Death of Sarah
Dr. Joe Temple

Bride for Isaac

Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 23. Chapter 22 recounts the supreme sacrifice which Abraham was called upon to make, the sacrifice of his son. After God found that Abraham was willing to obey, He substituted the lamb, you will remember, in the place of Isaac. Chapter 23 does not need a great deal of comment, but it has some very important truths from the standpoint of First Mention.

It might be wise for us to remember that from the time when Abraham came down from Mount Moriah to the end of chapter 25, when he was gathered to his fathers, was a period of fifty years. Abraham had some fifty years of life after his test on Mount Moriah. Twenty-five years of the fifty came between chapters 22 and 23. Quite often as we read one chapter after another in the Word of God, we get the idea that it all happened quickly, but between chapters 22 and 23 was a period of twenty-five years, and from the end of chapter 24 to the time when Abraham was gathered to his fathers was yet another twenty-five years.

We read from chapter 23, verse 1.

Genesis 23:

1And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
2And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
3And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
4I 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.
5And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
6Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
7And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.
8And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
9That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.
10And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
11Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
12And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
13And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
14And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
15My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
16And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
17And 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
18Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
19And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.
20And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.

Details of Sarah's Burial

There are several things in this chapter that we would like to point out to you, because we believe they are in the Word of God for a purpose. For example, we have here the first death of a Christian recorded in any detail. Not the first death of a Christian, but the first in any detail. It should lay a precedent for our actions at the time of the death of our loved ones.

Sarah was at home alone when she died, we gather from verse 2. When the message came to Abraham that Sarah was dead, he made the journey home immediately. He did not say to everyone involved, “Well, go ahead and bury her, or do something with her. I will come home by and by.” He had great respect for the dead, and, as we are going to see, great love.

Here began the custom of folks' driving home at the time of the death of their loved ones. Many, many times people criticize folk for making long journeys at such a time, saying that it should not be done. But here it is presented in the Word of God without rebuke.

Mourning for Sarah

Notice the last statement in verse 2:

Genesis 23:

2…and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

Here again is a suggestion for us. People say it is wrong to cry when your loved ones die. They say they are much better off, and you ought not to be weeping for them. Let us recognize that we weep as Abraham wept. We weep as the Lord Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. We weep not for the joy into which they are entering at the time of their going. We weep at the precious memories that are ours at the time of departure. We weep at the loneliness that grips our hearts and souls when we know our loved ones are gone. God, you will notice, does not rebuke these tears.

We read that Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Of course Abraham did not weep as men who have no hope. Though he was in the Old Testament, we think of him as a friend of God, a man who was counted righteous, a man who was a Christian. We read in the very next verse:

Genesis 23:

3And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

There comes a time when we weep at the side of our dead because our hearts are heavy at their going. There comes a time when we stand up from before our dead and go about the ordinary business and ordinary routine of the things that need to be done in life.

It is wrong to sit in the memory of loved ones with drawn shades, darkened rooms and pointless lives. There comes a time when we who sorrow, but sorrow not without hope, stand up before our dead and do the business that must be done.

Buying A Burial Plot

The particular thing that Abraham was about to do was not an ordinary thing. It was related to his dead. He wanted a burying place for his dead, and there are two truths brought to our attention.

It is emphasized that Abraham wanted to bury his dead out of sight. There began the custom of burying the dead. We have various kinds of resting places for the dead today, but this is the way Christian dead are provided for. Their bodies are revered because of precious memories. Their bodies are revered because those bodies were the houses in which our loved ones lived.

Those bodies, particularly Christian bodies, are revered because those bodies are sacred. In them dwelt the Holy Spirit God. Those bodies were an intimate part of Christ.

Remember that Paul teaches in I Corinthians that the preparation of those bodies is fitting in keeping with what they actually were when they were alive.

Burying Sarah In Land of Promise

We see that what Abraham did with the body of his wife is a minifestation of faith, a manifestation of hope, a manifestation of inspiration. Is it strange that he did not say, “Let us take Sarah back to Ur of the Chaldees and bury her?” Ur of the Chaldees was the old home place. That was the place from whence they came.

No. Abraham had severed all ties with Ur of the Chaldees, and Abraham by faith was looking for a new land and a new city whose builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:10).

There is a very interesting comment on the attitude of Abraham and these other Old Testament worthies in the book of Hebrews. I would like for us to turn there, because it is interesting to notice how Abraham actually felt about the death of Sarah. He wept beside his dead, and then there came a time when he stood up before his dead and began to make preparations for burial. Notice with me, please, Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 13:

Hebrews 11:

13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

This is a comment on chapter 23 of the book of Genesis. “These all died in faith,” the Spirit of God said, “not having received the promises, but believing they would.”

