Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 24:1-4

1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.

2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

3 And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

I mentioned in the previous chapter that the purchase of Sarah’s tomb would be the last duty that Abraham personally fulfilled. Here we see him concerned about whom his son will marry, but he is too old to handle the matter on his own. So he calls his eldest servant and solemnly charges him to find a worthy wife in Abraham’s place.

The land that Abraham instructed his servant to search was the one where his brother Nahor had lived. Nahor had not come to Canaan with Terah, Abraham, and Lot. He had parted ways with them many decades ago. But Abraham had received word that Nahor’s household had grown, with eight new sons and grandchildren. Grandchildren who had never met Abraham or seen the land of Canaan. Was there a daughter among them who would be willing to throw in with a people and a place that were entirely unknown to her?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 23:15-19

15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.

16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

17 And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure

18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Here we have the conclusion of this gentlemanly negotiation. At Abraham’s insistence, Ephron names the price for the cave and accompanying field. Ephron follows it up with “what is that betwixt me and thee?” which I take to mean, “four hundred shekels is unimportant to me, you really don’t need to pay for this.” But Abraham keeps to his word and measures out the full amount.

And there are two details to note here. Abraham is paying in full right up front. There is no loan, no interest, he covers the whole thing at once. The second detail is that Abraham is paying with “current money” that was still good “with the merchant.” Nothing outdated, nothing counterfeit, nothing left to be paid off. It was a full transaction and the matter is completely resolved.

Then verse seventeen and eighteen speak again to that reason that Abraham paid for this land so quickly and carefully: so that the ownership would be “made sure.” The entire transaction had been done “in the presence of the children of Heth,” so that there were many witnesses to it.

Only now, when Abraham has done absolutely everything within his power to make Sarah’s resting place permanent and sure, does he lay her down to her burial. He has made as much certainty as any mortal ever could that she will never be disturbed in her slumber.

There are some wonderful lessons to be gleaned from this chapter about how to treat friends and family with honor and dignity. Abraham is the epitome of a gentleman in these passages, treating everyone with graciousness and also fulfilling his every duty.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 23:8-13

8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,

9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,

11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.

13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.

The extreme good manners continue in this part of the story. The people of Heth have asked Abraham to name whatever plot of land he wants as a burying place for Sarah. He approached them meekly and at their mercy, but now they have encouraged him to speak his desire directly. So emboldened, Abraham names a cave that belongs to Ephron, and asks him to name what that place is worth and he will pay it. Continuing with the politeness, Ephron says Abraham may certainly have the cave, and he will even give it to him freely, no pay is necessary. Abraham, of course, refuses, and insists on paying whatever the fair price for the plot of land is. And Abraham is making the right choice here because of three reasons.

The first is that it will provide Abraham security. With an official payment his ownership of the land becomes sure. No one will be able to doubt that Abraham legally owns the cave, as there will be a clear transaction to prove his rightful purchase of it.

The second is that this is doing right by Ephron. This whole conversation has been public, polite, and formal, and Ephron could possibly feel compelled to offer up his land for free, even if he didn’t really want to. But Abraham won’t let Ephron be taken advantage of that way. He will give the man what he is due.

The third reason is that this is doing right by Sarah. She is Abraham’s beloved wife, and he should be willing to sacrifice his personal possessions for her. He wouldn’t insult her memory by giving her a resting place that he obtained cheaply. This is him showing that she is worth it.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 23:3-7

3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,

6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.

No sooner did Abraham rise from his grieving than he went to buy a place to bury Sarah.

Notice how Abraham describes himself to them: “a stranger and a sojourner.” He is well aware that he has foreign roots, that he is not like the natives of this place. But in return the people call him “a mighty prince among us.” They revere him and are honored by his presence. They state that every one of them will gladly give a plot of land for his sepulcher. Abraham bows before them, perhaps to show gratitude for their response, perhaps to still show humility before moving on with his request.

The good manners here are abundant, and they will only continue as the narrative proceeds. Abraham is meek and unassuming, but that doesn’t mean he is passive-aggressive. He shows a great deal of decorum before making his request, but then he still makes it, clearly and plainly. These verses show what it is to walk the fine line of being polite, but direct.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 23:1-2

1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

2 And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

Sarah was Abraham’s longtime companion and friend. From one journey to the next, Abraham had to part ways with one family member after another, but she remained his constant partner. Now, though, after 172 years, Sarah finally took a separate journey of her own.

