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The Death of Sarah

23 Sarah lived 127 years.[a] Then she[b] died in Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.[c]

Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife[d] and said to the sons of Heth,[e] “I am a foreign resident, a temporary settler,[f] among you. Grant[g] me ownership[h] of a burial site among you so that I may[i] bury my dead.”[j]

The sons of Heth answered Abraham,[k] “Listen, sir,[l] you are a mighty prince[m] among us! You may bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb to prevent you[n] from burying your dead.”

Abraham got up and bowed down to the local people,[o] the sons of Heth. Then he said to them, “If you agree[p] that I may bury my dead,[q] then hear me out.[r] Ask[s] Ephron the son of Zohar if he will sell[t] me the cave of Machpelah that belongs to him; it is at the end of his field. Let him sell it to me publicly[u] for the full price,[v] so that I may own it as a burial site.”

10 (Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth.) Ephron the Hittite[w] replied to Abraham in the hearing[x] of the sons of Heth—before all who entered the gate[y] of his city— 11 “No, my lord! Hear me out. I sell[z] you both the field and the cave that is in it.[aa] In the presence of my people[ab] I sell it to you. Bury your dead.”

12 Abraham bowed before the local people 13 and said to Ephron in their hearing, “Hear me, if you will. I pay[ac] to you the price[ad] of the field. Take it from me so that I may[ae] bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 “Hear me, my lord. The land is worth[af] 400 pieces of silver,[ag] but what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.”

16 So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price[ah] and weighed out[ai] for him[aj] the price[ak] that Ephron had quoted[al] in the hearing of the sons of Heth—400 pieces of silver, according to the standard measurement at the time.[am]

17 So Abraham secured[an] Ephron’s field in Machpelah, next to Mamre, including the field, the cave that was in it, and all the trees that were in the field and all around its border, 18 as his property in the presence of the sons of Heth before all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city.[ao]

19 After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah next to Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So Abraham secured the field and the cave that was in it as a burial site[ap] from the sons of Heth.


