Genesis 23


Genesis 23-. The Death of Sarah 

Genesis 23:1-4- Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Hebron in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said ‘ I am a alien and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”  

Notice where they are living – in Hebron- the place of fellowship. It has been 37 years since Isaac was born and probably 34 years since the departure of Ishmael and Hagar. We can believe these have been good years.  

I suspect Sarah’s death was sudden and perhaps unexpected because the reading of these verses indicates Abraham was away from her when she died and went to mourn and weep for his beloved bride.  There is nothing wrong with grieving over the loss of a loved one. We are told not to grieve like those  who have no hope in 1 Thess. 4. In fact, Paul refers to the death of believers as falling asleep.  However,  it is a time of sorrow for those of us left behind.  

In verse 3, we see Abraham rose from beside his dead wife. Sarah was probably lying in the tent they shared. Abraham lay beside her and held her one last time. 

What Abraham said when he rose up reveals Abraham has reminded himself of who he is: a foreigner to this world- just traveling through looking for a city whose architect and builder is God. A place where his bride has now departed for. Abraham’s longing for this place will be greater than ever before- for now not only is this where the Lord is but also where his beloved bride is.  

When Ruth Graham was near death, her family gathered about her to be with her in her last days. They played her favorite hymns and prayed for her and with her as her life on earth was ending. On the last day in the last moments they gathered with her pastor and read Psalms 23.  

“Then with my father holding her hand, she slipped quietly into heaven. With tears filling our eyes, we stood around her and sang the doxology. It was a sweet family time. The familiar words and the act of worship brought comfort. The presence of death does not mean the absence of God.” ( Fear Not Tomorrow by Ruth Graham). This is the daughter Ruth not the mother. There is peace in the valley of the shadow of death. 

We must be cautious in concluding something is not good solely because it does not feel good. 

It is interesting that the Graham family read Psalms 23 as Ruth was nearing death. It seems this Psalms written by David is most often read or shared with those near death; whereas, John 14 is used frequently at funerals for the family of the deceased.  

Even though Psalms 23 was not written yet, it would be a message that Abraham who was a herdsman and a shepherd would have clearly understood.  

So before we move into what is the longest chapter in Genesis – the 24th chapter that brings us the details of the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a bride for his son- let’s take a look at Psalms 23.  

Psalms 23 was written by David during a time when he was fleeing from King Saul. He had been wandering from place to place. He was an exile from his own people and constantly living among strangers, even enemies. His life was continually being threatened. Psalms 23 is an outpouring of David’s confidence in the Lord and the trust in His care for every moment in his life even to the point of death.  

The first line of this Psalm reminds us as it reminded David of a  most powerful truth. When the Lord is our shepherd- we shall not want. 

Let’s look at that Psalms together.  


“ The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me  beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”  

Abraham could have easily identified with these truths, couldn’t he? I believe this is the saddest day of Abraham’s life- nowhere before are we told Abraham wept and mourned until now. The Lord had certainly blessed Abraham and led him and supplied his needs. And now as Abraham had to walk through this difficult time – through the valley of the shadow of death- the Lord would comfort him. The Lord had also prepared a table before his enemies who respected- if not feared- Abraham.  

Like David and Abraham we are His sheep aren’t we? He is our Great Shepherd. We know and recognize His voice. “ Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His, we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” ( Psalms 100:3)  

Did you know sheep are very nearsighted? They also have very poor depth perception. Yet their peripheral vision is so great a sheep can actually see behind its self without turning their heads.  If not watched carefully, a sheep will wander carelessly right off the edge of a cliff. Have you ever found yourself in a mess because you were careless? Sheep are also dumb, as in not being very intelligent and they are  one of the most defenseless animals in all of creation.  

Sheep are not raised for meat- they are raised for their wool. Their wool belongs to the shepherd. Guess when wool grows the thickest and fastest?  When the sheep is resting, well-fed, calm and free from pests. Sheep are cud-chewing animals. They graze in the morning and later are made to lie down to ruminate or digest the intake of grass. A sheep has four compartments in their stomachs the largest compartment is capable of holding 5-10 gallons.  

A sheep will drink only clean water- no scum or algae. They flock together- become stressed with separated and have a strong lead-follow tendency. Sheep are capable of recognizing voices and individual humans and have long memories.  

