21 November 2012

Genesis 23:1-20

"Give me property among you for a burying-place, so that I may bury my dead" (v. 4)


Sarah, the wife of Abraham, dies in Hebron at the age of 127 years (verse 2). Abraham who is still a stranger in the land, decides to buy a piece of property in which he may bury his wife. He negotiates with the Hittites, one of the groups of people in Canaan at this time, who offer him the choicest of tombs (verse 5). But Abraham refuses to accept, insisting instead on paying for a piece of ground where he may bury his dead (verses 7-9). Ephron the Hittite, offers Abraham a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver (verse 15). Abraham agreed to Ephrons' terms: "So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, passed to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, in the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city" (vv. 17-18).

Abraham buried his wife, Sarah, there, and it was the only piece of land that he owned. It was the piece of land where later Abraham (Genesis 25:9), Isaac (Genesis 35:29), Rebekah and Leah (Genesis 49:31) and Jacob (Genesis 50:13) are to be buried.

Today I believe a mosque stands on the traditional site of the cave at Hebron. Throughout the years Christians, Muslims and Jews have honoured Abraham, who features highly in these three great world religions.

To Ponder

  • To what extent is a 'sacred space' important to you?
  • What areas of commonality have Christians, Muslims and Jews?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Teal

Richard Teal is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Cumbria Methodist District. He has a deep interest in ecumenical relationships, Church growth and liturgy.