In this week's lesson we discover that Sarah has died and that Avraham - our first Patriarch, whom YHWH has blessed greatly for his obedience in becoming a "Hebrew" (which means, "to cross over") - is actually the first person we know of in the Torah to bury anyone.
We are told that he purchased a grave site from "the sons of Het" to bury Sarah's remains - and a huge deal was made out of his insistence that he buy the land, instead of accepting it as a gift. (Please note, although YHWH promised Avraham that all the land he walked over during his lifetime would be given to him and to his descendants forever (Genesis 15:18), by the end of his life Avraham owned only one small field at Hebron - a transaction that was recorded in Genesis 23, below.)
Genesis 23: 1 Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah's life. 2 Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena'an; and Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her. 3 Then he got up from his dead one and said to the sons of Het, 4 "I am a foreigner living as an alien with you; let me have a burial site with you, so that I can bury my dead wife." 5 The sons of Het answered Avraham, 6 "Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us, so choose any of our tombs to bury your dead - not one of us would refuse you his tomb for burying your dead."
7 Avraham got up, bowed before the people of the land, the sons of Het, 8 and spoke with them. "If it is your desire to help me bury my dead, then listen to me: ask 'Efron the son of Tzochar 9 to give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he owns, the one at the end of his field. He should sell it to me in your presence at its full value; then I will have a burial site of my own. 10 'Efron the Hitti was sitting among the sons of Het, and he gave Avraham his answer in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city:
11 "No, my lord, listen to me: I'm giving you the field, with its cave - I'm giving it to you. In the presence of my people I give it to you." 12 Avraham bowed before the people of the land 13 and spoke to 'Efron in their hearing: "Please be good enough to listen to me. I will pay the price of the field; accept it from me, and I will bury my dead there." 14 But 'Efron answered Avraham, 15 "My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels - what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead."
16 Avraham got the point of what 'Efron had said, so he weighed out for 'Efron the amount of money he had specified in the presence of the sons of Het, 400 silver shekels of the weight accepted among merchants [ten pounds]. 17 Thus the field of 'Efron in Makhpelah, which is by Mamre - the field, its cave and all the trees in and around it - were deeded 18 to Avraham as his possession in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city.
NOTE, while this sounds honorable on the surface, let's check to see what's actually going on: It is very interesting to study and understand what happened here in Genesis 23 when Avraham purchased the burial grounds. Avraham stated in verse 9 that he desired to purchase the cave from Efron "at full value". This would be fair and honorable. But in verses 10-11, Efron makes a "show" of the situation - in that he (Efron) states in front of the ruling council that he will "give" the field and the cave to Avraham.
In verse 12-13 we see Avraham bowed before the people of the land and spoke to 'Efron in their hearing: "Please be good enough to listen to me. I will pay the price of the field; accept it from me." So Avraham was clear, in front of the city elders that he was wishing to properly and justly buy it. Then, Efron "drops the bomb" and reveals his true motive! Verse 14-15: But Efron answered Avraham, "My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels - what is that between me and you?"
You see, 400 silver shekels was far more than the field and cave were worth, so what Efron was doing was demonstrating a "false" honor in front of the city elders, so he could elevate the price and put Avraham on the spot. This is the meaning of the next verse, verse 16 Avraham got the point of what 'Efron had said, so he weighed out for 'Efron the amount of money he had specified..."
The sages say this about this event: "Efron's public generosity was a sham. Not only did he have no intention of making a gift, he hypocritically implied to Abraham that he expected an outrageously high price....The righteous say little but do much, but the wicked promise much and perform not even a little. They would offer to anoint with oil from an empty flask."
It must also be pointed out that in these verses, it is the first time we see that the society at the time had established "values" based on a metal currency - in this case the silver shekel.
What Efron asked for the property, 400 shekels, would have been about 10 pounds of silver! This is why it was an outrageous price. TEN POUNDS! It might be that Efron knew of Avraham's amassed wealth, and was thus trying to take advantage of it. From Genesis 13:1-2, we know Avraham had been blessed with wealth: 1 Avram went up from Egypt - he, his wife and everything he had, and Lot with him - into the Negev. 2 Avram became wealthy, with much cattle, silver and gold.
