The Deed Dance

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Faith in God's divine word gives us strength and confidence to keep moving forward.

Genesis(67) (Part of the Origins(65) series)
by Stuart Johns(184) on April 10, 2022 (Sunday Morning(259))

Glorifying God(3), Rejoice(2), Trust(9)

Origins

The Deed Dance

(Genesis 23:1-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

Walt Disney made a statement that is the premise behind the animated movie Meet the Robinsons.

 

He said, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. ​​ We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, doing new things, because we’re curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Moving a lot

        • Since Judy and I have moved around a lot during our 30 years of marriage, we have not really thought about where we would be buried when we die

        • Most people don’t like to talk about death to begin with, much less, about burial plots

        • We have discussed it a couple of times over the past 30 years, but I’m not sure we have settled on anything yet

        • We haven’t purchased burial plots

        • We haven’t met with the funeral home to discuss their services

    • Wills, estates, and burial plots

        • I have started thinking more about it, especially after the Stewardship Lifestyle Seminar and meeting with the lawyer to discuss our will and estate planning

        • My family

          • Salem Cemetery in Chambersburg, PA (Johns and Rife) – my parents will be buried there

          • Browns Mill Presbyterian Cemetery in Chambersburg, PA – behind Rhodes Grove Camp & Conference Center (Hykes and Kennedy)

        • Grove family

          • With Mabel Groves’ funeral this week, I was reminded again that Judy and I do not have burial plots

          • When we had the burial service at Barrens Salem Union Cemetery, the family was showing me the other headstones where extended family has been buried

 

  • WE

    • How about you and your family?

        • Most families have a particular cemetery where most of them have been buried or will be buried

        • This is usually the case with most families

    • Long standing tradition

        • This is not a recent tradition in our lifetime or even the generation before us

        • The idea of a family burial place comes to us from the Patriarchs

        • Abraham was just as concerned about securing a family burial space

        • I’m in good in company, because Abraham did not plan ahead for this either

        • It wasn’t until his wife Sarah’s death that he secured the family burial plot

 

Abraham was fully committed to God’s divine plan for him and his descendants. ​​ Once he entered the Promised Land, he didn’t look back – he kept moving forward. ​​ As we will see in Genesis 23:1-20, today, Abraham doesn’t take Sarah back to Mesopotamia to bury her. ​​ Rather, he purchases property in Canaan. ​​ What we will learn from Abraham’s example is that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Faith in God’s divine word gives us strength and confidence to keep moving forward.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 23:1-20)

    • Death (vv. 1-2)

        • Sarah’s age

          • Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is revealed

            • Fun note: ​​ perhaps this is why we never ask a woman her age

            • We know she is 127 years old when she dies

          • “All that we know of Sarah’s activities between the age of 90 and 127 is that she gave birth to Isaac and died thirty-seven years later.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 125]

          • It is three years before Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah

          • Abraham is 137 years old

          • They have been in Canaan for sixty-two years

        • Where she died

          • Kiriath Arba

            • This would have been the name of the town when Abraham and Sarah lived there

            • The narrator gives the audience the modern city name to help them know where he is talking about

            • Joshua 14:15, (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)

            • “‘Kiriath Arba’ means ‘city of four’ (qiryat ʾarbaʿ), which may originally have referred to a group of four related cities (Aner, Eschcol, Mamre, and Hebron, see comments on 14:14).” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 315]

          • In the land of Canaan – the Promised Land

        • Abraham’s grief

          • The passage makes it sound like Abraham was somewhere else when Sarah passed away

          • He was not in Hebron at the time, so where was he?

