Mourning and Money

Genesis 23:1-20

 

When sin entered the world, so did death. And with death came the “sting” of death. Genesis 23 gives the account of the death of Sarah. It also shows how the reality of death can put things in perspective. This is a chapter that begins in mourning and ends with a money matter. It’s not a bad thing to look at this world from the perspective of the next. That is what this chapter helps us to do.

 

Mourning

 

Genesis 23:1-2 - Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

 

The first verse speaks of the death of Sarah who died at the ripe old age of 127 years (23:1). Sarah is the only woman in scripture whose age is given at her death. Maybe she was one to never speak of her age in life so when she died the big secret was divulged. As far as the scriptures tell us though, she was always an attractive woman.

 

Sarah died in Kirjath Arba which means, “city of the four (giants) (23:2). This place seems to have been a centre of the Anakim who were people of giant stature. It isn’t until Joshua’s conquest of the Land that this city is defeated (Joshua 10:1-37). And it isn’t until some time later that Caleb expels the Anakim completely from this area (Joshua 14:12-15). Joshua 14:15 tells us that Arba was the greatest of the Anakim. Joshua 15:13 tells us that Arba was the son of Anak. Hebron eventually became a city of refuge where those who had killed accidentally could find protection (Joshua 20:5-7). It also became a place reserved for the Levites to reside (Joshua 21:10-13).

 

Kirjath Arba was more commonly referred to as Hebron. It was in Hebron that years earlier, when Abraham and his nephew Lot went their separate ways, that Abraham pitched a tent and set up an altar to worship the Lord (Genesis 13:18). Hebron became King David’s original capitol (2 Samuel 2:1-3, 11) and the birthplace of his sons (2 Samuel 32:2).

 

There is nothing wrong with the follower of God grieving before the Lord over the death of a loved one. It’s sad when a loved one dies. It causes us to mourn. It’s especially sad when a partner dies after a marriage of many years. In such cases the “sting” of death can be felt that much deeper. The sting of Sarah’s death must have been deep for Abraham. He would have to rely on his faith in God to get him through. And he did.

 

The word “mourn” is translated from the Hebrew term KAPHAD (Strong’s’ #5594 -   סָפַד [caphad /saw·fad/]). This term occurs 30 times in the Bible and is translated, “mourn” 15 times, “lament” 13 times, “mourners” once, and “wail” once.[1] It is a very descriptive term and literally means, “to tear the hair and beat the breasts” which was and still is a customary way to show grief in the Middle East.

 

The word “weep” is translated from the Hebrew term, BAKAH (Strong’s #1058 בָּכָה [bakah /baw·kaw/]. This term occurs 114 times in the Bible and is translated, “weep” 98 times, “bewail” five times, “sore” three times, “mourned” twice, “all” once, “complain” once, “lamentation” once, “more” once, “weep over” once, and “tears” once.[2] Literally it means to weep and bemoan.

 

Abraham mourned and wept over the death of Sarah (23:2) and the meanings of these words tell us that he deeply felt the sting of her death. He is a model of faith and he mourned (Romans 4).  A person is not more or less spiritual based on the tears they do or do not shed. Jesus wept (John 11:35).

 

In the Bible there are a number or causes of mourning. Defection causes mourning (1 Samuel 15:35). Disobedience causes mourning (Ezra 9:4-7). Desolation causes mourning (Joel 1:9-10). Discouragement can cause mourning (Psalm 42:9). Disease can cause mourning (Job 2:5-8). And death causes mourning (Genesis 23:1-2; 50:10).

 

The prophet Isaiah spoke of sorrow and mourning that would be turned to joy and gladness when the exiled remnant of Israel would one day return to the Land (Isaiah 51). Such transformation of sorrow to gladness will come to its fullness in the Kingdom age (Isaiah 35:1-10).

 

But as we stated before the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The best commentary or source of insight of the Old Testament is the New Testament. If we want to know how to handle the sting of death and mourning we have to go to the New Testament.

 

Our present and eternal hope is in Jesus. In John 11 a close friend of Jesus became deathly ill.  His family were greatly concerned but Jesus encouraged them to have hope (John 11:23-28). The name of this ill friend, who eventually died, was Lazarus. But even in death Jesus pointed the grieving to have hope. And Jesus miraculously raised him from the dead and mourning was turned to joy (John 11:41-44). This was a foretaste of the victory Jesus would bring over death. The full victory came at His resurrection and it is the resurrection hope of Jesus that takes the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:20, 51-58). This is the living hope Peter would be inspired to write about in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of being raised with Him takes the sting out of death. For the believer the death of a loved one is not I’ll never see them again, it’s until we meet again.  That takes the sting out of death.

