Genesis
1-2 The Death of Sarah 3-20 A Burial Site and a Burial
The Death of Sarah

1Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah. 2Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

Before the next chapter Isaac gets his wife Rebekah, the death of Sara is mentioned first. In typology this is an important event. For we see here in the picture that first Israel – of which Sarah is a picture – is set aside, and that then the Lord Jesus – of whom Isaac is a picture – gets His bride, the church – of which Rebekah is a picture.

Sarah is the only woman whose age is mentioned in God’s Word. Her days are numbered by God. God also knows her faith. It seems as if she stood in the shadow of Abraham, but in Hebrews 11 there is also talk of her faith (Heb 11:1111By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.). It did not rely on Abraham’s faith, like Lot. She travelled the whole pilgrimage with Abraham and for sixty-two years she was a stranger and a sojourner. Together they have reached the goal, also in loyalty to each other. In all this she is an example to the believing woman now (1Pet 3:5-65For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.).

What she has meant to Abraham is shown by his reaction at her death. He mourns for her and spares no effort to give her a worthy funeral and a worthy grave. Here we find for the first time tears with Abraham. We do not read about this when he leaves Ur of the Chaldeans.

The natural feelings are not set aside by faith. Mourning and sorrow are not wrong, they have their place. There is a great distinction with those who have no hope (1Thes 4:1313But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.). The believer has sorrow when a beloved fellow believer falls asleep, but is not desperate. He will see his beloved again.


A Burial Site and a Burial

3Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 4“I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” 5The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, 6“Hear us, my LORD, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.” 7So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. 8And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish [for me] to bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and approach Ephron the son of Zohar for me, 9that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in your presence for a burial site.” 10Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; [even] of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11“No, my LORD, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.” 12And Abraham bowed before the people of the land. 13He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept [it] from me that I may bury my dead there.” 14Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15“My LORD, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.” 16Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard. 17So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over 18to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. 19After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20So the field and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.

After mourning and weeping, “Abraham rose”. He doesn’t continue mourning. It is important not to be swallowed by grief, but after mourning and weeping to see what is needed then. There will come a time when we have to rise again. One cannot continue mourning. This is only possible if there is faith in the resurrection, a faith based on the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. There is a resurrection of the believers because He is risen (1Cor 15:20-2120But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.21For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead.).

Abraham knows what to do. He wants to buy a burial site. For that he goes to the owners of the land. He buys the burial site for four hundred shekels of silver, which is a huge amount. The price of a slave is twenty shekels of silver. In the time of Jeremiah an entire field is bought for seventeen shekels of silver. So much is it worth it to him that Sarah is buried there. He pays that price without negotiating.

He boldly confesses to them that he is with them as a stranger (Heb 11:1313All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.) and therefore has no right to any part of the land. The reaction of the sons of Heth shows the great respect they have for him and that during his stay he commanded among them by his behavior. A consistent attitude as a believer commands respect, unlike Lot, who was despised (cf. Gen 23:66“Hear us, my LORD, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.”; Gen 19:99But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.).

The description of the purchase of the burial site for Sarah shows how much the place of burial matters. Abraham buried her in view of the resurrection. With the purchase of the burial site Abraham has acquired the only piece of Canaan he can call his property. With this purchase he confirms his belief in the resurrection. He knows that Sarah has received life from God. Therefore he assures himself of the rights at the place where the body of his beloved is laid until she will rise to receive the promised blessing.

Abraham does not bury ‘only the remains’, but buries “my dead” (verse 1313He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept [it] from me that I may bury my dead there.”), “his wife Sarah” (verse 1919After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.). When the Lord Jesus is buried, it does not say that His “remains” are buried, but that “Jesus” is placed in the tomb (Jn 19:40,4240So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.42Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.). The body, that is He.

Israel is now a dead people (Eze 37:1-111The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.2He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, [there were] very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, [they were] very dry.3He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”4Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.6I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”7So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.8And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.9Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”‘“10So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.11Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’). But God has buried the people with care. He knows exactly where it is. He bought the field, that is the world. Abraham paid the full price. God also paid the full price: the blood of His Son.

It is the first time that Scripture mentions a burial. Nowhere we find a commandment to bury, nor do we find a prohibition to burn. By what we know from Scripture, it is clear that burial is according to God’s thoughts. We must ask ourselves what the point is. Jacob and Joseph want to be buried in the promised land. God has buried Moses Himself. The Lord Jesus is buried in a new tomb.

Burial is related to the resurrection. This is shown by the long chapter about the resurrection in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15. Paul begins that chapter making again known to the Corinthians what the gospel means. He has already done this once orally, when he came to the Corinthians. They accepted it then and they have been saved as a result. As he writes them his letter, he tells them again what the gospel is about: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Cor 15:3-43For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,).

Here is twice the expression “according to the Scriptures”. This divides the sentence into two parts. We then see that in the second part of the sentence ‘buried’ and ‘raised’ belong together. This is of great significance. Paul will return to this later in that chapter.

It is clear that it is not death and burial that belong together, but burial and resurrection belong together. Burying is sowing, and sowing is done with a view to a harvest. Burning always has to do with judgment (Jos 7:2525Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.; Lev 21:99Also the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by harlotry, she profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.).

Abraham pays a high price. He does not want to get anything from the inhabitants of the country. Earlier he refused an offer to get something (Gen 14:2323that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’). In the negotiations about the price he works correctly. Abraham is credible, also in his business. He pays the price among witnesses. People judge our religion in connection with our carefulness in earthly matters (2Cor 8:2121for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.; 1Thes 4:1212so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.).

The purchase of the field at Machpelah and the cave that is in it as a burial site for Sarah testifies to his unshakeable faith that Canaan will become his property, according to God’s promise. God’s promises do not end with death. With this purchase he takes, as it were, an advance on the possession of the whole. Later he himself also (Gen 25:1010the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife.), and Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah will be buried there (Gen 49:29-3129Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,30in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site.31There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah—; 50:1313for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.). They and all other Old Testament believers died without receiving the promise, because God wanted them not to be made perfect without the New Testament believers (Heb 11:39-4039And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,40because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.).


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