(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 32) that he may lead them to a complete renunciation of themselves. "Thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest." As if it were not enough to command in one word the sacrifice of his son, he pierces, as with fresh strokes, the mind of the holy man. By calling him his "only" son, he again irritates the wound recently indicted, by the banishment of the other son; he then looks forward into futurity, because no hope of offspring would remain. If the death of a firstborn son is wont to be grievous, what must the mourning of Abraham be? Each word which follows is emphatical, and serves to aggravate his grief. 'Slay' (he says) 'him whom alone thou lowest.' And he does not here refer merely to his paternal love, but to that which sprung from faith. Abraham loved his son, not only as nature dictates, and as parents commonly do, who take delight in their children, but as beholding the paternal love of God in him: lastly, Isaac was the mirror of eternal life, and the pledge of all good things. Wherefore God seems not so much to assail the paternal love of Abraham, as to trample upon His own benevolence. There is equal emphasis in the name Isaac by which Abraham was taught, that nowhere besides did any joy remain for him. Certainly, when he who had been given as the occasion of joy, was taken away, it was just as if God should condemn Abraham to eternal torment. We must always remember that Isaac was not a son of the common order, but one in whose person the Mediator was promised. "Get thee into the land of Moriah." The bitterness of grief is not a little increased by this circumstance. For God does not require him to put his son immediately to death, but compels him to revolve this execution in his mind during three whole days, that in preparing himself to sacrifice his son, he may still more severely torture all his own senses. Besides, he does not even name the place where he requires that dire sacrifice to be offered, "Upon one of the mountains," (he says,) "that I will tell thee of". So before, when he, commanded him to leave his country he held his mind in suspense. But in this affair, the delay which most cruelly tormented the holy man, as if he had been stretched upon the rack, was still less tolerable. There was, however, a twofold use of this suspense. For there is nothing to which we are more prone than to be wise beyond our measure. Therefore, in order that we may become docile and obedient to God, it is profitable for us that we should be deprived of our own wisdom, and that nothing should be left us, but to resign ourselves to be led according to his will. Secondly, this tended also to make him persevere, so that he should not obey God by a merely sudden impulse. For, as he does not turn back in his journey, nor revolve conflicting counsels; it hence appears, that his love to God was confirmed by such constancy, that it could not be affected by any change of circumstances. Jerome explains "the land of Moriah" to be 'the land of vision,' as if the name had been derived from "ra'ah". But all who are skilled in the Hebrew language condemn this opinion. Nor am I better satisfied with those who interpret it the myrrh of God. It is certainly acknowledged by the consent of the greater part, that it is derived from the word "yarah", which signifies to teach or from "yarai", which signifies to fear. There is, however, even at this time, a difference among interpreters, some thinking that the doctrine of God is here specially inculcated. Let us follow the most probable opinion; namely, that it is called the land of divine worship, either because God had appointed it for the offering of the sacrifice, in order that Abraham might not dispute whether some other place should not rather be chosen; or because the place for the temple was already fixed there; and I rather adopt this second explanation; that God there required a present worship from his servant Abraham, because already in his secret counsel, he had determined in that place to fix his ordinary worship. And sacrifices properly receive their name from the word which signifies fear, because they give proof of reverence to God. Moreover, it is by no means doubtful that this is the place where the temple was. afterwards built. 3. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning." This promptitude shows the greatness of Abraham's faith. Innumerable thoughts might come into the mind of the holy man; each of which would have overwhelmed his spirit, unless he had fortified it by faith. And there is no doubt that Satan, during the darkness of the night, would heap upon him a vast mass of cares. Gradually to overcome them, by contending with them, was the part of heroical courage. But when they were overcome, then immediately to gird himself to the fulfilment of the command of God, and even to rise early in the morning to do it, was a remarkable effort. Other men, prostrated by a message so dire and terrible, would have fainted, and have lain torpid, as if deprived of life; but the first dawn of morning was scarcely early enough for Abraham's haste. Therefore, in a few words, Moses highly extols his faith, when he declares that it surmounted, in so short a space of time, the very temptation which was attended with many labyrinths. 