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Summary: Abraham purchases land

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Genesis 23:1-20

John Shearhart

October 19, 2008

We’re making our way through Genesis: chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. After 25 years of waiting Abraham has a son, and then he’s commanded to sacrifice him to God as a burnt offering. It would have been very difficult (probably even impossible) for most people, but Abraham’s already learned that God can be trusted to keep His promises.

Since God has promised that Isaac will be a father, then Abraham reason there’s no way Isaac can die (or stay dead) at least until he has a child. So in faith in that promise Abraham goes to the top of the mountain, ties up his son, draws the knife, and just before plunging it into his son, God stops him and says something like, “Now you’re faith is made evident.”

And so, God provided a ram to die in Isaac’s place. The two worshiped on the mountain, and then they go back down. We don’t know how much time passes, but sometime later Sarah dies, and this is where we pick up this morning:

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2And 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.

And here we see again the curse of Adam taking its toll. The serpent lied to Eve when he said, “You will surely not die.” Even these people who are chosen by God from all the people of the earth still have to face their own mortality.

But it’s interesting to me that her death (at least as far as the chapters go) immediately follows the “life” of Isaac. Abraham figuratively received Isaac back from the dead (Heb. 11:19), but then he literally loses Sarah.

What may be more interesting about chapter 23 is that only 2 verses describe her death and burial, but 18 describe how Abraham purchased her burial plot.

At first, it may seem like Moses got it backwards. Shouldn’t we read more about how she died and what it meant for Abraham?

But the point you have two remember when reading this chapter is that Moses’ intention isn’t to be dramatic or to pull our heartstrings—the whole Bible is a book about how God has chosen His people, made them a promise, and then how He has fulfilled His promise.

The story we read in chapter 23 isn’t primarily about how Sarah dies but how Abraham receives land—Promised Land.

Up to now he’s been living in a tent on the plains owned by a man named Mamre. Not long ago he was able to secure the rights to use a certain well at Beersheba, but he still didn’t own the land. What we’re going to see today is how the stranger and sojourner acquires the first little spot of land that will one day be called Israel.

3And Abraham stood up from before his dead,

That is that he stopped his time of mourning,

and spake unto the sons of Heth,

Now, you’ll remember in the story of Noah how he got drunk on wine and passed out without wearing any clothes. He had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

His son, Ham, saw him and mocked him, so when Noah found out about it he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan (Gen. 9:20-25).

Well, Canaan had children of his own, and one of them was a boy named Heth (Gen. 10:15). The men dealing with Abraham in chapter 23 are Heth’s children, and they’re Canaanites who are under the curse.

Abraham’s line comes from Noah too, but he’s from Noah’s other son, Shem (Gen. 11:10, 26). So that makes Abraham and the sons of Heth distant cousins.

So he spoke to them,

saying, 4I am a stranger and a sojourner with you:

Now, Noah begat Shem, and Shem begat Arphaxad, and 8 begats later we come to Abraham. So a lot of time has passed, and a lot of people have been born so that even though Abraham and the children of Heth are technically cousins they don’t know each other.

When Abraham travels from Ur to Canaan he’s a stranger and only a temporary resident.

But that’s about to change:

give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

In other words, “I’ve got no place to bury my dead since I’m just a stranger here.”

5And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 6Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us:

Abraham’s done some mighty things while living here. He captured his nephew back from the Elamite king, he’s made a bargain with the king of Gerar, and everybody knows God is with him. So the children of Heth are willing to give him whatever he needs.

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