            • Genesis 22:19, Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. ​​ And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

              • This was just after Abraham and Isaac returned from the top of Mt. Moriah, where the Lord tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac

              • If you remember, it was a three-day journey from Beersheba to Mt. Moriah (close to Jerusalem) [50-60 miles]

            • Beersheba is 26.4 miles south of Hebron (it would have been about a day and half journey)

              • Perhaps Sarah remained in a clan community in the grove of Mamre near Hebron while Abraham and Isaac helped with the flocks and herds in Beersheba

              • Abraham had dug a well in Beersheba when he and Abimelech struck a contract

              • It would have been a natural place for them to shepherd their herds and flocks, since the well was there

            • Abraham followed the mourning rites of the ancient Near East as he mourned and wept for Sarah

          • Mourning and weeping

            • The mourning rites would have included “loud weeping, tearing clothes, sitting in dirt, wearing sackcloth, and shaving the head.” ​​ [Mathews, 315]

            • Mourning would “involve crying out, exclamations of grief that may be a ritual lament, although not the cries of a formal poetic lament.” ​​ [Mathews, 315]

              • It was not uncommon in Biblical times for the surviving family members to mourn loudly

              • The neighbors would have known immediately that someone had died, because of the loud laments of the family

              • In some cases, there were professional mourners who would join the family in their grief

              • Our grief today is much more subdued, though I have experienced family members who have wept openly and loudly

              • There is certainly nothing wrong with expressing our grief openly and loudly

            • Weeping was how a person would express their grief either over the death of a loved one or a difficult situation – it has the idea of shedding tears

            • Warren Wiersbe relates this encounter, “The late Vance Havner had a wife named Sarah. ​​ Shortly after her untimely death, I was with Dr. Havner at the Moody Bible Institute, and I shared my condolences with him. ​​ ‘I’m sorry to hear you lost your wife,’ I said to him when we met in the dining room. ​​ He smiled and replied, ‘Son, when you know where something is, you haven’t lost it.’” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 111]

              • What a great reminder for us today

              • Philippians 1:21-23, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. ​​ If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. ​​ Yet what shall I choose? ​​ I do not know! ​​ I am torn between the two: ​​ I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

              • Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-8

              • Revelation 14:13, Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ​​ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

              • When our loved ones, who have a personal relationship with Jesus, depart from this world, we can rejoice, because they are not lost – they are with Jesus!

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Rejoice over my loved ones who have passed away and had a personal relationship with Jesus, because they are with Him now.

              • This is the hope we have as disciples of Jesus Christ – we will one day be with Him also

              • Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

        • As soon as Abraham completes his mourning and weeping, he sets his sights on purchasing a burial location for Sarah

    • Deed (vv. 3-18)

        • This section is broken into three movements that all begin the same Hebrew word, qûm or wayyāqom in the Qal form

          • It is translated “rose” in verses 3 and 7 (arise: after lying down; from bending over the dead)

          • It is translated “was deeded” in verses 17 and 20 (stand: especially figuratively; be established, confirmed, of purchase)

        • First movement (vv. 3-6)

          • It includes the initial round of negotiations with the Hittites

            • Abraham rose (qûm) – he got up from beside Sarah’s body after mourning and weeping

            • Abraham’s request

              • Alien and a stranger

                • Abraham addresses the Hittites (the sons of Heth)

                • “A ‘resident alien’ (gēr; cf. 15:13) is someone who does not belong by right in a place; a ‘settler’ (tûšāb) is someone who is nevertheless staying there semi-permanently.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 367]

                • Abraham had tenant status with them, since he had been living among them for years (settler idea)

                • A stranger had some recognition in the community, but could not own property of his own [Kidner cited by Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 200]

                • “The truth was that Abraham owned the whole land. ​​ God had given it to him, but there was no way he could convince his neighbors of that.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 111]

                  • Imagine going to the current residents of a home and telling them that God has given you their home

                  • How do you think that conversation is going to go?

                • Instead, Abraham comes humbly before the Hittite people

              • Sell me some property

                • Abraham humbles himself before the Hittites and asks for permission to buy property in their land, which would give him a permanent foothold in Canaan

                • Abraham would no longer be an alien and stranger, but rather a land owner and a permanent part of the community

                • From this little parcel of land, the descendants of Abraham would fill the whole land

                • “The man has no land of his own, but by acquiring Hittite property he demonstrates his reliance on the prior promise of the Lord (cp. Jer 32:6-15).” ​​ [Mathews, 317]

                • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we have faith in His divine promises.

