Thursday, May 5, 2011

Genesis 23

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. (Gen. 23:1-2)

I have been anticipating this chapter of Genesis, because it is so special. I’ve been reading Jon Courson’s commentary on the chapter and reviewing what I wrote in my workbook for Beth Moore’s, study The Patriarchs. There are several things to note right off the bat. First, Sarah’s age is given - and apparently she is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is given. Why? Well, Jon Courson writes that it is a way to exalt her among women. It points to the fact that she was given 37 years with Isaac, and it certainly emphasizes the length of her life with Abraham. And this is the part that is so poignant: Abraham has lost his better half, the princess (the meaning of her name) who willingly followed him away from the only home she had known, and who had faithfully remained at his side through all of their ups and downs and more downs!

In Beth Moore’s workbook, she asks the students to think of a couple who have been together so long you can’t picture them apart. I had written the names of my sister, Jodi, and my brother-in-law, Ed. In 2012 they will celebrate their 50th anniversary. I have known my dear Ed since I was about 10 years old. I can’t remember life without him as my brother. In the blank on my workbook, about five years ago, I had written the note, “they’ve survived much and enjoyed more.” Little did I know how much more they would have to survive! Any couple who have been together for more than 30 years understands how two have become one. It is almost impossible to conceive of your life without the other. So this picture of Abraham having lost his princess, really gets to me!

Jon Courson points out that this is the first time the Bible records someone weeping! He remarks that there is “no record of tears over the Fall of man , or when the Flood came, or when the people were scattered at Babel.” It’s not until this 23rd chapter that God records the tears of Abraham. Imagine his devastation. He must have felt as if he’d lost his legs! In writing of Abraham’s grief, Beth Moore paints a perfect picture of unadulterated grief: “You know the kind. You cry until you’re certain you have no more tears and then a few hours later, they wash over you like a flood. You wonder where on earth they are coming from... In the early moments of loss, nothing we have can quite make up for what we’ve lost... Early grief steals our world as if nothing and no one else ever existed.”
Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.” (vs. 3-4)

The death of Sarah has suddenly brought eternity into perspective. Abraham’s heart is now fully in heaven and he realizes that, even though he is a respected, wealthy leader in Canaan, and even though God has promised him all of this land, at this point he owns none of it, not even a plot to bury his dear Sarah. This reminded me of that period of grace after the loss of a loved one, when your mind is taken up with details. After the initial shock the details of services and burial have to be taken care of - and they offer you a cushion from the pain for a while.

So Abraham makes arrangements to purchase a choice plot of land from Ephron, a Hittite. Although Ephron originally offers the plot for free, it is clear from the rest of the passage that he knows Abraham will not accept it. Ephron surely takes advantage of Abraham’s grief and charges an outrageous price for the plot (according to both commentators, 400 shekels of silver was exorbitant). But Abraham doesn’t even attempt to bargain when it comes to his Sarah. This tomb would become the burial place of both Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah.

My heart aches for Abraham, and for Isaac. The loss of the wife and mother to a family is enormous! She is always the one who keeps everything together. At Don’s retirement party this past Saturday, I was speaking and referred to the fact that Don and I would be celebrating out 39th anniversary this next August. My daughters began to gesture to me that I was wrong, it will be our 40th anniversary. I could not believe it! I have been telling everyone that it’s our 39th - and low and behold, if it isn’t our 40th!!! Everyone got a kick out of the fact that I did not know it! Usually it’s the wife who is on top of that info! :) Anyway, it’s been a long time - and we can’t imagine our lives without the other. What a bittersweet story this is, then, to look at the painful loss of Sarah!

May the LORD grant each of us a better awareness of the gift of marriage and the blessing of this special fellowship that is a preview of our Marriage to come!



  1. What an encouragement! Thank you for sharing. I lost a dear friend this week and was searching some passages on grief when I found your blog.


  2. Thanks, Ashley, for letting me know it encouraged you. This was written more than a year ago, right after my sister Jodi learned on a Tuesday that she had cancer (multiple myeloma), then got a call the next day that her 35 year old son, Justin, had died of sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep. Justin left his wife, twin 5 yr old boys, a 3 yr old son, and his wife was expecting their fourth, a girl. It was so much to bear! Then she lost t
    of her closest friends shortly after that. It gas been a long 18 months, but we have seen God bring joy out of grief. I'll be praying for you and for your friend's family!