And so Abraham confessed to the sons of Heth, confessed to the people of Zohar, “I am a stranger, and I am a pilgrim, but I believe that I, and someday my descendants, will occupy this land, and I want a resting place for my dead in this land. I believe that from this land someday these bodies will be raised to enter that blessed abode.”

Temporary Separation by Death

Abrham believed in the resurrection of the dead. He spoke of Sarah as my dead , emphasizing a personal relationship that was permanent after death.

The wonderful thing about the death of a Christian is that you never lose your dead when they die. You are just separated for a moment. Have you ever thought about that in connection with Job? Do you remember that during the trial of Job, he lost all of his children? They died. But at the end of the book of Job, when it is recorded that God was making up to Job everything that he had lost, we are told that God gave to Job twice as much as he had before. This was in material goods. It does not say that He gave him twice as many children as he had before. He gave his just the same number, which makes twice as many. The reason? Job never did lose those first children. He was just separated from them for a moment.

That is why we like to care for the bodies of our dead. We look forward to the day when the resurrection shall occur. The dead in Christ shall rise first, and we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the air to meet the Lord (I Thess. 4:16-17). When we realize that, our dead are not laid away with a hopeless despair. They are laid away with a very definite hope of seeing them again.

Let me emphasize that by turning to chapter 25 of the book of Genesis to notice what is recorded concerning the death of Abraham. I think that we will be able to understand and to see that this actually became the practice in taking care of the dead:

Genesis 25:

5And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
6But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
7And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.
8Then Abraham gave up the Ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
9And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
10The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

Did you notice what was said here? Abraham was gathered to his people. I rather like that, because I believe that the Bible very plainly teaches that we will know our loved ones in Heaven. There will be family reunions of great blessing. So strongly did the people of the Old Testament times believe this truth that they always buried their loved ones in families. They wanted them to be together at the end of time.

Choosing A Wife for Isaac

Notice with me now chapter 24. We trust that the Lord will use what we can present of it:

Genesis 24:

1And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
2And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
3And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
4But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
5And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
6And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
7The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake Unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
8And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
9And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
10And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.
11And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
12And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.
13Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
14And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
15And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
16And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
17And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
18And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
19And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
20And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
21And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

As you see, we have not read the entire chapter, which has sixty-seven verses. Some of these verses are a repetition by Eliezer as he reported to the father of this girl, and finally there is a continuation of the story.

We have read enough of the chapter to establish the types that are presented in it. We will begin with this chapter another study in types. In chapter 22, we presented a study in types, but I believe that in this chapter there will be an even richer blessing, because this is a chapter with a profusion of types.

Let me give you the basic types. First of all, you understand that practically speaking, this is a record of how Abraham secured a wife for his son Isaac, according to the custom of the day. But it is also a record of how sinners are brought into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and believers are brought into full fellowship with the Lord. As we study the typeology of this chapter, I think this will become apparent.

Picturing Our Relationship to Christ

Let me suggest the types, and then you will be able to study this chapter on the basis of types. First of all, we are introduced to Abraham. We will let Abraham represent God. Then we are interested in Eliezer, the servant, who had been with Abraham a long time. We will let him represent you and me, every soul winning Christian. Then we are introduced to Isaac, and we will let him be a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you have those three types in mind? Abraham is a type of God, Eliezer is a type of you and of me, and Isaac is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eliezer was very much concerned about the job he had to do. He did not know but that he might make a mistake. He did not know but that he might get into some kind of trouble. So Abraham said to him, “The angel of the Lord, who has already done so many wonderful things for us, will go before you. The angel of the Lord will direct your footsteps.” We will let the angel of the Lord represent the Holy Spirit.

There is one other character, and that is Rebekah herself, with her family. We will let her and her family represent those whom we win to the Lord, those whom we bring to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Duties As Soul Winners

In this chapter there are presented our duties and obligations as soul winners, and in this chapter, also, the wonderful climax at the end of our journey and the end of our effort. Turn with me, please, to the last part of chapter 24. We find Eliezer and Rebekah on their way home, and in verse 61:

Genesis 24:

61And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man [Eliezer]: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
62And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.
63And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
64And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.
65For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
66And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

The End of the Age

One of these days the end of the Age will occur, as the Scripture reminds us. The trumpet of God shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The Lord Jesus Christ will have left his place at the right hand of the throne of God. He will come into the atmosphere surrounding the earth, and we will be caught up from the earth to the place where He is. Then together we will all return to Heaven, and we will have the opportunity of telling Him all those things that we have done.

I wonder what kind of a report you will have. I wonder what kind I will have. I wonder what we will have to talk about. I hope it will be a good report.


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