 

It’s interesting that the inspired word of God includes the death of Sarah as the next chronological event after the pictured Moriah sacrifice of Genesis 22. It is as though the Holy Spirit was introducing us to the need of hope in the face of death and that hope would be found through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Are you grieving a lost loved one? Are you uncertain about death and what happens after you die? You need to turn to Jesus. He has conquered death. Assurance of your eternal destiny is available through faith in Jesus. Come to Jesus with your concerns about death.

 

Money

 

Genesis 23:3-20 -3 Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 4 “I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

5 And 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 burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.”

7 Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. 8 And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you.”

10 Now Ephron dwelt among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the presence of the sons of Heth, all who entered at the gate of his city, saying, 11 “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead!”

12 Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; 13 and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.”

14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 “My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.” 16 And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.

17 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 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who 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 (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.

 

Times of death and mourning put money and material things in perspective. Somehow money doesn’t seem to be as important in light of one’s eternal destiny. There are those who will play on this revelation of reality and take advantage of those who are mourning. On the surface this may appear is what is happening to mourning Abraham, but it is more likely that Abraham simply had the proper perspective on money and that its proper place was clarified even more by the death of his beloved wife Sarah.

 

The only piece of land Abraham ever bought on this earth was the piece of land he bought in Canaan where he buried Sarah (23:3-5). It was customary, as this passage shows us, for a buyer and seller of property to haggle over purchases. But Abraham simply asks the sons of Heth for land to bury Sarah (23:3-4). The sons of Heth aren’t really offering land to Abraham free of charge (23:10-11). They were only going through the customary pleasantries, (otherwise why would he announce the worth of the property – 23:15). If Abraham would have said, “Thanks,” and taken the offer of the cave to bury Sarah, it would have been the most severe act of improper decorum. Abraham offers to pay the full price (23:9) and indeed does pay the full price, without haggling (23:16). Abraham could have and was expected to haggle the price down. But death had put things in perspective for him. He was “a foreigner and a visitor among” them. So he bought the property and then he buried Sarah in the cave of Machpelah (23:17-20).

 

Death causes us to see clearly the value of the eternal in stark contrast to the temporariness of the material. The Bible calls Christians to keep the distinction between that which is eternal and that which is temporal clearly in mind. Read the following verses in this regard:

 

  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 - 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Jesus taught this truth with the parable of the rich fool who preoccupied himself with building bigger barns with his wealth (Luke 12:16-21). He was foolish because he did not consider that one day “your soul will be required of you” (Luke 16:20). Jesus said the wiser path to live involves being eternally minded (Luke 12:22-34). That means being rich toward God (Luke 12:21). It means keeping your present life in eternal perspective. There are more important things than what you wear and what you eat (Luke 12:22-23). It means not being consumed with worry over the things of this world (Luke 12:24-29). The worldings of this world may consume themselves with such things, but the child of God should not (Luke 12:30). The child of God should “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” Luke 12:31). It means trusting God to meet your needs (Luke 12:32). It means investing in the eternal things of God (Luke 12:33). It means not allowing your heart to be consumed with the things of this world but instead with eternal purposes (Luke 12:34). It means being ready for the Lord’s return in all we say, do and think (Luke 12:35-40). That is the most important thing.

 

We need therefore, to die to the world and its ways. The Bible teaches us to take all our worldliness to the cross to die. It states:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 15:30-34 - 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”  33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
  • Galatians 6:14 - 14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
  • Philippians 3:7-10 - 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 

 

We need to put to death our worldly lusts and lusts after worldly things. The cross of Christ is the means to do that. We need to nail the world and our love of it to the cross by faith (cf. Galatians 2:20).

 

In regards to the world we ought to have a Christlike attitude toward the world. Such an attitude is redemptive (Philippians 2:5-16). It means investing our temporal worldly things in a way that brings glory to God and reaps eternal dividends (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).

 

Practically this means we live contentedly with whatever the Lord provides for us. There needs to be more contentment and less complaining. Such was the example of the apostle Paul when he was inspired to write to the church in Philippi. Paul practiced what he preached. His letter gives us great insight into how to properly function in this world. Read carefully his inspired words:

 

  • Philippians 4:10-19 - 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

 

 

The oft quoted words “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are often taken out of their context forgetting that these words pertain primarily to the things of this world and holding them in right perspective. Furthermore, God promises to supply all of our “need” in Christ Jesus. Our problem is that we live for our wants and overlook that our needs have been met in Christ by God.

 

Abraham was reminded of what was most important by the death of his beloved wife. Certainly he knew that her death was not a permanent departure but that one day he would see her again. How can I say this? Go back to Moriah for a moment (Genesis 22). If Abraham in faith believed God could raise a sacrifice Isaac from the dead, he certainly also believed that God would one day raise his beloved wife from the dead too (Hebrews 11:18-19). There is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of a love done. But mourn in light of our living resurrection hope in Christ. And there is nothing wrong with money. Just keep it in the proper perspective and use that temporal commodity for eternal investments.

 



[1]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (H5594). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

[2]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (H1058). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.