Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam. We’re continuing the study of the weekly portion of the reading of the Torah with Brad TV. I am encouraged by seeing the responses that are coming on Brad TV for this study of the Torah. It’s unusual, Jews have been reading the Torah for already for thousands of years.
And during each year, the Torah is read publicly in every synagogue from beginning to end. We started a few weeks ago with the portion of Genesis, and then we went to the portion of Noah, and then we went to the portion of Abraham Lech Lecha from Genesis chapter 12. And then we were in Vayera, Abraham continues with the circumcision and then with the sacrifice of his son, Isaac in chapter 22. And now we are in the portion that’s called in Hebrew, “Chayei Sarah” The Life of Sarah.
We’re in chapter 23 of the book of Genesis from verse 1. And the first thing we find out is that Sarah dies, old. She dies at, 127 years of age. This was the life of Sarah, that’s the first verse of chapter 23 of Genesis. Now, Sarah was the Matriarch. She came with Abraham from Babylon to Assyria, then to the land of Canaan and went through all the ordeals and the tests and the issues together with Abraham and his camp in the land of Canaan. So she is the Matriarch of our faith. Just like Abraham is the father of faith, she’s the mother of faith because she, like Abraham, walked with the Lord.
Even though everybody makes mistakes and Abraham made mistakes and Sarah made mistakes, but they walked with the Lord and they became models of faith, of hospitality, of hope, of tenacity, not giving up, no matter what. And now Abraham is faced with the need to bury his wife. Now I want you to remember, The promise, that God made to anyone more times than any other promise, is among the promises that he made to Abraham.
And from the promises made to Abraham, two of them are repeated. One is repeated seven times, and that is, that he is going to give him a seed from Sarah, a legal seed that will carry on, all the promises that God gave him. The second promise that is repeated in the Bible more times, even than the seven times, that the seed promise appears to Abraham, is the promise of the land, in the whole Torah. It’s repeated more than 20 times, in the book of Genesis alone, It’s repeated several times.
So, regarding the land, God tells Abraham in chapter 15 of Genesis to walk throughout the land, and wherever you walk and it’ll be yours. I’m going to give it to you. I’m going to give you the land of the Canaanites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hebrews, and the Jebusites, and the Hittites. Oh, that’s a big promise. Now Sarah dies, She gave birth to Isaac when she was 92 years old, now she’s dead.
Abraham Buries Sarah
Abraham doesn’t own one inch of the land, He has no land. He’s a Sojourner, a foreigner, a tourist, in the land that God gave him as an everlasting inheritance as an everlasting possession. And now he’s got to find a place to bury his wife? I want you to understand the dilemma that we are facing as Bible students and the dilemma that Abraham faced in reality. See, God promised, he promised to give him a seed, and it took many years of waiting, crying, praying, repeating, saying God, you know I’m going to die as an old man and I still don’t have a seed. And Eliezer, my old servant is going to be my heir.
That’s in chapter 15, where it says of Abraham that he believed God and God reckoned it to him as righteousness, a very important text also referred to in the new Testament. So now Sarah dies and not one inch of land is his legally, as a private possession. You have to have a lot of faith in God. You have to have a very close relationship with God to be able to sustain the stress, from having promises, repeated promises, promises after promises that God is going to give you the land. And the land borders are given to him.
And several different borders were actually given to him, from Dan to Beersheba, from the rivers in the north, from the Euphrates and the Tigris in the north to the river of Egypt and various borders are given to Abraham in the book of Genesis. But still, not one inch of land is in his possession, but he has to bury his wife. So in chapter 23 of Genesis, I’m going to read actually chapter 23 of Genesis, and I’m going to read from the beginning of chapter 23. For a few verses, just to put you in the picture.
Sarah lived 127 years. These were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kiriath-arba. Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron Today, it’s Hebron, actually today, dear brothers and sisters, we have two cities adjacent one to the other. One is a Jewish city, called Kirjath-arba like the text here in Genesis. And the Arab city, which is predominantly Palestinian , hostile to Israel and hostile to Jews in Hebron.
So Kirjath-arba, is the Hebrew name of Hebron. So they lived there, right next to Hebron, by the Oaks of Mamre, where the camp of Abraham was. And Sarah dies, he’s got to find somebody to sell him a piece of land. So he goes, to downtown Hebron, which was a Hittite city. The Hittites actually came from the central mountains of Anatolia, Turkey of today. Right on top of the mountain, they had their capital Hattusha. And archeological digs have been carried on and still new digs are being carried on right now, just as we speak. That’s where the Hittites came from.
