The length of Sarah's life was a hundred and twenty-seven years. 2She died at Kiriath-Arba, now Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceededto mourn and bewail her.
3Then rising from beside his dead, Abraham spoke to the Hittites,4 "I am a stranger resident here." he said. "Let me have a burial site of my own here, so that I can remove my dead for burial. "
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6"Please, listen to us, my lord, we regard you as a prince of Powers; bury your dead in the best of our tombs; not one of us would refuse you his tomb for you to bury your dead." 7At this, Abraham rose and bowed low to the local people, the Hittites, 8 and pleaded with them as follows, "If you consent to my removing my dead for burial, you must agree to intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar, 9 for him to let me have the cave he owns at Machpelah, which is on the edgeof his field. Let him sell it to me in your presence at its full price,for a burial site of my own."
10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all the inhabitants of his town. 11 "No, my lord, listen to me," he said. "I give you the field and the cave in it; I make this gift in the presence of my kinsmen. Bury your dead." 12 Abraham bowed low to the local people 13 and, in the hearing of the local people, replied to Ephron as follows, "Be good enough to listen to me. I shall pay the price of the field; accept it from me and I shall bury my dead there."
14 Ephron replied to Abraham, 15"Please listen to me, my lord. What is a plot of land for four hundred shekels of silver between me and you? Bury your dead." 16 Abraham agreed to Ephron"s terms, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver he had stipulated in the hearing of the Hittites, namely four hundred shekels of silver, according to the current commercial rate. 17Thus Ephron"s field at Machpelah, facing Mamre; the field and the cave in it and all the trees anywhere within the boundaries of the field, passed 18 into Abraham"s possession in the sight of the Hittites, and of all the inhabitants of his town. 19And after this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre, now Hebron, in the land of Canaan. 20And so the field and the cave in it passed from the Hittites into Abraham's possession as a burial site of his own.
Sarah, the original Jewish princess perhaps, is of all the women of the Miqra' the only one to have her age given, which can be good or bad if we allow the stereo-typical feeling that a woman doesn't talk about her age. (Ah, but I bet it originates in males who degenerates a woman's value according to years!) Most likely this is an honor as Sarah lived past the age alloted to men (120) by 7 years.
What a woman! Advanced in age, men still were ready to court her with an ardour strong enough that Avraham feared for his own life thinking that these powerful men would kill to have her. She was of a spirit strong enough, secure in her place, so confident that she willing to see another woman bear Avraham's son. Yet she was humbled by her love of her own child to be jealous and spitefully protective of him.
And it is Sarah that Avraham never devalues, in her age, and even in the embrace of another woman. And it is Sarah that Avraham loves and honors. How long did Avraham embrace her dead body before he finally arose?
Avraham was promised the land by Yahweh, and that in covenant his descendants would have it also. Still he must buy land to bury his dead wife.
The B'ne Het are willing to honor Avraham as the mighty prince he is. Yet Avraham honors his neighbors by bowing low. And he will not hear of accepting the land without purchase. Isn't it the truth that the descendants of Avraham will be given tribute by the nations according to Yeshayah? Was Avraham not entitled to this plot of land or any other around him? How tempting it would have been not only for Avraham to accept the land in his high position set by Yahweh Himself, but also for the biblical author to simply posit the Hittites as giving due recognition and gifts to Avraham.
Is Avraham not just being realistic? Yahweh promised to Avraham. He could have announced to the world, 'Surrender to Avraham and his people anything they require of you!'
Would they have heard Him? Do they hear Him? If someone does not know Yahweh, their promises and their services are conditional, just as the covenant between Avraham and Yahweh was conditional. But for those who do not know Yahweh their understanding of promises and covenants are very conditional upon their own needs and understandings without real regard for Yahweh. Their allegiance is to themselves and they follow agreements only on the points that suit them. Today we have people who claim to be participants in covenant with "God." Yet they pick only the points of covenant that serve their own personal agendas.
The Hittites were honoring Avraham sincerely, and Avraham acknowledged this also. But they were psychologically different, and their motives and understandings were not of the same nature as Avraham's. Although they honored him today, what of tomorrow, or in a hundred generations? Avraham knew that his descendants would be here in a hundred generations with the covenant's Garantor preserving them. But who would through the controversies of history still honor and preserve unadulterated the promises made with men of his day. Look at the Middle East now. Sincere men who do not share the faith of Avraham are friends today and enemies tomorrow.
During the Middle Ages Jews were courted by Christian kings to bring prosperity to their lands (and themselves). Promises were made. But a new day came ripe for the picking and Jews were robbed, murdered, baptized, or expulsed. Yet on the next Christians portray themselves as the saviours of Jews, and they are still positioned as our worldly masters.
Someday we will reap all the promises at the hand of Yahweh. Avraham was wise in knowing that his reward came through Yahweh and not men. He chose not to depend on the fickleness of gentiles who often fill to their own immediate need rather than looking to a hundred genertions. By paying for the land, Avraham was showing his understanding, not contempt, but understanding of men who did not know Yahweh. How can we fully trust those who do not hold the same absolutesas true, or who understand "God" in a different way than our own given to us in scripture? This is not a condemnation; it is an observation thatother peoples understand the world in a much different way and that this way may often conflict with our own, and indeed their own from one day to the next.
Efron himself shows the two sides of this coin when one minute he offers the land to Avraham as a gift---then he turns around to ask the immense amount of 400 sheqels weight of silver!
We can deal with our neighbors, help them, care for them, but we have no right to expect too much from them. We cannot expect them to understand the world in the same way we do. We often judge them because of this, and it is hard not to do sometimes. But we cannot reasonably hold them to the same requirements and standards to which we hold ourselves. They have little understanding of it. It is the proverbial "casting pearls before swine."
They are not swine beneath us, or filthy beasts. But they are sometimes dumb to what we prize, and who is at fault if they are able to trample it? Avraham did not talk down to the Hittites; instead, he honored them. But he also cared for them by not giving them the opportunity to be left to their own whims on another day when they may not be so respectful of Avraham. When we are careful we can avoid future damage to ourselves and also deny others the opportunity of hurting themselves. As Yahweh promised that He would bless those who bless "Avraham"and curse those curse "him" we are responsible to not provide them opportunities to curse.