Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Have a heapin' helpin' of tedium

Okay, first we need to finish up Genesis 22. Here's the rest of it:

20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.
Okay,  whatev. We never hear about most of these people again. The only exception may be Rebekah, who apparently becomes the incestuous wife of her cousin Isaac. Other than that, why are we told all this?

So  here's 23:

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 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.
Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”
 Actually, the text doesn't literally say "the Hittites," it says the "sons of Heth." Heth was the second son of Canaan and the ancestor of the Hittites. However, if you go back a couple of chapters you will recall the Abram and Sarah live in the land of Abimelech, a Philistine. Maybe they weren't home when Sarah died? No explanation is provided. Anyhow:

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “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.”
Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 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 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.
 I don't have a whole lot to say about this except that it's taken a whole chapter to tell us that Sarah died and Abraham bought a cave from another rich man in which to bury her. We do learn that since Eden, indeed since the flood, people have invented money and the concept of a deed to property. This is the first time that's come up. It's possible that there was a dispute about ownership and this was written as a defense of Abraham's title to the cave. The cave becomes the burial place of Abraham and some of his descendants, so it's important I guess. However, you will never hear a sermon preached on this chapter.

There is a cave complex in Hebron which believers associate with this story.  King Herod built an enclosure over the caves, which was later converted to a basilica then destroyed by Persians in 614, and replaced by a mosque in 637. In 1100 crusaders captured Hebron and converted the mosque once again to a church from which Muslims were excluded. In 1188 Salah u'Din recaptured the city and converted the structure once again to a mosque, but in keeping with his inclusive philosophy Christians and Jews were also allowed to worship there. The Mamluks built extensively on the site after 1318, and forbade Jews from entering. When Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967, Jews once again could enter the complex. The status of the Cave of the Patriarchs is a fraught issue at present. I got all this from Wikipedia and you might be interested in reading the history. Of course, we can't know for sure if this really is the same cave, or if whole the story is even true.

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

Time to go spelunking.