4. "And saw the place." He saw, indeed, with his eyes, the place which before had been shown him in secret vision. But when it is said, that he lifted up his eyes, Moses doubtless signifies, that he had been very anxious during the whole of the three days. In commanding his servants to remain behind, he does it that they may not lay their hands upon him, as upon a delirious and insane old man. And herein his magnanimity appears, that he ties his thoughts so well composed and tranquil, as to do nothing in an agitated manner. When, however, he says, that he will return with the boy, he seems not to be free from dissimulation and falsehood. Some think that he uttered this declaration prophetically; but since it is certain that he never lost sight of what had been promised concerning the raising up of seed in Isaac, it may be, that he, trusting in the providence of God, figured to himself his son as surviving even in death itself. And seeing that he went, as with closed eyes, to the slaughter of his son, there is nothing improbable in the supposition, that he spoke confusedly, in a matter so obscure. 7. "My father." God produces here a new instrument of torture, by which he may, more and more, torment the breast of Abraham, already pierced with so many wounds. And it is not to be doubted, that God designedly both framed the tongue of Isaac to this tender appellation, and directed it to this question, in order that nothing might be wanting to the extreme severity of Abraham's grief. Yet the holy man sustains even this attack with invincible courage; and is so far from being disturbed in his proposed course, that he shows himself to be entirely devoted to God, hearkening to nothing which should either shake his confidence, or hinder his obedience. But it is important to notice the manner in which he unties this inextricable knot; namely, by taking refuge in Divine Providence, "God will provide himself a lamb." This example is proposed for our imitation. Whenever the Lord gives a command, many things are perpetually occurring to enfeeble our purpose: means fail, we are destitute of counsel, all avenues seem closed. In such straits, the only remedy against despondency is, to leave the event to God, in order that he may open a way for us where there is none. For as we act unjustly towards Gods when we hope for nothing from him but what our senses can perceive, so we pay Him the highest honour, when, in affairs of perplexity, we nevertheless entirely acquiesce in his providence. 8. "So they went both of them together." Here we perceive both the constancy of Abraham, and the modesty of his son. For Abraham is not rendered more remiss by this obstacles and the son does not persist in replying to his father's answer. For he might easily have objected, Wherefore have we brought wood and the knife without a lamb, if God has commanded sacrifices to be made to him? But because he supposes that the victim has been omitted, for some valid reason, and not through his father's forgetfulness, he acquiesces, and is silent. 9. "And they came to the place." Moses purposely passes over many things, which, nevertheless, the reader ought to consider. When he has mentioned the building of the altar, he immediately afterwards adds, that Isaac was bound. But we know that he was then of middle age, so that he might either be more powerful than his father, or, at least, equal to resist him, if they had to contend by force; wherefore, I do not think that force was employed against the youth, as against one struggling and unwilling to die: but rather, that he voluntarily surrendered himself. It was, however, scarcely possible that he would offer himself to death, unless he had been already made acquainted with the divine oracle: but Moses, passing by this, only recites that he was bound. Should any one object, that there was no necessity to bind one who willingly offered himself to death; I answer, that the holy man anticipated, in this way, a possible danger; lest any thing might happen in the midst of the act to interrupt it. The simplicity of the narrative of Moses is wonderful; but it has greater force than the most exaggerated tragical description. The sum of the whole turns on this point; that Abraham, when he had to slay his son, remained always like himself; and that the fortitude of his mind was such as to render his aged hand equal to the task of offering a sacrifice, the very sight of which was enough to dissolve and to destroy his whole body. 11. "And the angel of the Lord called unto him." The inward temptation had been already overcome, when Abraham intrepidly raised his hand to slay his son; and it was by the special grace of God that he obtained so signal a victory. But now Moses subjoins, that suddenly beyond all hope, his sorrow was changed into joy. Poets, in their fables, when affairs are desperate, introduce some god who, unexpectedly, appears at the critical juncture. It is possible that Satan, by figments of this kind, has endeavoured to obscure the wonderful and stupendous interpositions of God, when he has unexpectedly appeared for the purpose of bringing assistance to his servants. This history ought certainly to be known and celebrated among all people; yet, by the subtlety of Satan, not only has the truth of God been adulterated and turned into a lie, but also distorted into materials for fable, in order to render it the more ridiculous. But it is our business, with earnest minds to consider how wonderfully God, in the very article of death, both recalled Isaac from death to