Genesis 23
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
Sarah’s age and death; Abraham mourns, Genesis 23:1,2. He speaks to the sons of Heth for a burying-place, Genesis 23:3,4. They offer him the choice of their sepulchres, Genesis 23:5,6. Abraham desires to purchase a field of Ephron, Genesis 23:8,9. Ephron would give it him, Genesis 23:10-15. Abraham purchases it, and weighs the silver, Genesis 23:16. The field made sure to Abraham for a possession before witnesses, Genesis 23:17-20.


This is the peculiar honour of Sarah the mother of the faithful, 1 Peter 3:6, to have the years of her life numbered in Scripture.

And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
Kirjath-arba, or, the city of Arba; so called probably from a giant or great man called Arba, who lived and ruled in those parts. See Joshua 14:15 15:13. It is objected against this scripture, that this city was not called Hebron till Joshua’s time, Joshua 14:15; but this is a mistake, Joshua doth not say so, but only that the name of Hebron before, ( or in old time), as this very particle is rendered, Deu 2:20, and elsewhere. So the sense is, the most ancient name of it was Kirjath-arba. Nor doth Joshua there give any account or reason of this change of the name at that time, or upon that occasion, as the sacred writers used to do in such cases, but rather supposeth that Hebron was the name of it before he came thither; and how long before that time he doth not express.

Abraham came into Sarah’s tent, {see Genesis 18:6,9}

to weep for her, according to the laudable custom of all ages and nations, to manifest their sense of God’s hand upon them, and of their own loss. See Genesis 50:3 Deu 34:8, &c.

And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
To show his moderation in sorrow, and to take care for her burial, according to his duty.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
The privilege of burial hath been always sought and prized by all nations, whom nature and humanity teacheth to preserve the bodies of men, which have been the temples of reasonable and immortal souls, from contempt and violation; so especially by Christians, as a testimony and pledge of their future resurrection. See Numbers 33:4 Deu 31:23 Job 5:26. For which cause Abraham desires a distinct burying-place separated from the pagan people.

With you, in Canaan. There he, and after him other patriarchs, earnestly desired to be buried, upon this account, that it might confirm their own and their children’s faith in God’s promise, and animate their children in due time to take possession of the land. See Genesis 25:9 47:29,30 50:13,25 Exo 13:19 Hebrews 11:22.

That I may bury my dead out of my sight; so she that before was the desire of his eyes, Ezekiel 24:16, is now, being dead, become their torment.

And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
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.

And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.
i.e. Showed a civil respect to them in testimony of his thankfulness. Religion allows and requires civility, and those gestures which express it.

To the people of the land; to the governors of the people, who managed all public affairs in the people’s name and stead, and for their good.

The children of Heth, so called from Heth the son of Canaan, Genesis 10:15.

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,
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.

That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.
Machpelah, which seems to be the proper name of the place, Genesis 23:17,19, so called from its duplicity, because the cave was double, either one for men, and another for women; or the one served only for an entrance into the other, which was the burying-place.

For as much money as it is worth; Heb. for full money, 1 Chronicles 21:22,24; i.e. for money of full weight, answerable to its worth.

And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
Ephron dwelt, Heb. did sit, to wit, at that time, as one of the chief or rulers of the people; for so the word sitting is oft used, as we shall see hereafter.

His city; either where he was born, or at least where he lived.

Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
But if thou wilt give it; it is a short speech, and something must be supplied; either if thou wilt give or resign it to me; or, if thou be the man of whom I speak; for though Abraham knew his name, he might not know him by face, nor that he was then present. He prudently chose rather to buy it than to receive it as a gift, partly because it would be the surer to him and his, Genesis 23:17,20, and partly because he would not have too great obligations to his pagan neighbours.

And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
No text from Poole on this verse.

My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
He speaks of the common shekel, which many value at fifteen pence of English money; but others, more probably, at two shillings and sixpence, rightly, as I conceive, supposing that this was of the same weight and value with the shekel of the sanctuary, which was so called, not as if that were double to the former, but only because all shekels were to be examined by that standard which was kept in the sanctuary.

What is that betwixt me and thee? both friends, and rich men; it is not worth any words or trouble between us.

And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
In those times silver was paid by weight, Genesis 43:21 Jeremiah 32:10.

Current money with the merchant, i.e. right for quality as well as weight in the judgment of merchants, whose frequent dealing in it makes them more able to judge of it.

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
No text from Poole on this verse.

Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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