And in the new Testament, that part of the country is called Asia minor. So Abraham comes to Hebron and goes downtown, among the sons of Heth, the Hittites. And these are his words, Verse 4 of chapter 23:
“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.” – Genesis 23 verse 4 [NKJV]
The sons of Heth, I mean, I can picture it. I’ve been to Hebron, literally hundreds and hundreds of time inside and outside on the Jewish side, on the Arab side, in the marketplace, in the Casbah of Hebron. In fact, two years ago, we almost got kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists when we were on the Arab side, we were inside the Casbah and we almost got kidnapped. Luckily, we were smart enough to get away from there and avoid being kidnapped. So, it’s a dangerous place, even today.
So, the sons of Heth are sitting there, I can picture them sitting in the coffee shop there, drinking coffee, smoking their Nargila, their waterpipe, and talking. And here comes this Abraham, a strange old man, who is over a hundred years old, and says that, his wife has died, and that he needs to find a place to bury her. And that he wants to buy a place. The Hittites are not stupid. Hear us, my Lord, Ephron, the Hittite says to Abraham, hear us, my Lord, you are a mighty prince among us, bury your dead in the choices of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place that you may bury your dead.
Arabs Are Generous
Oh wow. It’s so Middle Eastern, even today, even today, if I were to go now to the old city, in Jerusalem, and visit some of my friends, and wanted to buy something from them. I can give you their names. I can give you the shops. Say, I want to buy something, not something cheap. Maybe some archeological artifact, maybe a glass jar, you know, from the time of Jesus, beautiful, complete, not broken. And I want to buy it as a gift. Let’s say for my wife, the merchant will, who knows me for many years would say, Joseph, what is it between me and you, we are friends, we are brothers, take it to your wife, share it as a gift from me and you together, for your wife.
I have to negotiate backwards and forwards to get to a deal where I can legally pay for it, and not feel obligated or indebted to my friend. That’s the situation here. If you want to learn how to do business in the Middle East, you have to learn it from our Arab neighbors, from friends, and sometimes brothers in the faith. So the Hittite, Ephron, tells him, you’re a prince among us. Realize Abraham has a huge encampment right outside of Hebron. And when I say huge, remember that in chapter 14 of Genesis, he had 318 soldiers between the age of 20 to 50, that rose up, chasing after the kings of the north to rescue Lot, and his family that were captured and taken up to the north past Damascus.
So if you have an encampment with 318 soldiers, and they’re between the age of 20 and 50, it’s likely that they’re married, and likely to have at least one child, so there already a camp of over a thousand people. And he was an evangelist, those are the souls which he made in Heron, to make souls in Hebrew is to evangelize. Now, certainly for short that is what missionaries do in Hebrew.
So we’re giving you the place, your choice, where you want to bury your wife. It’s yours, you can bury your wife there. But Abraham knows the Middle East well, He knows the people of this land, the seven or eight different nations that live here and jockey with one another and compete with one another and fight with one another. There’s nothing new in this place between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river. The Land of Israel.
Abraham heard this very magnanimous offer to take any place you want to bury. And he has to be magnanimous himself. So in verse 7 of chapter 23, Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth, and he spoke to them saying, if it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, listen to me and meet with Ephron, the son of the Zohar for me. That he may give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me in full price as property for a burial place among you.
What We Learn From Abraham
What do we learn about Abraham here, that is very important for us today, especially for our generation, my generation, maybe even the younger generation? Abraham, before he went to negotiate with the Hittites, already knew exactly what he wants. He knew who the owner of the field is. He knew who the owner of the cave is. He already knew what the right price of it is, and he was already focused. He did his homework well, he focused on what he needed to do.
So he says, I want you, the sons of Heth of this community, of the Hittites in Hebron, to influence Ephron. He’s right there, Ephron is right there with them. To influence Ephron, you know, to help me to convince him, to sell me the cave of Makhpelah at the end of his field, specific place, specific product, and I’m willing to pay full price. That is a tempting offer by Abraham through the sons of Heth to Ephron. I’m willing to pay full price because in the Middle East, you’re never willing to pay full price. We haggle, we haggle.
Like my son one time brought down the price of a, handmade, embroidered Arab dress many years ago when he was about 10, 12, or 13 years old. He went with his mother and his sister to the Old City, and my wife liked this dress and the guy wanted $80 for it. That was many years ago, that was real money. Those were the prices at that time. Today, it would be several hundred dollars for a dress like that.