life, and restored to Abraham his son, as one who had risen from the tomb. Moses also describes the voice of the angel, as having sounded out of heaven, to give assurance to Abraham that he had come from God, in order that he might withdraw his hand, under the direction of the same faith by which he had stretched it out. For, in a cause of such magnitude, it was not lawful for him either to undertake or to relinquish anything, except under the authority of God. Let us, therefore, learn from his example, by no means, to pursue what our carnal sense may declare to be, probably, our right course; but let God, by his sole will, prescribe to us our manner of acting and of ceasing to act. And truly Abraham does not charge God with inconstancy, because he considers that there had been just cause for the exercising of his faith. 12. "Now I know that thou fearest God." The exposition of Augustine, 'I have caused thee to know,' is forced. But how can any thing become known to God, to whom all things have always been present? Truly, by condescending to the manner of men, God here says that what he has proved by experiment, is now made known to himself. And he speaks thus with us, not according to his own infinite wisdom, but according to our infirmity. Moses, however, simply means that Abraham, by this very act, testified how reverently he feared God. It is however asked, whether he had not already, on former occasions, given many proofs of his piety? I answer that when God had willed him to proceed thus far, he had, at length, completed his true trial; in other persons a much lighter trial might have been sufficient. And as Abraham showed that he feared God, by not sparing his own, and only begotten son; so a common testimony of the same fear is required from all the pious, in acts of self-denial. Now since God enjoins upon us a continual warfare, we must take care that none desires his release before the time. 13. "And, behold, behind him a ram." What the Jews feign respecting this ram, as having been created on the sixth day of the world, is like the rest of their fictions. We need not doubt that it was presented there by miracle, whether it was then first created, or whether it was brought from some other place; for God intended to give that to his servant which would enable him, with joy and cheerfulness, to offer up a pleasant sacrifice: and at the same time he admonishes him to return thanks. Moreover, since a ram is substituted in the place of Isaac, God shows us, as in a glass, what is the design of our mortification; namely, that by the Spirit of God dwelling within us, we, though dead, may yet be living sacrifices. I am not ignorant that more subtle allegories may be elicited; but I do not see on what foundation they rest. 14. "And Abraham called the name of that place." He not only, by the act of thanksgiving, acknowledges, at the time, that God has, in a remarkable manner, provided for him; but also leaves a monument of his gratitude to posterity. In most extreme anxiety, he had fled for refuge to the providence of God; and he testifies that he had not done so in vain. He also acknowledges that not even the ram had wandered thither accidentally, but had been placed there by God. Whereas, in process of time, the name of the place was changed, this was done purposely, and not by mistake. For they who have translated the active verb, 'He will see,' passively, have wished, in this manner, to teach that God not only looks upon those who are his, but also makes his help manifest to them; so that, in turn, he may be seen by them. The former has precedence in order; namely, that God, by his secret providence, determines and ordains what is best for us; but on this, the latter is suspended; namely, that he stretches out his hand to us, and renders himself visible by true experimental tokens. 15. "And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham." What God had promised to Abraham before Isaac was born, he now again confirms and ratifies, after Isaac was restored to life, and arose from the altar,--as if it had been from the sepulchre,--to achieve a more complete triumph. The angel speaks in the person of God; in order that, as we have before said, the embassy of those who bear his name, may have the greater authority, by their being clothed with his majesty. These two things, however, are thought to be hardly consistent with each other; that what before was gratuitously promised, should here be deemed a reward. For we know that grace and reward are incompatible. Now, however, since the benediction which is promised in the seed, contains the hope of salvation, it may seem to follow that eternal life is given in return for good works. And the Papists boldly seize upon this, and similar passages, in order to prove that works are deserving of all the good things which God confers upon us. But I most readily retort this subtle argument upon those who bring it. For if that promise was before gratuitous, which is now ascribed to a reward; it appears that whatever God grants to good works, ought to be received as from grace. certainly, before Isaac was born, this same promise had been already given; and now it receives nothing more than confirmation. If Abraham deserved a compensation so great, on account of his own virtue, the grace of God, which anticipated him, will be of none effect. Therefore, in order that the truth of God, founded upon his gratuitous kindness, may