Thursday, November 13, 2008

Genesis 23:17-20 From Death to Burial

Genesis 23:17-20: So 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 to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Mchpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field, and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.

In this brief passage, the writer provides us with greater details about Ephron’s field that was sold to Abraham so that Sarah could be buried. From verse 9 we had learned the field was in Machpelah. Now we are also informed that Machpelah faced Mamre. We first heard of Mamre back in Genesis 13:18 (the place were Abraham, then called Abram, came and lived and built an altar to the Lord), and again in 18:1 (where the Lord appeared to Abraham as he sat in his tent’s door, in the heat of the day). The land that he bought to bury Sarah faced that plain of Mamre.

The actual word ‘mamre’ means strength or fatness in the original Hebrew, but it was also the name given to an Amorite who had aligned himself with Abram (see Genesis 14:13, 24). Strongs describes the actual plain as an oak grove on Mamre’s land in Palestine where Abraham dwelt and near the burial place of Abraham himself, identified as Hebron.

So Abraham gets this land that faces his home. He gets the field and the cave and all the trees in it and to seal the deal, Ephron gives him a deed of ownership in front of the sons of Heth and others that were going in and out of the city gate. We that all settled, Abraham buries Sarah his wife there.

Anyone who has been personally responsible for burying someone can identify with the relief that Abraham must have felt after laying Sarah in the ground. The time between someone dying and when they are buried is one of great sorrow, anxiety, weariness, loss, and so much more. But ultimately, God has given us a means whereby once we see our loved one’s body lowered into the earth then covered over, we can begin, ever so slowly for some, to breathe normally again and to attend to our other responsibilities in life – to those of our loved ones that are still with us, to our work, to our church, and to our relationship with God. Abraham started to do just that.

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