Genesis chapter 23 records the death and burial of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Sarah was 127 years old when she died in Kirjatharba (Hebron) in the land of Canaan and Abraham came to mourn and wept for her. Being a stranger and sojourner in that land, and not having a burial place, he stood up before Sarah’s body and negotiated with the people (sons of Heth) for a place to bury Sarah. When the people identified Abraham as a mighty prince amongst them and offered Abraham the choice to pick from the choicest of tombs, Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land and instead of taking advantage of his position and princely power, he offered to purchase the cave of Macpelah, from Ephron, the son of Zohar, for the fair market value of what Ephron would sell it to one of his own people. In the presence of the people of the land (children of Heth), Abraham and Ephron settled at four hundred shekels of silver for the the cave of Macpelah, the field in which the cave was and all the trees in the border of that field. Abraham weighed four hundred shekels of silver in the audience of the people and purchased the property, where he buried Sarah.
Points to ponder:
There are some valuable lessons one can learn from this account that applies aptly to businesses.
First, despite the position and power of Abraham, wherein he is recognized as a mighty prince (even to a people not his own), he does not take advantage of that position or power but remembers to be respectful (bowing to the people) and not exploiting their generosity by accepting their ‘free’ offer. In like manner, we ought not to let position and power, make us forget respect of the people nor should we exploit business offers just because we can.
Second, he offers to pay full price at fair market value to purchase a property that he explicitly identifies. In like manner, our business dealings must not only be fair, but the details of the transactions need to be non-ambiguous.
Third, Abraham conducted his business in front of the people as witnesses, making his business dealings transparent and open. In like manner, our business dealings should all be out in the open in a world that is rife with bribery (under the table transactions).
However, in addition to these business lessons, if we fail to see the spiritual application of this account, we would have completely missed the mark. Abraham was a wealthy man, so much so that the people of the land called him a mighty prince. He had possessions, power and position and yet he did not have a place to bury his own wife. This shows that Abraham was not attached to the land for he recognized that he was merely a sojourner and a stranger in the land. In like manner, we are merely strangers and sojourners in the world here … on a journey to an eternal city whose architect and builder is God himself. While we may have some position and power in this world, we must not be attached to this world … for our citizenship is in heaven. Are you on that journey or are you settled here on earth (which will soon pass away)?
Genesis 23:1-20 (KJV)
1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.
8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.
10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
17 And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure
18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.
20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.