Sarah lived 127 years, and then she dies in Kiriyat Arba, that is, Hebron.
Sarah is the only female whose age is recorded at the time of her death. She was 90 when Isaac was born, so she got to enjoy raising her son and seeing him live to the age of 37. She does not get to see him married; however. That is still to come.
Many Jewish (and Arab) burial practices stem from this historical moment, when Abraham says goodbye to his beloved Sarah.
Great care is given to the body of the dead. It is seen as an offering back to the God who took us from the dust of the earth in the first place. This great care given to the body is also is anticipating the resurrection. Cremation and burning to Jewish people is more of a statement that life is all over and done with. This is one of the reasons that Hitler burned Jewish bodies. It was one more in-your-face act toward those that he despised.
Remembering is a big Jewish custom. On the death anniversary of their loved one, they will burn a yarzeit candle, and remember the life of the deceased. Historically, Jews were not so much into birthdays, but the death day has always been a very important day. A day of remembrance. Visiting a grave remains a major Jewish practice today. Usually a rock, seen as a better symbol of eternity than flowers, is placed on the grave.
One year after death, the Jews would collect the bones from the decomposed body and re-bury them in an ossuary, or bone box. In the same way, Yosef's bones were brought up from Egypt and buried in Shechem. I think of the passage in Ezekiel 37 that speaks of dry bones coming to life.
|A memorial candle|
Anyway, we now have a written account of the deed for the land in Hebron, recorded for all of human history to see.
Abraham negotiates with the sons of Heth (the Hittites) for the cave of Machpelah. The guy who owns the land, Ephron the Hittite, opens the negotiations by saying he wants to give Abraham the land for free. (Interestingly, Ephron means dust),
Perhaps Abraham knows the importance of having a recorded deed of sale for this very significant place that would someday be so contested. He insists on paying for it.
Ephron says, ok fine (his intention all along) and in the typical custom of Middle Eastern negotiations, names a price that is probably much higher than what the land is worth.
In verse 16, Abraham pays Ephron what he asks for the land, without even batting an eye or entering into heated bargaining, because of his great love for Sarah.
The sale of the land is recorded in scripture, complete with witnesses, in verses 17 and 18:
So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
|The Cave of Machpelah was beautified under Herod the Great|
Why is it so important to have a recorded deed of this land?
And oh, is Hebron a contested place!
In 1929, there was a terrible massacre of 67 Jews by Muslims in Hebron, due to high tensions stemming from Jews returning to the Promised Land, accompanied by incitement of the Arab residents by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini.
|18-month old Shlomo Slonim survived the massacre and lived to age 86|
Click here for the next post.