Genesis 23:1-20

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 23:1-20

  1. Locate the passage

Sarah’s death provides the occasion for Abraham’s first official land “ownership” in the land the Lord promised him. He was recognized by Abimelech to have dug a well in Beersheba, but here he acquires land.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It records the conversation between Abraham and the sons of  Heth as they negotiate a price for the land.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

23:1-2 – Abraham mourns the death of Sarah

23:3-16 – Abraham negotiates for a burial site for Sarah and his family

23:17-20 – They were deeded

  1. Exegete the passage

The fact that Abraham desired land in Canaan as opposed to Haran demonstrates his commitment to this land and his affirmation of the Lord’s promise to him. This land will become significance throughout the Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph narratives. Although Joseph ascended to the next-to-highest position in Egypt, upon his death, he wanted to be buried (as did Jacob before him – Gen. 49:29-32) in this same family burial plot that Abraham procures in this pericope (Gen. 50:24-25). In this sense, Abraham, like Jeremiah (Jer. 32:1-15) is expressing hope in God’s promise to one day occupy the land.

The negotiation is dominated by both sides appealing to the other to “listen.” The Hb. “shama” is used six times (23:6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16). Three times the sons of Heth appeal to Abraham to “listen;” twice Abraham appeals to them to “listen;” and once the text records that Abraham listened to them.

The phrase “bury my (your) dead” occurs seven times in this pericope; each side in the discussion alternates using the phrase (Abraham, sons of Heth/sons of Heth, Abraham, sons of Heth, Abraham, sons of Heth). This chapter is the only chapter in the Old Testament where this phrase occurs.

23:2-3 – Abraham carries out the customary mourning (Hb. “bacah” or weeping) for Sarah before he stood up from before her (lit. “from the face of her;” cf. Gen. 23:4, 8)

23:4 – “Give” me property

23:4 – “Out of my sight”

23:6 – You are a mighty prince

23:7-9 – Abraham bows (cf. 23:12) as a sign of respect and humility. It is also clear that Abraham already knew the specific piece of property that he wanted to possess.

23:9 – “full price”

23:17, 20 – The field and the cave … were “deeded”

23:18 – In the presence of sons of Heth

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. This passage reveals Abraham’s grief in loss, but hope in death.

Exp. Although, God’s name does not occur in this passage, the hope of His promise dominates the narrative.

Exp. The passage shows Abraham trusting God for today and tomorrow.

Category: Sermon Structure
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