The Biblical story of the Machpelah cave is described in Genesis chapter 23.
And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjath–arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. – Gen 23:1-4
At the age of 127 years, Sarah died and Abraham came home from the field to mourn her passing. Then he rose from his mourning and gathered the Canaanite sons of Heth in Hebron asking them for a burial place for his wife. It is fascinating that Heth means terror, which appropriately describes the cutthroat deals these landowners usually made with renters. This may be one of the reasons Abraham never bought a land during his many years residence in the land.
The landowners therefore offered him the choice of any of their sepulchres to bury his dead; Abraham only had to say the word and it was his (Gen 23:6). Abraham already had a plan though, and a place in mind. He immediately asked for the cave owned by Ephraim the Hittite. This raises the curious question about Abraham’s quick response; he must have had his sights on Ephraim’s cave before Sarah died. When did he do a reconnaissance of the cave? What was so special about this cave, apparently nobody had thought it was good enough to bury his or her dead in. After all, if it were a choice cave, Ephraim would have or at least plan to bury his own dead in it. On the contrary, he even wanted to give it to Abraham as a free gift. So, what was the important reason that Abraham chose to use his mourning period to do a business transaction for it? If it was that important to him, why didn’t he buy it earlier during his over two decades of residence in Hebron?
A cave in a cave. The name Machpelah means a house on a house probably indicating that there were different levels or floors of caves within a bigger cave. There was plenty of room to comfortably bury several generations of patriarchs. We do know from both the Bible and history that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob along with their wives were buried in this cave.
All made sure. I will save the details of the actual transaction for a different date and post. However, I will highlight one very crucial outcome of this entire event.
And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. – Gen 23:17-18
The field, all the trees on it and the cave at the end of the field were all made sure to Abraham, All legally bought and owned in Canaan. He could move freely in it without having to get permission from the sons of terror (Heth). They could not demand an annual property tax or rent from Abraham. On this field and in that cave, the Heth family no longer had any claim, neither could they come in nor fell any tree there ever again. As children of God, bought by the blood of the Messiah, our lives, all we have and our death are the exclusive domain of God. The devil; the king of terror no longer has rule or say over our future. Though he may rule in the land and the world systems, we are untouchable and he can no longer fell us like trees without our heavenly father’s permission or ours. This is the beauty of Machpelah, a house within a house. Our house and family is secure in the house and hands of God.
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