                  • Abraham believed God for the birth of Isaac and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6)

                  • Abraham had faith that God would establish his descendants in Canaan and therefore he asked to purchase land in Canaan to bury his dead

                  • God always keeps His promises

                  • He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6; Matt. 28:20)

                  • He promises to always love us (Jer. 31:3)

                  • He promises to forgive our sins when we confess and repent (1 John 1:9)

                  • He promises to provide for us – supply all our needs according to His riches (Phil. 4:19); He will add all these things to us when we seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33); God, who didn’t spare His own Son, will also graciously give us all things (Rom. 8:32)

                  • There are so many more promises of God found in His Word

                  • Where do we need to exercise our faith in God’s promises?

                  • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust by faith that God will fulfill His divine promises in my life.

                • Faith in God’s divine word gives us strength and confidence to keep moving forward.

              • Abraham needed some land with a cave on it to bury his dead

            • Hittites’ response

              • Mighty prince

                • The Hittites recognized Abraham’s status within their community

                • They called him a mighty prince

                  • In Hebrew it means, “a prince with God,” “a prince of God,”

                  • They see Abraham as “God’s elect one” [Hamilton, 129]

                  • They recognized God’s protection and provision for Abraham (He was given animals and slaves from Pharaoh and Abimelech and Sarah received a thousand shekels of silver from Abimelech)

                  • Abraham had defeated the five kings that had attacked the region where Sodom and Gomorrah were located and returned all of the people to that region

                  • Abraham had become very wealthy with silver, gold, and animals

                  • Abraham was well known throughout Canaan

                  • Overall he had a good reputation with the people of Canaan

                • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is glorified when our lives testify about Him.

                  • We have the same opportunity that Abraham did, but in our own communities

                  • Do our lives testify about the Lord’s protection and provision?

                  • Do our lives testify about how awesome God is?

                  • Do our lives show others the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

                  • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Glorify God by living a life that testifies about Him.

                • Because of Abraham’s reputation in Canaan the Hittites inform him that he can have his pick of any of their tombs

              • Have your choice of our tombs

                • The Hittites offer their choicest tombs to Abraham

                • They are willing to have Sarah buried in any of their tombs

                • Important note: ​​ The offer does not include land ownership, but simply space in their tombs

                  • There was normally a preparation table in each tomb where the bodies were prepared for burial

                  • There were other chambers where the most recently deceased person was laid

                  • Eventually, the remaining bones were piled up in the back of the tomb

                  • So, we see why the Hittites were amiable in offering their tombs to Abraham

                  • Perhaps they assumed that Abraham would take her bones when he moved on [Goldingay, 367]

          • The first movement ends with the offer of any tomb, but Abraham has a specific cave in mind

        • Second movement (vv. 7-16)

          • It includes two additional rounds of speeches

            • First round is addressed to the “people of the land,” but also includes the specific piece of land that Abraham is desiring from Ephron (vv. 7-11)

              • Abraham rose (qûm) – he got up from sitting in the gate of the city (v. 7)

                • Abraham continues to be respectful and humble as he makes his specific request

                • He stands up only to bow down before the Hittite people, in respect

              • Abraham’s request (vv. 8-9)

                • Abraham is still feeling out the situation with the Hittites when he says, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead . . .”