Avraham lived to the ripe old age of 175 and he then took another wife, K'turah, who bore him more children (Genesis 25:-4). Before he died and was buried with his wife Sarah in the plot he had purchased from the sons of Het the Hitti, he bequeathed everything to his son Yitz'chak (Isaac), the son promised by YHWH in Genesis 18:10-15.
Genesis 25: 7 This is how long Avraham lived: 175 years. 8 Then Avraham breathed his last, dying at a ripe old age, an old man full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 Yitz'chak and Yishma'el his sons buried him in the cave of Makhpelah, in the field of 'Efron the son of Tzochar the Hitti, by Mamre, 10 the field which Avraham purchased from the sons of Het. Avraham was buried there with Sarah his wife. 11 After Avraham died, God blessed Yitz'chak his son, and Yitz'chak lived near Be'er-Lachai-Ro'i.
Why was it so important for Avraham to OWN the plot land where Sarah was to be buried? Because YHWH had told him in Genesis 15 that one day the land would belong to Avraham's descendants! So, Avraham bought the large burial site at Hebron (Genesis 23:1-20); and eventually, David bought the Temple Mount (1 Chronicles 21:25). (By the way, the land Avraham purchased was a plot within the greater land area of Israel, but it is thought to be at/near Hevron, about 22 miles South Southwest of Jerusalem.)
(Click link!) And who was the Land ever sold to?
It was never sold to anybody! - which means the Muslims have no right to insist the Temple Mount belongs to them! The Land belongs to Avraham and his descendants. Period.
Check it out:
Genesis 15: 18 That day ADONAI made a covenant with Avram: "I have given this land to your descendants - from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River - 19 the territory of the Keni, the K'nizi, the Kadmoni, 20 the Hitti, the P'rizi, the Refa'im, 21 the Emori, the Kena'ani, the Girgashi and the Y'vusi."
Leviticus 25: 23 "The land is not to be sold in perpetuity, because the land belongs to me - you are only foreigners and temporary residents with me."
So, in short, we see Avraham acknowledging he was not a property owner in the land of the Hittites and he needed a place to bury his wife. A man of Avraham's station - who was considered a "prince of God" (Genesis 23:6) - was not to be refused such a request, and the Canaanites recognized the hand of YHWH upon this man and so were inclined to treat him favorably. They would have gladly loaned him the best they had, but a borrowed grave was not acceptable to Avraham because he needed this site for posterity (Genesis 25:9; 50:13) as he would also one day be buried there. The land of Canaan was to be his home, not a mere stopping-off place.
In Genesis 25:1-5 we learn that the aged Avraham - apparently very prolific way into his old age - also had some children with concubines, to whom he made grants and sent them "off to the east, away from Yitz'chak (Genesis 25:6).
In Genesis 25:12-16 we discover that Yishmael (Ishmael), Avram's son with Sarai's female servant Hagar, had twelve sons who settled near Egypt (Genesis. 25:18). Yishmael, as we discussed in last week's study, was the father of today's Arab nation, most of whom are now Muslim....
Let's go back briefly to Genesis 24 where we learn that Yitz'chak (Isaac) was comforted for the loss of his mother when Avraham arranged for Yitz'chak to have a wife. It all began when Avraham asked his long-time servant to go into his (Avraham's) homeland to fetch a bride for Yitz'chak from among Avraham's kinsmen.
Genesis 24: 1 By now Avraham was old, advanced in years; and ADONAI had blessed Avraham in everything. 2 Avraham said to the servant who had served him the longest, who was in charge of all he owned, "Put your hand under my thigh; 3 because I want you to swear by ADONAI, God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from among the women of the Kena'ani, among whom I am living; 4 but that you will go to my homeland, to my kinsmen, to choose a wife for my son Yitz'chak."
