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Genesis chapter 23

New International Version

1 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 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.
3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.'
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.'
7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, 'If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.'
10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 No, my lord,' he said. 'Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.'
12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, 'Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.'
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.'
16 Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.
17 So Ephron's field in Machpelah near Mamre--both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field--was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
English Standard Version

1 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, 4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” 5 The Hittites answered Abraham, 6 “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.” 7 Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. 8 And he said to them, “If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.”
10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, 11 “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” 12 Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. 13 And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” 14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” 16 Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.
17 So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. 19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.
King James Version

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.
New American Standard Bible

1 Now Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 Then Abraham arose from mourning before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 4 'I am a stranger and a foreign resident among you; give me a burial site among you so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.' 5 The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, 6 'Hear us, my lord: you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.' 7 So Abraham stood up and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. 8 And he spoke with them, saying, 'If you are willing to let me bury my dead out of my sight, listen to me, and plead with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in your presence for a burial site.' 10 Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham so that the sons of Heth heard, that is, all who entered the gate of his city, saying, 11 'No, my lord, listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.' 12 And Abraham bowed before the people of the land. 13 But he spoke to Ephron so that the people of the land heard, saying, 'If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me so that I may bury my dead there.' 14 Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 'My lord, listen to me: a plot of land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.' 16 Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the presence of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency acceptable to a merchant.
17 So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who entered the gate of his city. 19 After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave that was in it were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.
New Living Translation

1 When Sarah was 127 years old, 2 she died at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron) in the land of Canaan. There Abraham mourned and wept for her.
3 Then, leaving her body, he said to the Hittite elders, 4 'Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.'
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 'Listen, my lord, you are an honored prince among us. Choose the finest of our tombs and bury her there. No one here will refuse to help you in this way.'
7 Then Abraham bowed low before the Hittites 8 and said, 'Since you are willing to help me in this way, be so kind as to ask Ephron son of Zohar 9 to let me buy his cave at Machpelah, down at the end of his field. I will pay the full price in the presence of witnesses, so I will have a permanent burial place for my family.'
10 Ephron was sitting there among the others, and he answered Abraham as the others listened, speaking publicly before all the Hittite elders of the town. 11 'No, my lord,' he said to Abraham, 'please listen to me. I will give you the field and the cave. Here in the presence of my people, I give it to you. Go and bury your dead.'
12 Abraham again bowed low before the citizens of the land, 13 and he replied to Ephron as everyone listened. 'No, listen to me. I will buy it from you. Let me pay the full price for the field so I can bury my dead there.'
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 'My lord, please listen to me. The land is worth 400 pieces of silver, but what is that between friends? Go ahead and bury your dead.'
16 So Abraham agreed to Ephron's price and paid the amount he had suggested--400 pieces of silver, weighed according to the market standard. The Hittite elders witnessed the transaction.
17 So Abraham bought the plot of land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah, near Mamre. This included the field itself, the cave that was in it, and all the surrounding trees. 18 It was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate. 19 Then Abraham buried his wife, Sarah, there in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron). 20 So the field and the cave were transferred from the Hittites to Abraham for use as a permanent burial place.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Now Sarah lived 127 years; these were all the years of her life. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
3 Then Abraham got up from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hethites: 4 "I am an alien residing among you. Give me burial property among you so that I can bury my dead."
5 The Hethites replied to Abraham, 6 "Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in our finest burial place. None of us will withhold from you his burial place for burying your dead."
7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down to the Hethites, the people of the land. 8 He said to them, "If you are willing for me to bury my dead, listen to me and ask Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 to give me the cave of Machpelah that belongs to him; it is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me in your presence, for the full price, as burial property."
10 Ephron was sitting among the Hethites. So in the hearing of all the Hethites who came to the gate of his city, Ephron the Hethite answered Abraham: 11 "No, my lord. Listen to me. I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the sight of my people. Bury your dead."
12 Abraham bowed down to the people of the land 13 and said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, "Listen to me, if you please. Let me pay the price of the field. Accept it from me, and let me bury my dead there."
14 Ephron answered Abraham and said to him, 15 "My lord, listen to me. Land worth four hundred shekels of silver--what is that between you and me? Bury your dead." 16 Abraham agreed with Ephron, and Abraham weighed out to Ephron the silver that he had agreed to in the hearing of the Hethites: four hundred standard shekels of silver. 17 So Ephron's field at Machpelah near Mamre--the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the boundaries of the field--became 18 Abraham's possession in the sight of all the Hethites who came to the gate of his city. 19 After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field at Machpelah near Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field with its cave passed from the Hethites to Abraham as burial property.

What does Genesis chapter 23 mean?

The story of Genesis leaps forward several decades. It's likely been around 20 years or so since Abraham prepared to offer Isaac on the altar. It's been about 35 years since last we saw Sarah, insisting that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away.

Now Sarah has died at the age of 127 years old. That would make Abraham 137 years old and Isaac about 37 years old (Genesis 17:17). We find them living in Hebron, near the familiar area of Mamre, about 20 miles south of what would become Jerusalem (Genesis 23:1–2).

After Abraham mourns for his wife, he approaches the Hittite people of the area with a request. These Hittites would be the descendants of Noah's grandson Canaan, making them part of the original Canaanites. Abraham comes before an assembled group of Hittite landowners or elders, perhaps in the city gate of Hebron.

Abraham presents himself to them as a foreigner and a sojourner. He requests that they give him a piece of property to use as a burial place. Their response is gracious. They know Abraham well. They call him "a prince of God among [them]." Abraham was a foreigner, but he was also quite wealthy and clearly blessed by God in all he did. The Hittites of the area seem to have regarded him as a friend (Genesis 23:3–6).

In fact, the Hittites offer Abraham the choice of any of their own tombs to bury his dead. Abraham, however, wants something more specific. He wants to establish a permanent family burial place of his own in the land of Canaan. He wants to acquire a piece of property that will belong to him and him alone.

Once the Hittites state that they are willing for Abraham to bury his dead in their region, Abraham reveals he has a specific property in mind. He singles out Ephron, son of Zohar, and asks to purchase a cave of his east of Mamre at Machpelah.

A negotiation of sorts takes place, couched in the tradition and customs of Middle Eastern bargaining. Ephron offers to give the cave to Abraham, along with the field attached to it. Abraham insists on paying for it (so there can be no future dispute about who owns it). Ephron dismissively mentions a price of 400 shekels of silver for the cave and field. Abraham immediately agrees, paying out the price on the spot and in full view of the assembled Hittites. Very quickly, the transaction is concluded and signed off by the Hittite elders (Genesis 23:7–18).

Finally, Abraham buries Sarah in the cave he now owns in the promised land of Canaan. Later, Abraham himself will be buried there, then Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah. Without a battle of any kind, the people of God have begun their occupation of the land God has promised to give to Abraham's offspring (Genesis 23:19–20).