                • He asks the Hittite leaders to intercede on his behalf with Ephron son of Zohar

                • Ephron owns a field that has a cave at the end of it

                  • The cave is named Machpelah

                  • The name actually means “double-cave” or “split-cave”

                  • Perhaps there were to chambers in this cave, either side-by-side or one on top of the other

                • Abraham is only interested in the cave at the end of the field, and is willing to pay the fair market value for it

              • Ephron’s response (vv. 10-11)

                • Ephron was sitting among the Hittites that were gathered

                  • At the end of verse 10 the city is identified as his city

                  • Perhaps Ephron was the main leader of the city where he lived

                • Ephron offers both the field and the cave that is on it to Abraham as a gift

                  • We have to understand that this was the typical bargaining process in the ancient Near East

                  • Ephron was not really offering the field and cave for free

                  • “If Abraham had accepted the land as a gift when it was offered, he would have insulted Ephron, who then would have rescinded his offer. ​​ Many Middle Eastern shopkeepers still follow this ritual with their customers.” ​​ [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Genesis 23:10-15]

                  • Had Abraham accepted the free offer, Ephron’s family could potentially come back after his death and reclaim the field and cave

              • Abraham understood the bargaining ritual, so he continues his dialogue with Ephron

            • Second round addresses Ephron directly and the payment for the field and cave (vv. 12-16)

              • Abraham once again bows before the people of the land in respect

              • Abraham offers to buy the field that the cave sits on

              • Ephron continues the bargaining process by stating that the land is worth 400 shekels of silver

                • This was an exorbitant price for the field, especially based on other land transactions found in Scripture

                • “David paid only one-eighth that amount—50 shekels of silver—for the purchase of the temple site from Araunah (2 Sam. 24:24). ​​ Jeremiah paid 17 shekels of silver for his cousin’s field in Anathoth (Jer. 32:9). ​​ Omri paid fifteen times as much as Abraham—two talents of silver (6,000 shekels)—for the large hill of Samaria (1 K. 16:24).” ​​ [Hamilton, 135]

                • Ephron didn’t consider the price exorbitant, because he states, but what is that between me and you?

                • He probably knew how wealthy Abraham was

                • “The custom of the day was to ask double the fair market value of the land, fully expecting the buyer to offer half the stated price.” ​​ [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Genesis 23:16]

              • Abraham agrees to the price without haggling and weighs out the 400 shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants

              • The transaction was done in the presence of the people of the land, so that there were plenty of witnesses

          • With the purchase complete, the final movement summarizes everything that just happened

        • Third movement (vv. 17-18)

          • The property and location

            • The field, cave, and trees within the borders of the field

            • Machpelah near Mamre

          • The people

            • Ephron

            • Abraham

              • This is the third time that (qûm) is used

              • Here it is translated as “was deeded,” “made sure,” “established,” “secured”

              • “Literally, the phrase is ‘rose [and went over] to.’ ​​ That is, the deed ‘rose and went to Abraham.’” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 321]

            • Plenty of witnesses – all the Hittites that had come to the gate of the city

        • The transaction is complete and Abraham can finally bury Sarah

    • Done (vv. 19-20)

        • I’m sure that Abraham didn’t waste any time in completing the burial process

        • The location of the cave is mentioned again

        • The transfer of ownership is mentioned one last time

 

  • YOU

    • You don’t have to weep like those who have no hope

        • When your family members, who have a personal relationship with Jesus, pass away, you can rejoice, because they are with Jesus

        • They are not lost

    • God keeps His promises

        • He will never leave you or forsake you

        • He will always love you and forgive you, when you repent

        • He will always provide for you, and so much more

        • So, you can trust by faith that God will fulfill His divine promises in your life

    • Glorifying God with your life is an incredible way to testify about Him with others

 

  • WE

    • We can rejoice with friends who have believing family that have passed away, because we know where they are at (we can also mourn with them as they grieve)

    • We can encourage each other with the promises of God, found in Scripture

    • We can urge each other on in living lives that glorify God

 

CONCLUSION

“In November 1858, missionary John Paton landed in the New Hebrides to establish a ministry among the people. ​​ On February 12, 1859, his wife gave birth to a son; and on March 3, his wife died. ​​ Seventeen days later, the baby died. ​​ ‘But for Jesus and the fellowship He gave me there,’ said Paton, ‘I must have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave.’

 

But we do not sorrow as those who have no hope! ​​ We have been born again, ‘to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3, NKJV), and we are ‘looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13).”

 

[Wiersbe, 113]

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