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The Cave of Machpelah.

The Cave of Machpelah.

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Published by glennpease

Genesis xxin. 19. PLACE OF SARAH S, BURIAL

Genesis xxin. 19. PLACE OF SARAH S, BURIAL

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 08, 2013
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THE CAVE OF MACHPELAH.BY JOH BAIES, M.A.,Genesis xxin. 19.Sarah had shared the patriarch's wanderings fromthe day that in obedience to the Divine call hehad left his father's house. We heard lately of her lending herself to the deceit suggested byAbraham^ and of her falling through saying shewas his sister into the very danger she wished toavoid. There is not very much told us about herin Scripture. It displays her faults as well asher good points. It does not hide her harsh treat-ment of Hagar; but it; also tells of her faith;and while S. Peter speaks of her obedience S. Paulsets her before us as a type of the Church. So that^spite of her failings^ she is acknowledged by twoApostles as among the highly favoured daughtersof Adam.' Preached on the First Sunday in Lent.140 The Cave of Machpelah. [Serm.But the time had now come for the tie whichfor 80 long had bound together Abraham andSarah to be broken^ and after her many yearsof wanderings she was to lay her down in peace.Full of years she departed hence. Her husbandmourned for her, observed the customary formswhich mourning for the dead demanded in theEasts and which are scarcely altered there even now.And then he had to bury her. All the land hadbeen promised to Abraham and his seed^ and Abra-
ham's justification had followed upon his belief inthat promise^ but he had no actual possession^ — nOs '' not so much as to set his foot on.'' So whenthe sad task fell upon him of burying the longtried and faithful partner of his wanderings hehad to speak of himself as a stranger and a so- journers and ask for a burial place to be grantedhim where he might ^^ bury his dead out of hissight."The narrative that follows is very interesting,and its chief features are preserved^ (we are toldby travellerss) to this day in cases of buying andselling in the East. If a man wants to buy land^for instance^ the other who has to sell begins byprofessing to make a present of it^ — signifying theland is a mere trifle between such good friends :then the other^ not to be outdone in generosity^ofiers to put so much money at his friend's dis-posal. So after a proper amount of offering andrefusals the bargain is strucks and the sale is com-XL] The Cave ofMachpelah. 141pleted. It is just the same here, so many thou-sand years ago. When Abraham has pitchedupon the cave of Machpelah as the plot of groundmost suited for his purpose^ Ephron the ownerimmediately says, " ay, my lord, hear me ; thefield give I thee, and the cave that is therein Igive it thee, in the presence of the sons of mypeople give I it thee; bury thy dead." ThenAbraham with all due courtesy represents that hecannot be under obligation. " If thou wilt giveit me, I pray thee hear me ; I will give thee moneyfor the field,' take it of me, and I will bury mydead there.'' Then comes the actual bargain." My lord,'' says Ephron, " hearken unto me : the
land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; whatis that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thydead.'' Then the money is paid down, and theland with its timber handed over to Abraham,and it became the burial place of Sarah.But this is not the only mention of the cave of Machpelah in the pages of Holy Writ. Thitherwere brought, when his hour had come, the remainsof ^' the father of the faithful" himself, to be laidbeside the body of his wife. Isaac and Ishmael,their quarrel forgotten, stood together at thecave's mouth to lay there the bones of their com-mon parent. Thither too in after years repairedanother pair of brothers, once at enmity, now re-conciled, the bold impetuous Esau, the quietscheming Jacob, to lay their old blind father Isaac142 The CUve of Machpelah. [Serm.beside his wife Bebekah^ who had gone beforehim to that sepulchre. And there again Jacob laidLeah^ and to that sepulchre the old man's thoughtsreverted on his deathbed in the far off land of Egypt. *' I am to be gathered to my fathers. Buryme with my fathers in the cave that is in thefield of Ephron the Hittite. There they buriedAbraham and Sarah his wife ; there they buriedIsaac and Bebekah his wife, and there I buriedLeah.'' His heart yearned towards the old familyburying-place^ and thither was his corpse solemnlycarried. And this is all we read of the cave of Machpelah. That it was a place treated withhonour by each generation we do not doubt^ andwhen after the lapse of many generations the HolyLand passed into the power of the Turks^ (for theMahometans reverence all the Old Testamentworthies,) it was honoured still. Over the cave

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