Genesis 23: Through the Whole Bible
Note: I discovered, yesterday, that the shortened links to the Bible chapters were going to a Facebook page and not to the pages themselves. That's not right. So, no more shortened links for that, it will be the long links. Sorry about that glitch.
Genesis 23 (link) draws the life of Sarah to a close. I've offered a few thoughts on this passage before, and they are here. That should include a sermon link if you want to take a listen to that message from back in September.
I'll try not to repeat the same ideas that the prior post held. Let's take a look at a few other aspects of this chapter:
1. I used to think there was something to the idea that Genesis 22 ends with Abraham at Beersheba and then Sarah dies at Hebron. That's a bit of distance between them, as if the whole situation within Genesis 22 with the near-sacrifice of Isaac put a major break between Abraham and Sarah. I'm not so sure of that now. Abraham was, after all, a nomad.
2. The various sources I consult for Old Testament history/archaeology differ on whether or not Abraham gets ripped off in the purchase price of the cave/field. He definitely does not drive a hard bargain, but rather takes what he can get. Also, linguistically, give/sell are the same word, so he's not necessarily insisting on paying for something freely offered.
3. I find it interesting that the trees count as a separate item purchased. I don't know that it's significant in any way. But such it is.
What, then, do we do about this?
1. Don't over-interpret. There are parts of Scripture where we do need to make those leaps, but other times it's important to note: every event in the life of every character is not in the Bible. We know that John the Baptist's main diet was locusts and wild honey, but he may not have eaten that all of his life. Don't get carried away.
Likewise, every move of Abraham is not here. Scripture is adequate, but not exhaustive, in the treatment of history and biography. We don't know for certain what Abraham ever had for breakfast, and that's ok.
2. There are details in the text that give us nothing but details. If there was a real point behind how much Abraham paid for the land, then there would be a better frame of reference. More likely, that information is there because one of the purposes of Genesis is establishing land-claim to the whole region for the people of Israel. God had promised it, Abraham bought part of it, and then everyone else is gone. Conquered, but still, gone.
3. There is still something very important to consider about what Abraham is buying. Sometimes, all we can expect out of this world is a place to leave the bodies. That's it. What wealth we have goes into that. The end of our lives brings the end of the usefulness of our wealth and possessions, and pursuing them proves to have been less than helpful. It is of value to leave behind resources for those that follow: Genesis 24 commends the inheritance left to Abraham's children.
Yet none of us take it with us. All the world truly has to offer is this: a place to lay our dead. Let our treasure be greater and incorruptible.