5 The servant replied, "Suppose the woman isn't willing to follow me to this land. Must I then bring your son back to the land from which you came?" 6 Avraham said to him, "See to it that you don't bring my son back there. 7 ADONAI, the God of heaven - who took me away from my father's house and away from the land I was born in, who spoke to me and swore to me, 'I will give this land to your descendants'- he will send his angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are released from your obligation under my oath. Just don't bring my son back there." 9 The servant put his hand under the thigh of Avraham his master and swore to him concerning the matter.
As most of you know, the story goes on to show that the servant took ten of his master's camels along with many gifts and went to Aram-Naharayim where he prayed to YHWH to give him a sign about the young woman who was to become Yitz-chak's wife:
Genesis 24: 12 He said, "ADONAI, God of my master Avraham, please let me succeed today; and show your grace to my master Avraham. 13 Here I am, standing by the spring, as the daughters of the townsfolk come out to draw water. 14 I will say to one of the girls, 'Please lower your jug, so that I can drink.' If she answers, 'Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,' then let her be the one you intend for your servant Yitz'chak. This is how I will know that you have shown grace to my master."
And that was how Yitz'chak became our second Patriarch!
This week's Haftarah reading describes an aging King David, echoing this week's Torah reading, which mentions that "Abraham was old, advanced in days." In this chapter, we see King David aging and perpetually cold. A young maiden, Avishag the Shunamit, was recruited to serve and provide warmth for the elderly monarch.
Seeing his father advancing in age, one of King David's sons, seized the opportunity to prepare the ground for his ascension to his father's throne upon the latter's passing - despite King David's express wishes that his son Shlomo (Solomon) succeed him. Adoniyah the son of Haggit was beginning to claim that he would be king and recruited two influential individuals - the High Priest and the commander of David's armies - both of whom had fallen out of David's good graces, to champion his cause. He arranged to be transported in a chariot with 50 people running before him, and invited a number of his sympathizers to a festive party publicizing his royal ambitions.
The prophet Nathan encouraged Bat Sheva, mother of Solomon, to approach King David and plead with him to reaffirm his choice of Solomon as his successor. This she did, mentioning Adoniyah's recent actions of which the king had been unaware. Nathan later joined the Bat Sheva and the king to express support for Bat Sheva's request.
1 Kings 1: 28 King David answered by saying, "Summon Bat-Sheva to me." She entered the king's presence and stood before the king. 29 Then the king swore an oath: "As ADONAI lives, who has delivered me from all adversity, 30 as I swore to you by ADONAI the God of Isra'el, 'Your son Shlomo will be king after me; he will sit on my throne in my place,' so will I do today." 31 Bat-Sheva bowed with her face to the ground, prostrating herself to the king, and said, "Let my lord King David live forever."
B'rit Chadasha readings:
Included in our Brit Chadasha (New Testament) readings today is a passage that sounds a little strange when Yeshua tells a man to "let the dead bury the dead" which obviously refers to the "dead in spirit"/those who don't know YHWH. Let's check it out:
Luke 9: 57. And while they were going on the road, a man said to him, "I will come after you to the place that you go my Master. 58. Y'shua said to him, Foxes have holes and birds of heaven a home, but the Son of man has no where to lay his head. 59. And he said to another, Come after me. And he said to him, "My Master allow me first to go and bury my father. 60. Y'shua said to him, Leave the dead to bury their dead, and you go and declare the Kingdom of Elohim. 61. Another said to him, "I will come after you my Master but first allow me to go and reassure my household and I will come. 62. Y'shua said to him, No man places his hand upon the handle of a plough and looks backwards and is useful to the Kingdom of Elohim. (AENT)
FOOTNOTE: Lamsa postulates that "let the dead bury their dead" shouldn't be taken literally but is better understood as, "let me take care of my father until he dies." However, the key is in the next line where Y'shua responds: "but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of Elohim." By making such a statement, Y'shua helps the young man realize the supreme importance of the Kingdom. Y'shua might even have known this young man to be a younger son, and if his father is dead other family members will assume the burial duties. In the meantime the young man would be proclaiming the Kingdom, and perhaps like some other "Sent Out ones" of Y'shua, even he may have been raising the dead!