Genesis 23:2 Sarah died
The scriptures may not tell the story of many women, but they tell us enough of Sarah to be amazed with her faith and character. Like Lehi’s wife, Sarai, she followed her prophet-husband away from home in search of a promised land. Much like Sarai, the journey was difficult and the reward seemed unattainable. What hardships she bore, we can only imagine. The greatest source of grief must have been the pain of barren childlessness. Here a righteous woman had done all she had been asked to do yet her greatest desire was unmet. She had followed her husband from her homeland. She had helped convert souls to the gospel in Haran. She had been seized by a pharaoh and a king while her virtue hung in the balance. Two times, her life was placed at risk when the deceit of saying Abraham was her brother was discovered. Faithful and righteous, she was worthy of the great Father Abraham in every way. She was the great Mother Sarah—the matriarch of kings, the mother of three great world religious traditions, the forbearer of numberless nations, tongues, and peoples. Through her lineage would come all the Prophets of the Bible; through her would come the covenant promises for God’s children unto the end of the earth; through her would come the Son of God and Messiah of the world.
Sarah is the only woman who has a law of God named after her (see “law of Sarah” in D&C 132:65). She is the only woman whose burial occupies an entire chapter of scripture. Abraham mourns and grieves the loss even amidst the promises of eternal marriage. He spares no expense for her burial. He wants a cave where no animal can mar her body. It is the last great act of love and protection he can offer to his beloved partner. The great love of the great patriarch was gone. She was irreplaceable. She is the only woman whose age at death is written in the scriptures. Lauded by Paul for her great faith (Heb. 11:11), she was a woman of faith and integrity. She is heir to all the great and wonderful promises given to Abraham. None of those promises were given to him and not to her. Without Sarah, there could be no covenant of Abraham. She is the mother of myriads of nations and a great example to her millions of daughters. She who was barren becomes the poster child for those who feel shortchanged in mortality. She can teach her daughters that the unmet expectations of mortality are overwhelmingly compensated in eternity. She is a hero for women of all ages.
Genesis 23:2 Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her
Bruce R. McConkie
"Thou shalt live together in love," the Lord says, "insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection." (D. & C. 42:45) Thus Abraham mourned for righteous Sarah (Gen. 23:2), and thus all Israel mourned for Moses. (Deut. 34:8.) At such times of deep sorrow, when death overtakes a loved one, the feelings of a compassionate person become tender, the veil between the living and the dead grows thinner, and things of eternity and of the Spirit sink deeper into the soul. Desires for righteousness are thus built up in the hearts of the bereaved.
Righteous mourning is not confined to periods of great sorrow. It is part of the saintly way of life. (Mormon Doctrine, 519)
Genesis 23:3 the sons of Heth
The sons of Heth were also called Hittites. Abraham is very careful to maintain good relations with his neighbors. The children of Israel were not so careful. Actually, it was by command from the Lord that the children of Israel some 500 years later, would fight against the Hittites in order to take the land of Canaan. The Hittites were part of the group of nations (Amorites, Hivites, Jebusites, Perizzites, Girgashites, and Canaanites) who were to be destroyed because the “people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them.” (1 Ne. 17:35). See Bible Dictionary: “Hittites.”
Genesis 23:4-16 give me the cave of Machpelah… for as much money as it is worth
Historically, the descendants of Abraham have had difficulty getting along with each other. They should learn how to treat their neighbors from Father Abraham. Notice how careful Abraham is to keep himself out of trouble with the neighbors. He recognizes that the sons of Heth were first in the land (v. 4); he twice “bowed himself to the people” (v. 7); he offered to pay whatever the cave was worth (v. 9). When he was offered the cave for free, he was too smart to accept. He knew that while Ephron may have felt generous for a moment and offered him the cave for free (v. 11), he might later change his mind. If he were to regret his gift, he might find fault with Abraham, ask for the cave back, or seek retribution. This is exactly the kind of conflict that Abraham is very careful to avoid. He first offers “as much money as it is worth.” He is not excited to get a great deal—to go back to his servants and brag about what a great shopper he is. When Ephron won’t give him a price, Abraham offers an exorbitant amount.
“In comparison to Jacob’s purchase of land in Canaan for 100 shekels, Abraham paid an excessively generous amount.” 400 shekels of silver weighed about 10 pounds. (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 46) For Sarah, no expense was spared. For the sake of peace with the neighbors, Abraham did not want to look cheap. The custom may have been to make the transaction at the gate of the city in the presence of all the men, but that custom prevented any future difficulties since all were witnesses that Abraham had acted uprightly. And so “Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver… in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver.” (v. 16)
Genesis 23:19 the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is in Hebron in the land of Canaan
The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, but there are many instances when we can see the hand of scribes that lived hundreds of years later. We see an emphasis on places that would have been familiar to ancient Jews but not to Moses. For instance, information is included about the well at Beer-lahai-roi (Gen. 16:14), or the well in Beer-sheba (Gen. 21:30-31), or the Mount of Jehovah-jireh (Gen. 22:14), or the cave where Sarah was buried in Hebron. Josephus, a historian from the days of the apostles, was familiar with the site where Lot’s wife was turned to stone (Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, 11:4). After a while, Genesis begins to read like a historical guide on a church history tour. These were the places where the Israelites could visit and turn to the scriptures for an explanation of what happened and how the place received its name.
Moses would not have been as interested—especially since Moses was not personally familiar with these places. Moses was qualified to write the historical guide for Sinai or Egypt but Moses was kept from the land of Canaan by the Lord (Numb. 27:12-14).
Genesis 23:20 the field, and the cave… were made sure unto Abraham for a… buryingplace
“The Bible chronicles that the cave of Machpelah also became the burial place for Abraham (Genesis 25:9), Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah (Genesis 49:31-32), and Jacob (Genesis 50:13).
“In the Story of Sinuhe, the Egyptian tale that reflects aspects of the patriarchs’ culture, the Egyptian author compares what he sees as superior burial customs in Egypt to rudimentary practices of the ‘foreigners’ in Canaan. In Egypt, elaborate burial rituals and burial clothing of ‘royal linen, myrrh, and prime oil’ prepared the dead for a final resting place on a comfortable ‘bed’ buried in the sand. By contrast, the dead in Canaan were simply covered in ‘sheepskin’ before burial. The foreigners’ practice of giving the dead a covering of sheepskin is at least reminiscent of the covering of Adam and Eve made of animal skin when they left the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21). The image of covering the dead in the Atonement of Christ in contrast to the riches of the world is powerfully symbolic…
“Shortly before the birth of Christ, Herod the Great enclosed the traditional site of the cave of Machpelah with a magnificent building that stands today. The edifice has been alternatively used as a church, a mosque, and a synagogue, depending upon who controls the area. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all reverence the traditional burial plot of their father Abraham. Within the edifice, cenotaphs honor the memory of those reportedly buried in the area: Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob.” (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 46-47)