Genesis 23:1-20 – Hebron and the West Bank

Genesis 23:1-20

“Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah’s life. 2Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba, also known as Hevron (Hebron), in the land of Kena’an (Canaan); and Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her.”

“Then he got up from his dead one and said to the sons of Het.”

Het is the son of Canaan who was the son of Ham who was the son of Noah.  Cannan was cursed by Noah because his father, Ham, saw Noah naked after intoxication.  Abraham goes to this man to discuss purchasing land in Hebron to bury his wife.  

 “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.” The sons of Het answered Avraham,  “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.”

These men considered Abraham a prince among the people and were willing to give him land to bury his dead.  Abraham knew these people better than anyone else as he lived with them and he did not take them up on his offer, but asked to buy the cave from Efron, the son of Tzochar so he would have his own personally, paid for, burial site. 

“Avraham got up, bowed before the people of the land, the sons of Het, 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 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.”

Once again the Hittite named Efron offered Abraham the land for free.  He wanted to GIVE the land to Abraham.  There are no modern-day Hittites, but the region today that they would have come from would be today’s Western Turkey.

‘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:  “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.”  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, and I will bury my dead there.”

Efron, though he says he wants to give the land to Abraham, mentions a value of 400 shekels or ten pounds of silver for the plot of land.  Abraham understands what Efron is trying to say – Hey I’ll GIVE it to you for 400 shekels.  So, Abraham weighs out the money in the presence of Het.

“But ‘Efron answered Avraham, “My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead.” 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].”

When the transaction is complete, Abraham OWNS a plot of land in Hebron and is given the deed.  Hebron etymologically means ‘alliance’ and can also mean ‘friend’ as Abraham was a ‘friend of God.’  

“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 to Avraham as his possession in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city.”

There is a repetition of the event as a conclusion making it clear that in the front of Het, Abraham bought a cave in a field in Hebron, in the land of Canaan as a burial site for his wife.

“Then Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Makhpelah, by Mamre, also known as Hevron (Hebron), in the land of Kena‘an. The field and its cave had been purchased by Avraham from the sons of Het as a burial-site which would belong to him.”

Not only was Sarah buried in this cave, but also Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.  Rachel was buried near Bethlehem.  Isaac and Jacob were the sons of promise from God to Abraham.  Jacob’s name was divinely changed to Israel.  Thus, the land that Abraham purchased in Hebron became the burial ground of the patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel and their wives. 

Hebron, which is 12 miles south of Jerusalem,  is now the largest city in the West Bank and the second largest Palestinian territory after Gaza.   Eighty percent of the city is controlled by Palestinians while twenty percent by Israel.    Historically, it was the last city to fall to the Muslims in the seventh century and is not mentioned in any of the Arab conquests.  The Caliphate established rule over Hebron and transformed the Byzantine church over Abraham’s ‘land’ into a mosque.  It remained in other nations’ control until the Six-Day War in June 1967 when Israel regained complete control of Hebron along with other west bank of the Jordan land.   As part of a peace agreement with Jordan, Israel annexed only a part of the land and returned the rest to Jordan.  David ben Gurion felt that there needed to be a Jewish settlement in Hebron as it was part of conquered territory and they had  ‘inalienable rights’ according to the Biblical deed bought by Abraham.   There is no  evidence in the Koran that the burial ground for Abraham included his other wives and children nor did they obtain the land through victory in warfare.  This has created mixed feelings within the area as some Jews and Arabs live peaceably with one one another while others want the Jews out.   It was only the generosity of Israel to return 52% of the conquered land back to Jordan.

This is why Abraham bought the land – so there would never be dispute over who owned it.

©2014 Tent Stake Ministries

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