Anyway, my son who was a young boy, and he started to negotiate with the Arab merchant and brought him down to $8. He got a 90% discount. And in the end, my wife didn’t want the dress. The merchant was very, very angry, but you haggle, you negotiate, that’s how business is done in the Middle East. But Abraham is a gentlemen and he knows the character. And he understands the implications of what will happen if he asks for a discount, and what would happen after he bought the field and the cave. And after he died, what would happen? So he’s not willing to pay less than what the whole community witnesses.
It’s not a deal between him and Ephron. It’s a deal that he does publicly with the Hittite community in Hebron. And I’m willing to pay full price. Now, Ephron dwelled among the sons of Heth, and Ephron, the Hittite answered Abraham, Ephron was right there with all the people. He answered Abraham. 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.
Abraham Won’t Take Land as a Gift
In other words, Ephron is saying, I’m giving it to you, feel free. You have all these witnesses, the sons of Heth, the community of the Hittites in Hebron, they’re witnesses. It’s yours. Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land, again, a second time, and spoke to Ephron within the hearing of the people of the land saying, if you give it to me, please hear me. I will give you money for the field, take it from me. And I will bury my dead there.
In other words, I’m not going to take it as a gift. I will pay for it. Ephron answered Abraham saying to him, my Lord, listen to me, The land is worth 400 shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? Bury your dead. Abraham heard Ephron and to make the story short, Abraham pays the 400 pieces of silver for that cave. Now, why is this so important? Because we have three different occasions, three different occasions in which this cave plays an important role. First of all, the burial of Sarah, which is here in chapter 23 of Genesis. And then we have it again in chapter 25, which is still a part of our weekly reading portion.
When Abraham dies, we read in chapter 25 verse 9, and his sons, the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael, buried him in the cave of Makhpelah, which is before Mamre in the field of Ephron, the son of Zohar, the Hittite, the field, which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There, Abraham was buried with Sarah, his wife. In other words, the whole story is captured again, encapsuled in three verses in chapter 25 when Abraham dies.
You know, the purchase of the cave becomes an important incident for understanding Abraham’s character, and the character of the inhabitants of the land of that time. And this thing is repeated again, when Jacob dies, when Jacob dies, before he dies, he makes his son Joseph and Joseph’s sons swear, which I’m reading in chapter 49 of Genesis verses 29 to 32, where he says:
“Bury me with my fathers, in the cave, that is in the field of Ephron, the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.” – Genesis 49:29-32 [NKJV]
The point that we see in the burial of Sarah and in the burial of Abraham himself by sons, Isaac and Ishmael, and then Jacob, his grandson who is in Egypt, he dies in Egypt and he makes his children swear that they’re going to take him back from Egypt to the land of Canaan and bury him in the cave that was purchased from Ephron, the Hittite . That’s in Genesis 29 verses 29, I mean, 49 verses 29 to 32. There must be something very significant with this cave. Why? Because Abraham bought it with lap, with money, at full price that was asked without negotiation in public, in front of the sons of Heth in Hebron.
We Need to Learn a Principle From Abraham
He has what we call a taboo, a deed, a purchase deed that this land belongs to him. He paid for it. It’s very important. We have here now in the Land of Israel, essentially a war that has lasted more than a hundred years already with the Palestinian, the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. And it’s over land, not only over land, but it’s also over land. We need to learn from Abraham, our father on this issue. Now we need to learn a principle from this text. We need to learn the principle from this text.
That great change is never the work of one generation, especially in the Middle East. And none of us will live to see the full fruits of our work, of our endeavors. This statement was made by one of the great rabbis, the ex-chief rabbi of great Britain. Yeah, none of us actually finish the work that we started. We depend on the next generation, especially when we’re talking about spiritual work, especially when you’re talking about, you know, building the community based on biblical principles and on faith in God and in Yeshua HaMoshiah, in the Land of Israel.
The next generation will see the fruits of the seed that you have planted in your youth. And I can tell you about Netivyah, this is the situation, I am already an old man. Soon, I’m going to be, in a few months, 76 years old. I started this ministry when I was in my twenties and now the next generation that was born and raised here, and even the grandchildren of people that I taught, and discipled are the leadership. And they are doing a much better job than I do. Now, all these portions of the Torah are long, They have so many important stories, so many different aspects to the text. And there are several chapters. And I only covered the one chapter of this portion. I may do a second, second a session for the same portion that will be broadcast in the same week, but God bless all of you.
And thank God that Brad TV is doing this project. It will enrich everybody. Anyone who watches these shows will be enriched. Enriched in his knowledge of the Bible and enriched in his understanding of how God works, and how we as human beings work. God bless all of you, Shalom from Jerusalem.
This video and transcript originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.