Chapter 23

Sarah’s Burial

    • When Sarah was 127 years old, she died in Hebron. Abraham mourned and wept for her.

      • “Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is recorded; it gives us some measure of how highly she is regarded in the Bible…Nowhere in in the Bible are we told to look to Mary the mother of Jesus as an example of a godly woman. Twice we are told to look to Sarah as such an example (Isaiah 51:1-2 and 1 Peter 3:3-6).” (Guzik)

    • Then, Abraham went to address the Hittite elders at the city gate and asked the them to give him a burial site since he was a foreigner in the land.

    • The Hittites responded that they knew that Abraham was the Lord’s chosen one. They told him he could bury Sarah in the finest tomb that they had- no one would deny him his chosen site.

    • Abraham bowed to the Hittites and told them to ask Ephron to sell him the cave of Machpelah at the end of his field for its full price.

    • Ephron was present in the crowd of Hittites so he came forward and told Abraham that he offered to give him the entire field and the cave.

    • Abraham bowed, and responded that he would pay the full price for the field.

    • Ephron then responded that the land was worth 400 pieces of silver, “but what is that between friends”, go ahead and bury your wife.

    • Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price and paid it in from of the Hittite elder witnesses. Abraham’s newly purchased land included the field near Mamre, the cave, and the surrounding trees.

      • To readers unaware of ancient customs these verses give the impression that Ephron was indeed willing to gift the field and the cave to Abraham as a burial site for Sarah. However, NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains the cultural context of this transaction, “Ephron did not intend to give the cave to Abraham; Abraham was expected to ‘give’ the full price in return. Ephron wanted to sell as much as he could to avoid responsibility for caring for the cave and to receive as high a price as possible. Abraham didn’t want the whole field, but he was willing to take it to get the cave. 400 pieces of silver was a very high price. Ephron’s politeness was typical of the bargaining process. Abraham paid the amount and finalized the transaction, avoiding indebtedness by accepting no gifts from the people. The Hittite elders witnessed the transaction, ensuring that no one could challenge Abraham’s full ownership of the land. The transaction took place at the city gate, where public legal and business dealings were conducted.”

    • Abraham then buried Sarah in the cave at Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron).

      • Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were all buried in this cave.

      • As a side note: For a long time secular historians claimed that the biblical Hittite people were mythical on the grounds that no archaeological evidence of their existence had been found. However, in 1906, archaeologist Hugo Winckler “discovered” the Hittites in Boghaz-Koy, Turkey. While excavating the city, he uncovered five temples, numerous sculptures, a castle, and a room containing over 10,000 clay tablets! After the tablets had been deciphered, it was revealed that Boghaz-Koy had indeed been the capital city of the Hittite people. (Apologetics Press, Hidden Hittites)

      • As it turns out, at one time the Hittites were one of three superpowers in the ancient world. (Biblical Archaeology, Who Were the Hittites)

Wall around Hittite capital city with gates depicting lions. Photo by Sonia Halliday Photographs/Photo by Jane Taylor