Buying a Burial Plot

“Then Abraham rose and he bowed to the people of the land, the Sons of Cheth, and he spoke to them, saying, ‘If it is in your soul to bury my dead from before me then hear me and plead for me with Ephron the son of Zochar that he may give to me the Cave of Makpelah which is his and is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me for its full value in silver in your midst as property for a grave.’”

(Genesis 23:7-9)


And the negotiations begin. As we have seen before, though Abraham is the superior in this negotiation, he does not hold that superiority over the Sons of Cheth with whom he is negotiating. Instead he takes a humble position of grace toward them and chooses not to take their hospitality for granted. How often it is that Christians fail to follow Abraham’s example here, seeking their own good ahead of the good of those around them. Beloved, we have a God who has promised to provide for all of our needs, why is it that we are worried about going without if we seek to meet the needs of those around us? If God is the provider of our needs, can we ever truly exhaust the “stores of grace” if we are seeking to meet the needs of those in our midst?

Yet the importance of paying “full value” for the gravesite goes further than simply wanting to make sure he not cheat Ephron (whose name likely refers to the reddish-white color of dry clay — remember, he is a farmer, so this should not be a great surprise) the son of Zochar (again notice the differences in transliteration, his name refers to a shiny, reddish-white color like that of one blushing — the family resemblance should be noted, we would describe them today as “ruddy” in complexion, though the father’s color is described in a way that is bright and shiny and the son’s as dull and dirty). Sarah is not a Canaanite nor is she in the line of the Sons of Cheth. Sarah belongs to Abraham’s line and for her to be buried amongst the dead of the pagans on their land and in one of their tombs, would identify her as part of their tribe. This, Abraham must not do. His purchase of the lot is to preserve the lot as his own, for his line only and as a taste of the promise that is to come, for while Abraham’s children will eventually inherit all of the land of Canaan, here and now, Abraham is able to purchase a small plot of ground as his own to bury his dead, namely his wife Sarah. Abraham himself will be buried in this cave (Genesis 25:9) as well as Jacob (Genesis 49:30; 50:13). And while we are not told for sure that Isaac is buried here, the implication is made that this was his burial site as well (Genesis 35:27-29). And though one might expect that Joseph was buried here (given the Hebrews carried his bones out of Egypt {Exodus 13:19}, we are told that his bones are buried in Shechem {Joshua 24:32} on property bought by his father, Jacob).

In the end, this tradition of purchasing a burial plot still continues today, purchasing a place that will not only stand as a remembrance of the person, but also as a safe place where the bodies of those who have departed us can be held until the time of resurrection. There will indeed come a time when the graveyards will be emptied, but for now, we are trustees of such spots, waiting for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on May 19, 2012, in Expositions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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