Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Genesis 23

Verse 1

GENESIS CHAPTER 23

Sarah’s age and death; Abraham mourns, Genesis 23:1,2. He speaks to the sons of Heth for a burying-place, Genesis 23:3,4. They offer him the choice of their sepulchres, Genesis 23:5,6. Abraham desires to purchase a field of Ephron, Genesis 23:8,9. Ephron would give it him, Genesis 23:10-15. Abraham purchases it, and weighs the silver, Genesis 23:16. The field made sure to Abraham for a possession before witnesses, Genesis 23:17-20.

1860

This is the peculiar honour of Sarah the mother of the faithful, 1 Peter 3:6, to have the years of her life numbered in Scripture.

Verse 2

Kirjath-arba, or, the city of Arba; so called probably from a giant or great man called Arba, who lived and ruled in those parts. See Joshua 14:15 15:13. It is objected against this scripture, that this city was not called Hebron till Joshua’s time, Joshua 14:15; but this is a mistake, Joshua doth not say so, but only that the name of Hebron before, ( or in old time), as this very particle is rendered, Deuteronomy 2:20, and elsewhere. So the sense is, the most ancient name of it was Kirjath-arba. Nor doth Joshua there give any account or reason of this change of the name at that time, or upon that occasion, as the sacred writers used to do in such cases, but rather supposeth that Hebron was the name of it before he came thither; and how long before that time he doth not express.

Abraham came into Sarah’s tent, {see Genesis 18:6,9}

to weep for her, according to the laudable custom of all ages and nations, to manifest their sense of God’s hand upon them, and of their own loss. See Genesis 50:3 Deuteronomy 34:8, &c.

Verse 3

To show his moderation in sorrow, and to take care for her burial, according to his duty.

Verse 4

The privilege of burial hath been always sought and prized by all nations, whom nature and humanity teacheth to preserve the bodies of men, which have been the temples of reasonable and immortal souls, from contempt and violation; so especially by Christians, as a testimony and pledge of their future resurrection. See Numbers 33:4 Deuteronomy 31:23 Job 5:26. For which cause Abraham desires a distinct burying-place separated from the pagan people.

With you, in Canaan. There he, and after him other patriarchs, earnestly desired to be buried, upon this account, that it might confirm their own and their children’s faith in God’s promise, and animate their children in due time to take possession of the land. See Genesis 25:9 47:29,30 50:13,25 Exo 13:19 Hebrews 11:22.

That I may bury my dead out of my sight; so she that before was the desire of his eyes, Ezekiel 24:16, is now, being dead, become their torment.

Verse 6

Hear us, my lord: here is a conjunction of the plural and singular number, because though but one person spake, yet he spake in the name of the whole community.

A mighty prince; Heb. a prince of God. Great and excellent persons or things are oft expressed by adding the name of God. See Genesis 13:10. Or, by prince of God, they understand a prince favoured and beloved of God.

In the choice of our sepulchres; for each family had a distinct sepulchre.

Verse 7

i.e. Showed a civil respect to them in testimony of his thankfulness. Religion allows and requires civility, and those gestures which express it.

To the people of the land; to the governors of the people, who managed all public affairs in the people’s name and stead, and for their good.

The children of Heth, so called from Heth the son of Canaan, Genesis 10:15.

Verse 8

Heb. If it be with, i.e. agreeable to, your soul, that is, your will, or good pleasure; for so the soul is sometimes taken, as Deuteronomy 23:24 Psalms 27:12 41:2.

Verse 9

Machpelah, which seems to be the proper name of the place, Genesis 23:17,19, so called from its duplicity, because the cave was double, either one for men, and another for women; or the one served only for an entrance into the other, which was the burying-place.

For as much money as it is worth; Heb. for full money, 1 Chronicles 21:22,24; i.e. for money of full weight, answerable to its worth.

Verse 10

Ephron dwelt, Heb. did sit, to wit, at that time, as one of the chief or rulers of the people; for so the word sitting is oft used, as we shall see hereafter.

His city; either where he was born, or at least where he lived.

Verse 13

But if thou wilt give it; it is a short speech, and something must be supplied; either if thou wilt give or resign it to me; or, if thou be the man of whom I speak; for though Abraham knew his name, he might not know him by face, nor that he was then present. He prudently chose rather to buy it than to receive it as a gift, partly because it would be the surer to him and his, Genesis 23:17,20, and partly because he would not have too great obligations to his pagan neighbours.

Verse 15

He speaks of the common shekel, which many value at fifteen pence of English money; but others, more probably, at two shillings and sixpence, rightly, as I conceive, supposing that this was of the same weight and value with the shekel of the sanctuary, which was so called, not as if that were double to the former, but only because all shekels were to be examined by that standard which was kept in the sanctuary.

What is that betwixt me and thee? both friends, and rich men; it is not worth any words or trouble between us.

Verse 16

In those times silver was paid by weight, Genesis 43:21 Jeremiah 32:10.

Current money with the merchant, i.e. right for quality as well as weight in the judgment of merchants, whose frequent dealing in it makes them more able to judge of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 23". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/genesis-23.html. 1685.