Notice there is a personal relationship- the Lord is MY shepherd. Because of this relationship- the Bible tells us we shall not want. My God shall supply all my needs in Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul tells us.  Have you ever noticed how the Lord our Good Shepherd provides? The cup isn’t half full is it?  It runs over. The calf is always fattened, the robe is the very best; the joy is unspeakable, the gifts- indescribable- His grace all sufficient, abounding in every good work and His compassion is new and fresh ever morning. You see the Good Shepherd came that we would not only have life- but have it more abundantly.  When He bids us to come to the dinner table – to the feast- it is not a hodgepodge ‘bring-a-dish’ – No everything is finished, everything is provided.  

The Shepherd makes me to lie down in green pastures  and leads me besides still waters. Did you know sheep are afraid of running water? Their fear is instinctive because of their wool; if they get caught in deep moving water, their wool will soon become so water soaked they will sink and surely drown. Notice the shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures, he leads us besides still waters. The shepherd’s role is to guide, guard and give. He leads, we follow. We are easily distracted -our attention span seems to cause us to wander. Lord will get us to lie down one way or the other. If the green grass and the water are the sheep’s nourishment- then remember lying down, ruminating and resting are when the growth comes. This is a picture of our feeding upon the word. There is the intake of the word but then comes the act of meditation on the word whereby the word is engrafted into our soul. Meditating on the word is like ruminating or cud-chewing. We take in the word – I believe it is best early in the morning. Then we can ‘chew on it’ during the day.   That is when the growth occurs.  

To engraft the word in our souls is a process: We must: hear the word , read the word, study the word, memorize the word, then meditate upon it. When we do- the word is engrafted into our soul. Our souls are restored.(restore-‘put back into use’) The Lord even gave us our own personal guide to the green pastures of His Word- the Holy Spirit.  

Now with His word engrafted in my soul- the Lord can use our restored souls to guide us in the paths of righteousness- His word a light upon my path, a lamp unto my feet.  

Now watch what a change has come into the life of the ever-fearful sheep. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil- thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”  

With His word restoring my soul, and His rod which represents His authority and His staff which represents His support- I am no longer fearful even in the valley of the shadow of death. The key word here is ‘shadow’. Do you know how a shadow is formed? By light. Without light there is no shadow- there is only darkness.  The Lord Jesus is the light of the world – in Him was life and life was the light of the world. So even here in the darkest of times- there is light in the life of the believer and because there is light – death is only a shadow we pass through. Now if you turn your back to the light in bitterness or unbelief- you have created your own shadow and you will not pass through it because you continue to turn away from the light rather than toward it.  

But if you walk in the light as He is in the light you will experience the sweet fellowship of  His love which casts out fear gives you a courageous heart. You will fear no evil- you will pass through the shadow.  

“ You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.” Did you notice how God had caused the natural enemies of Abraham to respect him? For the sheep one  of the most worrisome distractions are a pests known as ‘ nose flies’.  To give the sheep protection from these worrisome pests- the shepherd would anoint their heads with an oil that protected them from these pests.  

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Do you see how we gain the experience of hindsight that our past gives us hope for our future? “yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3) 

These are covenant promises which I trust the Lord to keep.  

Often in the Bible- we are exhorted by our Lord to “ fear not- I am with you.”.  Do you see what God’s antidote for our fear is- His Presence- Himself.  He has promised us He will never leave us or desert us.  

Do you remember the parable in Luke 15? It is most commonly called the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a story  I closely identify with.  I know exactly how the prodigal son felt when he found himself in the pig sty. That parable had three parts- the first being the lost sheep;then the lost coin and finally the lost son.  

Do you remember what it was like to be lost?  Since I got saved as a adult- (almost 32 years old) I have a vivid memory of what it was like to be lost- to be without God and thus to be without hope. Hopelessness is the most devastating place to be. All is dark- there is no light.- no hope- no future- no end it seems to the situation you are in .  

All is lost. Your dreams have long since turned into nightmares.  

You wander aimlessly. Fear is your constant companion… you are scared, there is no peace. Like  the sheep separated from his the prodigal son away from the authority of his father. 

But God the Father who is known as the Great Shepherd, sent His Son who is the Good Shepherd after the lost sheep.  

He came to find me. He came to seek and save the lost.

He did not give up on me.

He rescued me as I was about to go over the edge of the cliff.  

And now today I have a conscious awareness of the Good Shepherd all the time. He is my Ever Present Help.

It was that awareness that kept Abraham going even in such a time as this- for Abraham was not without hope.  

Remember the sheep is by nature –nearsighted. The shepherd sees things that sheep never dream of. We see only the grass before us.  Abraham saw things that were not, as though they were. But it was not Abraham’s vision, his physical sight, that gave him eternal vision- it was his faith 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. ( Hebrews 11:1) 

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14