Gems from Genesis: Chapter 23

God’s ways are not our ways, and this twenty-third chapter of Genesis does make me wonder what he’s wanting to show us here. The entirety of this brief chapter is dedicated to the death and burial of a woman. Of course, she’s not just any woman, but Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, the son of the promise. Maybe this is a special gem for women, showing us that God saw and valued Sarah, just as he saw and valued Hagar.

Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 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. And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, “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.”

Genesis 23:1-4 ESV

Why does her age matter?

Women don’t typically like to share their age, but we’ve known Sarah’s at many stages of her life, and we see it again at her death. She is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is recorded. Why? I wonder if it’s not to show that Abraham and Sarah were equal in their role of bringing forth the son of the promise. God had protected Sarah from Abraham’s stupid moves of calling her his sister, by preventing both Pharaoh and Abimelech from having relations with her. She was set apart for one purpose—to be the mother of Isaac. God fulfilled that promise in his own timing. Now, in sharing her age, we learn that Sarah was not only blessed with the fulfillment of having a son but of being able to watch him grow, for she had at least thirty-six years with him.

Abraham mourns his wife’s death.

I find this chapter touching in another way, as our verses reveal that Abraham mourned and wept over the loss of his wife. This woman had followed him from, not just the land of his birth and from his family, but from her land and her family. She willingly left the known to go to the unknown. Sarah didn’t have the blessing most women had of settling in one place, no she married a guy who was destined to roam. He also mourned a wife who had been unable to give him children for decades. He stayed with her, and stayed faithful to her (with the exception of Hagar). I believe he loved her, and he shows it by mourning for his wife.

Sarah’s death led to a special purchase.

Only in death, will Sarah find a permanent home, as Abraham wants to give her a proper burial. He negotiates with the Hittites for the purchase of a field and cave. Well, he only negotiates in the sense that he forces their hand to take the full price for the land. So, Abraham will own a piece of the promised land after all, but not for the living, but for the dead. It would be to this cave that he, Isaac and Rebekah,  Leah and Jacob are all eventually also laid to rest.

Sarah is remembered by others as well.

Isaiah links Abraham and Sarah together in the story of faith:

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.”

Isaiah 51:1-3

And Peter references Sarah as a model for wives:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

1 Peter 3:3-6

How will you remember Sarah? I choose to see her as a gem in the rough, like so many of us. She was far from perfect, but she was chosen and used by God for his good purposes. I pray that on the day of my death, others may not look at the number of years I lived but at the God who chose me as his own.

Grace and Peace

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