  1. Genesis 23:1 tn Heb “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.”
  2. Genesis 23:2 tn Heb “Sarah.” The proper name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“she”) for stylistic reasons.
  3. Genesis 23:2 sn Mourn…weep. The description here is of standard mourning rites (see K. A. Kitchen, NBD3 149-50). They would have been carried out in the presence of the corpse, probably in Sarah’s tent. So Abraham came in to mourn; then he rose up to go and bury his dead (v. 3).
  4. Genesis 23:3 tn Heb “And Abraham arose from upon the face of his dead.”
  5. Genesis 23:3 tn Heb “sons of Heth,” the gentilic of which is הִתִּי (hitti) “Hittites.” Some translations use “Hittites” here (also in vv. 5, 7, 10, 16, 18, 20). But these people were not the classical Hittites of Anatolia (in Asia Minor, modern Turkey). These sons of Heth are apparently a Canaanite group (see Gen 10:15). See H. A. Hoffner, Jr., “Hittites,” Peoples of the Old Testament World 152-53. But cf. also V. Hamilton, Genesis 18-50 (NICOT), 126-128.
  6. Genesis 23:4 tn Heb “a resident foreigner (גֵּר; ger) and an immigrant (תּוֹשָׁב; toshav).” The term גֵּר (ger) refers to a foreign resident, but with different social implications in different settings. The Patriarchs were foreign, temporary residents in parts of Canaan, who abided by the claims of local authorities (see Gen 20, 23, 26). The noun toshav (תּוֹשָׁב) is less common. Under Mosaic Law it refers to someone of lesser standing than a resident foreigner (גֵּר; ger) since the ger had given full covenantal allegiance to the Lord. While not referring to a citizen, the precise nuance of toshav as an immigrant, resident, or (temporary) settler, is not clear. But in this case it may be a case of hendiadys, where the two terms together mean “an alien resident.”
  7. Genesis 23:4 tn Heb “give,” which is used here as an idiom for “sell” (see v. 9). The idiom reflects the polite bartering that was done in the culture at the time.
  8. Genesis 23:4 tn Or “possession.”
  9. Genesis 23:4 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction expresses purpose.
  10. Genesis 23:4 tn Heb “bury my dead out of my sight.” The last phrase “out of my sight” has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  11. Genesis 23:5 tn Heb “answered Abraham saying to him.”
  12. Genesis 23:6 tn Heb “Hear us, my lord.”
  13. Genesis 23:6 tn Heb “prince of God.” The divine name may be used here as a means of expressing the superlative, “mighty prince.” The word for “prince” probably means “tribal chief” here. See M. H. Gottstein, “Nasiʾ ʾelohim (Gen 23:6),” VT 3 (1953) 298-99; and D. W. Thomas, “Consideration of Some Unusual Ways of Expressing the Superlative in Hebrew,” VT 3 (1953) 215-16.
  14. Genesis 23:6 tn The phrase “to prevent you” has been added in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  15. Genesis 23:7 tn Heb “to the people of the land” (also in v. 12).
  16. Genesis 23:8 tn Heb “If it is with your purpose.” The Hebrew noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here has the nuance “purpose” or perhaps “desire” (see BDB 661 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ).
  17. Genesis 23:8 tn Heb “bury my dead out of my sight.” The last phrase “out of my sight” has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  18. Genesis 23:8 tn Or “hear me.”
  19. Genesis 23:8 tn Heb “intercede for me with.”
  20. Genesis 23:9 tn Heb “give.” This is used here (also a second time later in this verse) as an idiom for “sell”; see the note on the word “grant” in v. 4.
  21. Genesis 23:9 tn Heb “in your presence.”
  22. Genesis 23:9 tn Heb “full silver.”
  23. Genesis 23:10 tn The Hebrew term is “Hittite,” but see the note on the name “Heth” in v. 3.
  24. Genesis 23:10 tn Heb “ears.” By metonymy the “ears” stand for the presence or proximity (i.e., within earshot) of the persons named.
  25. Genesis 23:10 sn On the expression all who entered the gate see E. A. Speiser, “‘Coming’ and ‘Going’ at the City Gate,” BASOR 144 (1956): 20-23; and G. Evans, “‘Coming’ and ‘Going’ at the City Gate: A Discussion of Professor Speiser’s Paper,” BASOR 150 (1958): 28-33.
  26. Genesis 23:11 tn Heb “give.” The perfect tense has here a present nuance; this is a formal, legally binding declaration. Abraham asked only for a burial site/cave within the field; Ephron agrees to sell him the entire field.
  27. Genesis 23:11 tn The Hebrew text adds “to you I give [i.e., sell] it.” This is redundant in English and has not been translated for stylistic reasons.
  28. Genesis 23:11 tn Heb “in the presence of the sons of my people.”
  29. Genesis 23:13 tn Heb “give.”
  30. Genesis 23:13 tn Heb “silver.”
  31. Genesis 23:13 tn After the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction expresses purpose or result.
  32. Genesis 23:15 tn The word “worth” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  33. Genesis 23:15 sn 400 pieces of silver. The standards for weighing money varied considerably in the ancient Near East, but the generally accepted weight for the shekel is 11.5 grams (0.4 ounce). This makes the weight of silver here 4.6 kilograms, or 160 ounces (about 10 pounds).
  34. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “listened to Ephron.”
  35. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “and Abraham weighed out.”
  36. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “to Ephron.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  37. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “silver.”
  38. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “that he had spoken.” The referent (Ephron) has been specified here in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.
  39. Genesis 23:16 tn Heb “passing for the merchant.” The final clause affirms that the measurement of silver was according to the standards used by the merchants of the time.
  40. Genesis 23:17 tn Heb “And it was conveyed.” The recipient, Abraham (mentioned in the Hebrew text at the beginning of v. 18) has been placed here in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  41. Genesis 23:18 tn Heb “his city”; the referent (Ephron) has been specified in the translation for See G. M. Tucker, “The Legal Background of Genesis 23, ” JBL 85 (1966):77-84; and M. R. Lehmann, “Abraham’s Purchase of Machpelah and Hittite Law,” BASOR 129 (1953): 15-18.
  42. Genesis 23:20 tn Heb “possession of a grave.”