bible blog 1270

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


Soda Steram Scarlett

Soda Stream Scarlett

Genesis 23:1-20

Good News Translation (GNT)

Sarah Dies and Abraham Buys a Burial Ground

23 Sarah lived to be 127 years old. She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan, and Abraham mourned her death.

He left the place where his wife’s body was lying, went to the Hittites, and said, “I am a foreigner living here among you; sell me some land, so that I can bury my wife.”

They answered, “Listen to us, sir. We look upon you as a mighty leader; bury your wife in the best grave that we have. Any of us would be glad to give you a grave, so that you can bury her.”

Then Abraham bowed before them and said, “If you are willing to let me bury my wife here, please ask Ephron son of Zohar to sell me Machpelah Cave, which is near the edge of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for its full price, here in your presence, so that I can own it as a burial ground.”

10 Ephron himself was sitting with the other Hittites at the meeting place at the city gate; he answered in the hearing of everyone there, 11 “Listen, sir; I will give you the whole field and the cave that is in it. Here in the presence of my own people, I will give it to you, so that you can bury your wife.”

12 But Abraham bowed before the Hittites 13 and said to Ephron, so that everyone could hear, “May I ask you, please, to listen. I will buy the whole field. Accept my payment, and I will bury my wife there.”

14 Ephron answered, 15 “Sir, land worth only four hundred pieces of silver—what is that between us? Bury your wife in it.” 16 Abraham agreed and weighed out the amount that Ephron had mentioned in the hearing of the people—four hundred pieces of silver, according to the standard weights used by the merchants.

Machpelah by Van Gogh

Machpelah by Van Gogh

17 That is how the property which had belonged to Ephron at Machpelah east of Mamre, became Abraham’s. It included the field, the cave which was in it, and all the trees in the field up to the edge of the property. 18 It was recognized as Abraham’s property by all the Hittites who were there at the meeting.

19 Then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in that cave in the land of Canaan. 2So the field which had belonged to the Hittites, and the cave in it, became the property of Abraham for a burial ground.

Doubtless this story is told to register Abraham’s right to the burial ground as a tiny marker that this is the land promised by God to his descendants. But there’s more to it. Firstly it is the place where Abraham buries Sarah his faithful wife and mother of all Israel. It is a gesture of love which characterises the promised land as a motherland. Also notable is the peacefulness with which Abraham goes about this business. He shows respect to the Hittite owners of the land who in turn show respect to him. Naturally they also recognise the need of nomad people to find burial ground for their dead; and probably also can see the trouble that this might cause in the future. They offer him the land nevertheless. When he specifies the cave of Machpelah, the owner of the field immediately and in public, offers it as a gift. Abraham however wants ownership as well as a sepulchre and makes it clear that he will purchase it, so that he and his descendants can be rightful owners, not dependant on a anyone’s favour. The owner understands and without demanding payment, names a price. In this graceful and traditional way a piece of the promised land become the legal property of Abraham.

Sarah, mother of Israel

Sarah, mother of Israel

If all of Israel’s settlements of Palestine, from Joshua to 1948, had been carried out with equivalent peacefulness, the area would not now be riven with the variety of conflicts consequent on conquest.


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