Abe’s purchase of the property is very important because during his time families buried their dead in their homelands. By purchasing the cave in which to bury Sarah, Abe is staking a claim here in Canaan saying this is my homeland. This is the place that my descendant will inherit. Neither Abe nor his descendants would ever return to Ur, which is Abe’s birthplace. Nobody is going back to Mesopotamia, which was about 220 miles southeast of Baghdad in present-day Iraq. Get the picture Abe would have about a three-hour flight to get home if they had had air travel back then. 

The cave became the burial place of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their wives (Genesis 23:8-17, 25:9; 49:29-30; 50:13). In buying the property, Abe is also showing he knows God’s promises doesn’t end when we die. Sarah is dead, and Abraham knew death was also knocking at his door. However, he knew this cave was to become the family crypt for his descendants. Hundreds of years later, Abe’s great-grandson would be buried there when his descendants took possession of the Promised Land. When Little Joe, great-grandson of Father Abraham, is dying in Egypt, far from the Land Promised by God, he tells his brothers God will take them out of Egypt, and make sure you don’t leave me. Genesis 50:24~Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (NIV) Genesis 50:25~And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (NIV) Do you hear how important the promises of God are to Little Joe?

More than 500 years after Abe’s death. God guides the descendants of Abraham out of Egyptian bondage during the time of Ole Mo. When the Israelites leave, they take Little Joe. Exodus 13:19~ Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” (NIV). At Sarah’s death, Abe finally owns a portion of the land that will belong to his descendants. After he purchases the land, he buries Sarah his wife in the cave of the field Genesis 23:19~(ESV) The cave Abe purchased from the Hittites has never been conclusively located, but the traditional site is beneath the Mosque of Abraham, a Muslim shrine in Hebron. 

Your Place

Abe’s treatment of the Hittites is a wonderful example of how we are to treat nonbelievers—with respect and dignity. Ephron, the spokesman for the Hittites, offers to give Abraham a place to bury Sarah, but Abe says: I’ll pay. This may make us wonder, but some of us have received a gift over the years, only to have it asked to be returned. Abe desires to avoid that unpleasantness by buying the land outright. Genesis 23:15~My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead. (ESV) 

During Abe’s day, a shekel was a weight, not a coin, though it later became the name of a Jewish silver coin of that particular weight. A shekel weighed about four-tenths of an ounce (Holman ‘s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 1480). Today, the price of an ounce of silver typically fluctuates around $15. Being conservative, 160oz of silver at $15 works out that Abe paid about $2,400 for the burial land, in today’s dollar. Since Abe doesn’t quibble over the price, he is indeed a very wealthy man. Some Christians brag about their abilities to wheel and deal when buying things. Their tactics are often nothing more than swindling or deceit. Listen to how the Bible describes such people in Proverbs 20:14~The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless,” then brags about getting a bargain!  (NIV)

Not only does Abe agree to pay for the property, but he also promptly pays the agreed upon price. Like Abe, we ought to pay what we owe and pay on time. Psalm 37:21~The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; (ESV) Abraham doesn’t use his time of grief to play on the sympathy or emotions of others. He doesn’t expect any special favors or tries to take advantage of those who want to help in his time of grief. I’ve witness people use their traumatic times as an opportunity to get a lot of attention and curry special favors. But not Abe! In the traumatic times of Life and Death: we should Grieve Biblically, Behave Respectfully, and Think.

Think Eternally (Genesis 23:17-20). Abe buys the field and the cave which it lives in, and all the trees that are in the field, everything within the borders round about. This is significant because trees were very valuable in the region, and Ephron deeds this property to Abe in the presence of the children of Heth who are at the city gate (23:17-18). In that day there were no attorneys or written contracts. That is why verse 17 says made sure this is (קוּם quwm) it means Abe had the people stand in recognition of their agreement. You would think of this like shaking hands. Today, we would be given a title or deed. 

Everyday Christianity

Mourning and weeping don’t show emotional weakness or lack of faith; they just reveal we love as God intended. Not to mourn would’ve certainly been wrong, but it would be equally wrong for Abe to wallow in sorrow. He must continue to live the life God has given him. For there is a plan in place. Jeremiah 29:11~For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV) Just like Abe, we must move forward in faith as we go on with life, not vacillating from God’s purpose because of self-pity. In the traumatic times of Life and Death, we should Grieve Biblically.

Behave Respectfully (Genesis 23:3-16). Remember Abe is a sojourner or a nomad who owns no property, so he has an obvious problem when it comes time to bury Sarah. Therefore, Abe politely says to the sons of Heth (the Hittites) in Genesis 23:4~I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (ESV) Abe is highly respected, even by pagans, who respond in Genesis 23:6~Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead. (ESV) This ought to remind us, that as believers, we must always be careful to treat even the worst of non-believers with love and respect as Father Abe did. Next, Abe rises and bows as a courtesy sign of respect expected in that culture. The Bible teaches we as Christians are to treat non-believers with respect and dignity. 1 Timothy 3:7~He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (NIV) 

Since the world is the only place from which to win new converts, we as believers, especially church leaders, must have good reputations among outsiders, which is to say those who are not yet believers. Too often, believers have a holier-than-thou attitude which can turn off non-believers and makes it almost impossible to win them to Jesus Christ. Understand we win people like God won us—by loving, not blasting, them. Romans 5:8~But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV) Furthermore, we read how Christ Jesus is a friend of publicans and sinners Luke 7:34~The Son of Man has come eating and drinking and you say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (ESV) Hear me, we are not to antagonize non-believers; we are to evangelize them. Antagonizing cause hostility, while evangelizing seeks to convert them to faith in Jesus Christ.