I noticed something in this chapter that I hadn’t previously. In 22:19, we learned that Abraham settled in Beer-sheba, which is where they had been living in chapter 21. But in 23:2, we’re told that Sarah died in Kiriath-Arba (Hebron), about 26 miles away (along the route Abraham and Isaac would have taken to Mount Moriah). In our day, 26 miles isn’t very far, but in Abraham’s era of traveling by foot, or by camel or donkey, that was quite a distance.
Why was Sarah not in Beer-sheba? Did he tell Sarah where he was headed and what God had asked? Did she try to follow them? Did Abraham return to Beer-sheba only to learn that his wife had set out after them and died along the way in Hebron?
Various rabbis and commentators have many different explanations, but the reality is we just don’t know.
The rest of the chapter may seem like a mundane account of Abraham's negotiations for a burial site for his wife. It’s interesting from a cultural or sociological perspective, but what are the spiritual implications?
For me, the lesson is twofold:
1) Be careful about who you receive gifts from and who you allow yourself to be indebted to. Abraham was respectful and gave honor to the Hittites, but cautious about putting himself in a position where he would owe them anything.
2) It's better to have a reputation of generosity than one of shrewd deal-making. Abraham didn't want, or need, the field - just the cave. The cave was of little value to Ephron since it couldn't be cultivated or farmed. Still Abraham was willing to pay full price for the field in order to obtain the cave and not be indebted.
How often do I let pride or greed cause me to prioritize getting the best deal over being a testimony of the generosity of Christ to me?