Why does it take Moses twenty verses to say that Sarah died and was buried? This seems quite odd, but, as we prayerfully look deeper, we begin to see more of the things hidden from a cursory read as well as the secrets they hold for us. Sarah is the only woman whose age is recorded at her death, and only she, above all other women, is given as a model for the New Testament Church (1Peter 3:5-6).
We are not told if Sarah was sick or, if so, how long she might have been ailing. Abraham and Isaac may have been prepared for her death or it may have caught them by surprise. Certainly, Abraham’s offering of Isaac could have caused him to consider the loss of a loved one, but the actual experience far outweighs anything that may have prepared him for the event itself.
Sarah was 127 years old at the time of her passing, so Isaac would have been 37 and Abraham 137 years of age. She died at Hebron where the Lord promised Abraham and Sarah that Isaac would be born (Genesis 18:1, 10). Sarah’s death caused Abraham to consider where he should bury his family and where he, also, should be buried. The land of Ur was not a consideration, because it seems that Abraham considered the Land of Promise his home, although he dwelt there as a pilgrim from the time the Lord called him out of Haran. Therefore, the death and burial of Sarah came to be a testimony of Abraham’s faith.
The children of Heth were Canaanites (Genesis 10:15; 23:3), and Abraham came to them to ask permission to bury Sarah in their land (23:4). In doing so, he publicly confesses he is not one of them (viz. as Lot became a Sodomite), but, rather, he shows he is but a sojourner in the land. Moreover, by choosing Canaan as a place to bury his wife, he testifies that he no longer looks to Ur as his home (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The sons of Heth no doubt thought that all Abraham wanted was to bury Sarah, so they offered him to choose among any one of their own family tombs and bury Sarah with them. There was nothing specifically wrong with this gesture. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb.Therefore, Abraham stood and bowed himself to them as a gesture of appreciation (Genesis 23:5-7), but, since he had their permission to bury Sarah, he asked them to witness a business transaction he wished to conduct with Ephron, the son of Zohar (Genesis 23:8-9).
The Canaanites were several tribes (Genesis 10:15-18), but Ephron was a Hittite. Although the Hittites dwelt among the Canaanites (Genesis 36:2; Exodus 23:28), they were not descended from Canaan, the son of Ham. So, Abraham and the sons of Heth went to the city gates. There Abraham would seek to acquire a family burial site from Ephron, while the sons of Heth witnessed the event, and thus he testifies to all who knew him that he is not one of them, that he does not consider his birthplace home, and that he lives as though he looks for something he does not yet possess as his own. However else this may have been interpreted by those around him, death, too, became Abraham’s testimony of faith that God would yet perform what he promised to do for him.