Genesis Chapter 23 Questions and Answers

In Genesis Chapter 23 we see that Sarah has died and is buried.  She's the only woman whose age at death is provided in the Bible.  How long did she live?

About these Answers

Day One

1.  Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at her death.  She died at the age of 127.

From the following Scriptures, given the ages of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael at her death, how long did they live after her?

Ages at Sarah's death:

  • Abraham was 137 (Genesis 17:17)
  • Ishmael was 51 (Genesis 16:16; 17:17)
  • Isaac was 37 (Genesis 21:5; 17:17)

How long they lived after her:

  • Abraham - Genesis 25:7-8 - 38 more years
  • Ishmael - Genesis 25:17 - 86 more years
  • Isaac - Genesis 35:28-29 - 143 more years

Day Two

2.  Why is it ironic for Abraham to ask the Hittites for land to bury Sarah?

It's ironic for Abraham to ask for land from the Hittites because God Himself had already given Abraham the land he was asking for (Genesis 12:7).


3.  Which of God's promises to Abraham did Sarah not see before she died?

Sarah did not see any grandchildren of her son Isaac who was not married before her death.  Therefore, Sarah did not see any evidence of God's promise that He would make Abraham's offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, dust of the earth, and the sands of the seashore (Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 22:17). 

She only saw Isaac, the miraculous child she bore at age 90.  Surely then Sarah believed that with God nothing is impossible. 

But is it possible that she may have doubted she would ever see the happiness of grandchildren promised by God in the 37 years that she lived after Isaac's birth?  We don't know about that because the Bible doesn't tell us, but it's interesting to think about. 

On the other hand, maybe she dreamed of the coming promise of such numerous descendants; but again, we don't know because the Bible doesn't tell us about that either. 

All that really matters is that she believed in the promise of God - that He could do what He said He could do (Hebrews 11:11).  She had a baby at the advanced age of 90 years, and without that miraculous birth there would be no descendants. 

Day Three

4.  Notice the progression of Abraham's requests in his plea for a place to bury Sarah in the verses below.  They move from a general first request to increasingly more specific requests.  Identify the progression using the table below.


Who Abraham addresses

What Abraham requests 

Verses 3 and 4

The Hittites

A burial site

Verses 7, 8, and 9

The Hittites, the people of the land

The cave of Machpelah

Verses 12 and 13


The field of Ephron (with the cave)

5.  This increasingly specific series of requests of Abraham and the subsequent purchase of the field and cave by Abraham from Ephron forms a verbal contract.  What are the words or phrases in the verses below that are essential to the "public filing" of the contract?

  • Verse 9 
  • Verse 10
  • Verse 11
  • Verse 13
  • Verse 16
  • Verse 18

In the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) translation the words "in your presence" or "in the presence" are repeated in every verse.  With the possible exception of verse 9, most other translations we see the combination of the phrases: "in your presence", "in the hearing of", and "in the sight of".  For the discussion below, we'll use the common phrase of "in your presence" from the HCSB.   

First, Abraham uses the terms "in your presence" in verse 9 to make his request.  

Then, the narrator use the term "in the presence" of all the Hittites in verse 10 to explain that Ephron was at the gate of the city.  

Next, Ephron responds to Abraham's request in verse 11 to state he will give Abraham the land "in the presence" of his people.  

Then, Abraham requests he be allowed to purchase the field "in the presence" of the people of the land in verse 13.  

Then, in verse 16 the transaction is made with the price as agreed to "in the presence" of the Hittites.  

Finally, in verse 18 the field Abraham purchased became his possession "in the presence" of all the Hittites who were at the city gate.

A Note on the Beauty of Discussion Group Bible Studies

I taught this Bible Study lesson and was amazed at the things I learned.  The notes below are from the dean of a business school who was in that class.  He had considered the question above and compared this ancient verbal contract in Genesis chapter 23 to current American business law. 

With his permission, I am sharing his insight on this and I hope you enjoy it.  Timothy Scott

  • Verse 9 - Ephron had clear title to the cave of Machpelah.
  • Verse 10 - There were witnesses to the transaction.
  • Verse 11 - Ephron was mentally competent and had the ability to understand the terms of the transaction.
  • Verse 13 - The seller set the price and the buyer accepted the price.
  • Verse 16 - There was an exchange of consideration (money for land).
  • Verse 18 - Abraham was issued a deed of sale.


Day Four

6.  Compare how Abraham describes himself in verse four to what the Hittites say about him in verse six.  What does this tell you about Abraham, the Hittites, and the God of Abraham?

  • Abraham - He was a humble man who rested on the promises of God.
  • The Hittites They recognized Abraham as a man of God.
  • The God of Abraham He promised he would make Abraham's name great (12:2) and He did exactly that.

Day Five

7.  According to the Archaeological Study Bible, the cave at Machpelah has been a special place for Muslims, Jews, and Christians since Abraham was buried there.  Of course the Old and New Testaments indicate God's affection for Abraham, and therefore he's highly respected by Jews and Christians.  But the Muslims respect Abraham as well and consider him and his family chosen by God (The Qur'an 3:33).  

Over the years the cave has been regarded as a special place by all who would rule over the land.  Herod the Great built a monumental enclosure over the site that remains today.  Since then, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have built synagogues, churches, and mosques at the site. 

Muslims sealed the subterranean portions of the site in the fourteenth century A.D. but you can visit the site today.  It's known to Christians and Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or the Ibrahimi Mosque.  It's considered a holy site to all three religions.

Review verses 29 to 32 of Genesis 49, and verses 12 and 13 of Genesis 50 to identify the five others who are buried in the cave at Machpela besides Sarah.

  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Rebekah
  4. Leah
  5. Jacob

8.  Like Sarah, someday we will all die.  Unless you're a famous or historical person, you likely wont be remembered much beyond your immediate or extended family. 

Regardless of your impact on society or history, as a born again Christ follower you're of great value to God and He has prepared an eternal place of joy for you with Him beyond your present life on earth. 

But still, you have an opportunity to make an impact before you depart for heaven.  So, how would you like to be remembered by your family?

Your answer here

We pray these Genesis Chapter 23 questions and answers have been a blessing to you.

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