11“Please, sir, listen to me! I give you both the field and the cave in it; in the presence of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead!” 12But Abraham, after bowing low before the people of the land, 13addressed Ephron in the hearing of these men: “If only you would please listen to me! I will pay you the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” 14Ephron replied to Abraham, “Please, 15sir, listen to me! A piece of land worth four hundred shekels#Four hundred shekels: probably an exorbitant sum; Jeremiah (32:9) paid only seventeen shekels for his field in Anathoth, though the Babylonian invasion no doubt helped to reduce the price. of silver—what is that between you and me? Bury your dead!” 16#Acts 7:16. Abraham accepted Ephron’s terms; he weighed out to him the silver that Ephron had stipulated in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver at the current market value.#The current market value: the standard weight called a shekel varied according to time and place.
17#Gn 49:29–30. Thus Ephron’s field in Machpelah, facing Mamre, together with its cave and all the trees anywhere within its limits, was conveyed 18to Abraham by purchase in the presence of the Hittites, all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city. 19After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan. 20Thus the field with its cave was transferred from the Hittites to Abraham as a burial place.