Abraham has had many causes to attend to throughout the Genesis chapters. He has proven honorable and devoted with Lot, Abimelech, and God. He has faithfully fulfilled his duty to each in turn. Now his story is winding to its close, and there are not going to be any more duties to perform, just a quiet retirement until he rests in his grave.

Or rather, almost it is time for that retirement. Before he comes to that there remains one last duty for Abraham to fulfill, and it is fitting and touching that it is to his wife, Sarah. Now that she has died he must find a place to bury her, and the entirety of this chapter is about Abraham diligently seeking and finding the perfect resting place for her. We will read in the next chapter how he begins entrusting his duties to his servants, but this one task, this is the last that he will undertake with his own hand.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:20-23

20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;

21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,

22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.

23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.

Previously we learned about Abraham’s family, which had included his father Terah, brothers Nahor and Haran, and nephew Lot. Terah, Abraham, and Lot had left the land of the Chaldees for Canaan, but Haran died and Nahor had stayed behind. In today’s verses we learn that Nahor had become a father to eight sons of his own, the youngest of which was Bethuel.

These verses may seem like a random aside, but in a couple chapters this information will become very relevant when Abraham’s servant seeks a suitable wife for Isaac, and finds her in Bethuel’s daughter, Rebekah.

It is interesting that Isaac and his cousin Bethuel presumably never met one another. Their fathers parted ways long before they were even born. Yet one’s heritage and kin remain of great importance in the Biblical narratives, and distance and time do not dim the connections one has to their family.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:15-18

15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

One thing that stood out to me in this study was how many times God reaffirmed His promises to Abraham. This reaffirmation, though, coming after Abraham has passed the ultimate test of his obedience, is the last time. Before this moment every affirmation was only an offer from God, contingent upon Abraham’s continued faithfulness. Here, at last, the promise is made sure. There will be no more proving.

This is the goal that Peter speaks of in 2 Peter 1:10, where our calling and election are made sure. It is a long and difficult road to attain that surety, though. It is not a cheap gift, and so it cannot be earned cheaply. It is something to give one’s whole life in pursuit of.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:14

14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.

A small verse, but a significant one. It is a verse that introduces the significance of special holy places, such as mountains, the tabernacle, and the temple. Remember that Abraham wasn’t commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac just anywhere, he was told to go to this very place. It was up in a mountain, and several mountains will be the site of sacred visitations from God, such as the Mount of Transfiguration and Mount Sinai. Mountains were seen as God’s home, a place where one might find and visit with Him.

The meaning of the name Jehovah-jireh is also very significant. Jehovah is, of course, the name of God, and jireh is often translated as “provides.” So “the Lord provides” is the name of the place, which certainly fits, given the lamb caught in the thicket.

However there is a second definition for the word jireh, which is “to see,” such as when it is used in 1 Samuel 16:7: “but the LORD looketh on the heart.” This explains the second part of our verse: “in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” Exactly what it was Abraham saw, we do not know. For us looking back we can see in it a clear analogy of God giving up His son as a sacrifice for the world to save our lives. Was Abraham instructed in some of these matters at this time as well? We can’t be sure, the text does not specify.

This name might also be referring to how God saw that Abraham would obey Him in all things. In either case, the name reinforces the notion of mountains, tabernacles, and temples being sacred sites. These were special places to come and see God and be seen by Him.

And I’m sure that both of these interpretations, “to provide” and “to see,” were intended. Abraham had been both provided for in the form of a ram in the thicket, and he been made to see the heart and workings of God, and so he named this place accordingly.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:11-13

11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The day of Abraham’s offering had come, the altar had been prepared, and something needed to be sacrificed. But instead of it being Isaac, who is a representation of all humanity, the role was filled by an intervention of God instead.

But the intervention only came to Abraham when he was willing to surrender his all to God. Only by being willing to give God that which he loved best was the way opened for him to retain it.

Because if Abraham had withheld his son from God, what would he have accomplished? No matter how desperately he clutched to Isaac, he and the boy would eventually be parted by the grave anyway. Abraham was powerless to retain that which he loved any longer than mortal life allowed him.

But by giving up his modicum of control to God he invited powers that exceeded his own. Abraham couldn’t preserve his father-son relationship with Isaac, but God could. God could preserve Isaac and Abraham’s bond here and in heaven…but only if Abraham surrendered that relationship to Him first.

If there is anything that any of us want to hold onto forever, at some point we will have to surrender it to God, or else there won’t be any chance of it persisting beyond the grave.