Genesis 23:17
And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure
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(17) Before Mamre.—That is, opposite to it. The Haram wherein the bodies of Abraham and Sarah lie, is situated on the eastern side of the valley, so that Abraham’s oak-grove must have been on its western slope. The old Christian tradition, which places it at Ramet-el-Chalil, does not agree with this description, and is, moreover, too far away. The remains pointed out there as those of Abraham’s house, are the ruins of a heathen temple. But it is useless to look for any remains of the abode of a nomad dwelling in tents, especially after the site has been occupied by a great city. Moreover, Hebron itself has changed its position. For Benjamin of Tudela, who visited it nearly seven centuries ago, says that the old Hebron was on the heights, but had been abandoned, and that the new city lay in the valley.

The field, and the cave . . . —It is interesting to compare this document, so legally exact and full, with the numerous tablets of terra-cotta now in our museums, and which record with equal exactness the daily business transactions of the people of Ur-Chasdim, whence Abraham had migrated.

23:14-20 Prudence, as well as justice, directs us to be fair and open in our dealings; cheating bargains will not bear the light. Abraham, without fraud or delay, pays the money. He pays it at once in full, without keeping any part back; and by weight, current money with the merchant, without deceit. See how anciently money was used for the help of trade, and how honestly it should be paid when it is due. Though all the land of Canaan was Abraham by promise, yet the time of his possessing it not being come, what he had occasion for he bought and paid for. Dominion is not founded in grace. The saints' title to an eternal inheritance does not entitle them to the possessions of this world, nor justify them in doing wrong. Ephron honestly and fairly makes a good title to the land. As that which is bought, must be honestly paid for, so that which is sold, must be honestly delivered and secured. Let us manage our concerns with punctuality and exactness, in order to avoid contention. Abraham buried Sarah in cave. or vault, which was in the purchased field. It would tend to endear the land to his posterity. And it is worth noting, that a burying-place was the only piece of the land which Abraham possessed in Canaan. Those who have least of this earth, find a grave in it. This sepulchre was at the end of the field; whatever our possessions are, there is a burial-place at the end of them. It was a token of his belief and expectation of the resurrection. Abraham is contented to be still a pilgrim while he lives, but secures a place where, when he dies, his flesh may rest in hope. After all, the chief concern is, with whom we shall rise.The completion of the sale is stated with great formality. No mention is made of any written deed of sale. Yet Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remained in undisturbed possession of this burial-ground. Undisputed tenure seems to have been acknowledged as a title. The burial of Sarah is then simply noted. The validity of Abraham's title is practically evinced by the actual burial of Sarah, and is recited again on account of the importance of the fact.

This chapter is interesting as containing the first record of mourning for the dead, of burial, of property in land, of purchase of land, of silver as a medium of purchase, and of a standard of weight. Mourning for the dead was, no doubt, natural on the first death. Burial was a matter of necessity, in order, as Abraham says, to remove the body out of sight, as soon as it was learned by experience that it would be devoured by beasts of prey, or become offensive by putrefaction. To bury or cover it with earth was a more easy and natural process than burning, and was therefore earlier and more general. Property in land was introduced where tribes became settled, formed towns, and began to practise tillage. Barter was the early mode of accommodating each party with the articles he needed or valued. This led gradually to the use of the precious metals as a "current" medium of exchange - first by weight, and then by coins of a fixed weight and known stamp.

The burial of Sarah is noted because she was the wife of Abraham and the mother of the promised seed. The purchase of the field is worthy of note, as it is the first property of the chosen race in the promised land. Hence, these two events are interwoven with the sacred narrative of the ways of God with man.

- The Marriage of Isaac

26. קרד qādad, "bow the head." השׁתחוה shâchâh, "bow the body."

29. לבן lābān, "Laban, white."

In this circumstantial account of the marriage of Isaac, we have a beautiful picture of ancient manners in the East, the living original of which the present customs of that cradle of mankind are a striking copy.

16. Abraham weighed … the silver—The money, amounting to £50 was paid in presence of the assembled witnesses; and it was weighed. The practice of weighing money, which is often in lumps or rings, each stamped with their weight, is still common in many parts of the East; and every merchant at the gates or the bazaar has his scales at his girdle. No text from Poole on this verse. And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah,.... This clearly shows that Machpelah is the proper name of a place or tract of ground, and not an appellative, or to be rendered the double cave, since a field could never be said to be in a cave: and yet some have been so stupid, as Vatablus observes, as to render the words,"the field of Ephron, which was in the double cave,''whereas, on the contrary, the cave was in that field; and so the Vulgate version, to better sense, though not agreeably to the Hebrew text,"the field of Ephron, in which was the double cave:"

which was before Mamre; or over against it, the place where Abraham dwelt, which was in Hebron, Genesis 13:18,

the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure; or "rose", or "stood up" (f). Jarchi thinks the reason of this phrase, or way of speaking, is, because this field, with all belonging to it, came into the hands of a greater person; out of the hands of a private man into the hands of a king; and so Abraham indeed is called by some Heathen writers (g); but Aben Ezra and Ben Melech much better interpret it,"it was confirmed and stood;''that is, it was ensured to him, and remained with him, even that, and all upon it and in it, throughout the whole circumference of it.

(f) Heb. "surrexit", Munster, Vatablus, Piscator; "stetit", Montanus, Schmidt. (g) Nicolaus Damascenus apud Euseb. Praepar. l. 9. c. 6. p. 417. Justin. e Trogo, l. 38. c. 2.

And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure
17. So the field of Ephron] This and the following verses contain, in language of legal minuteness, the description of the purchase. The sentence probably represents the form of a deed of sale, such as was included in Hebrew contracts. Similar minute details are found in Babylonian legal deeds of sale. Notice the particular mention of “the field,” “the cave,” “all the trees,” “all the border,” “made sure,” “in the presence of,” “all that went in at the gate of his city.”

before Mamre] i.e. “in front of” = “to the east of,” as in Genesis 23:19, cf. Genesis 16:12, Genesis 25:18; Numbers 21:11; Deuteronomy 32:49 (“over against”). For Mamre, a locality either identified with, or contiguous to, Hebron, cf. Genesis 13:18, Genesis 35:27.Verses 17, 18. - And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, - here the word is used as a proper name (vide supra) - which was before Mamre, - לִפְגֵי over against (Lange), to the east of (Keil), the oak grove - the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, - "In like manner the operations in the contract are just such as are found in modern deeds. It is not enough that you purchase a well-known lot; the contract must mention everything that belongs to it, and certify that fountains or wells in it, trees upon it, &c., are sold with the field" ('Land and Book,' p. 578) - were made sure - literally, stood up or arose, i.e. were confirmed (cf. Leviticus 27:14, 19) - unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of the city. "This also is true to life. When any sale is now to be effected in a town or village, the whole population gather about the parties at the usual place of concourse, around or near the gate where there is one. There all take part and enter into the pros and cons with as much earnestness as if it were their own individual affair. By these means the operation, in all its circumstances and details, is known to many witnesses, and the thing is made sure without any written contract" ('Land and Book,' p. 579). He 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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