Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price (Gen 23)

Deciding to myself that I'd rather not do more than one chapter per post may not have been a good thing when there were bound to be chapters like this one with no notes to reply to. Or maybe it's a good thing that I can have some nice short posts, or at least would if I didn't ramble like this whenever I get a nice short one.

I've got a lot of questions I'd like to ask anyone who's bothering to read this, in hopes that people might actually leave comments. Should I limit myself to a single chapter for ease of organization? Are these posts too long, too short, or just right? Once I finish Genesis, should I just go on to Exodus, or should I skip around a bit? (I am of course not looking forward to Leviticus, as that's a rather tedious book.)

But anyway, there's still a few things I could say about chapter 23, and so I will. As I said somewhere before, Sarah is unusual in the Bible due to what most would consider sexism in being one of only two women whose age is given, and the only woman whose age at death is given. Like all the men whose lifespans are numbered in these pages, she lives a long life, dying at 127. (The original Hebrew does something a bit odd that's not translated by most English translations, actually; a literal translation is something like, "And was the life of Sarah hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.") I wonder if it might have been extra-tough for Abraham to lose her. It's hard enough for someone to lose a spouse, I'm sure, but as Sarah was his half-sister, and he was ten years older than her, he probably knew her for her entire life.

In the midst of his mourning, Abraham goes to some nearby people and asks them to give him some land where he can bury Sarah. They tell him that he can just ask and anyone would be willing to sell some land to him, so he asks this guy Ephron. Now it gets a little weird, because Ephron at first says he'll just give the land to Abraham, but Abraham insists on paying a full price. So Ephron, shortly after saying he'll give it as a gift, tells Abraham the price is four hundred shekels. This whole exchange is very odd. Abraham tells Ephron that all he wants is "the cave...which is in the end of his field" indicating that he's not looking for land, and that there is no reason for him to even need part of the field to walk through, since the cave is at the end of the field. Ephron then insists that Abraham take the whole field, and asks an incredibly exorbitant price for it. (Jeremiah bought a field for less than twenty shekels.) So Abraham's getting ripped off, but in a strangely roundabout manner.

Something about history that my own Bible notes but the SAB does not is that fact that a "shekel" is commonly a kind of coin used in the Middle East in ancient times, but coinage wasn't invented for hundreds of years later. In this context, though, it seems pretty clear that the term is being used as a measurement of weight. There are a lot of terms in the Bible of which people have questioned the historical authenticity, but often they're just referring to another similar concept.

See you tomorrow for a somewhat more exciting chapter...

1 comment:

marauder said...

For what it's worth, I'm told there's a rabbinical tradition that holds that Sarah died just after she discovered the events of Genesis 22.