stand firm, we must of necessity conclude, that what is freely given, is yet called the reward of works. Not that God would obscure the glory of his goodness, or in any way diminish it; but only that he may excite his own people to the love of well-doing, when they perceive that their acts of duty are so far pleasing to him, as to obtain a reward; while yet he pays nothing as a debt, but gives to his own benefits the title of a reward. And in this there is no inconsistency. For the Lord here shows himself doubly liberal; in that he, wishing to stimulate us to holy living, transfers to our works what properly belongs to his pure beneficence. The Papists, therefore, wrongfully distort those benignant invitations of God, by which he would correct our torpor, to a different purpose, in order that man may arrogate to his own merits, what is the mere gift of divine liberality. 17. "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." He means that the offspring of Abraham should be victorious over their enemies; for in the gates were their bulwarks, and in them they administered judgment. Now, although God often suffered the enemies of the Jews tyrannically to rule over them; yet he so moderated their revenge, that this promise always prevailed in the end. Moreover, we must remember what has before been stated from Paul, concerning the unity of the seed; for we hence infer, that the victory is promised, not to the sons of Abraham promiscuously, but to Christ, and to his members, so far as they adhere together under one Head. For unless we retain some mark which may distinguish between the legitimate and the degenerate sons of Abraham, this promise will indiscriminately comprehend, as well the Ishmaelites and Idumeans, as the people of Israel: but the unity of a people depends on its head. Therefore the prophets, whenever they wish to confirm this promise of God, assume the principle, that they who have hitherto been divided, shall be united, under David, in one body. What further pertains to this subject may be found in the twelfth chapter. 19. "And they rose up, and went together to Beer-sheba." Moses repeats, that Abraham, after having passed through this severe and incredible temptation, had a quiet abode in Beersheba. This narration is inserted, together with what follows concerning the increase of Abraham's kindred, for the purpose of showing that the holy man, when he had been brought up again from the abyss of death, was made happy, in more ways than one. For God would so revive him, that he should be like a new man. Moses also records the progeny of Nahor, but for another reason; namely, because Isaac was to take his wife from it. For the mention of women in Scripture is rare; and it is credible that many daughters were born to Nahor, of whom one only, Rebekah, is here introduced. He distinguishes the sons of the concubine from the others; because they occupied a less honorable place. Not that the concubine was regarded as a harlot; but because she was an inferior wife, and not the mistress of the house, who had community of goods with her husband. The fact, however, that it entered into Nahor's mind to take a second wife, does not render polygamy lawful; it only shows, that from the custom of other men, he supposed that to be lawful for him, which had really sprung from the worst corruption. Chapter XXIII. 1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: [these were] the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And 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. 3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 4 I [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. 5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 6 Hear 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. 7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, [even] to the children of Heth. 8 And 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, 9 That 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. 10 And 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, 11 Nay, 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. 12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. 13 And 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. 14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, 15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land [is worth] four hundred shekels of silver; what [is] that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead. 16 And 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. 17 And 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 18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. 19 And 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. 20 And the field, and the cave that [is] therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth. 1. "And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old." It is remarkable that Moses, who relates the death of Sarah in a single word, uses so many in describing her burial: but we shall soon see that the latter record is not superfluous. Why he so briefly alludes to her death, I know not, except that he leaves more to be reflected upon by his readers than he expresses. The holy fathers saw that they in common with reprobates, were subject to death. Nevertheless, they were not deterred, While painfully leading a life full of suffering, from advancing with intrepidity towards the goal. Whence it follows, that they, being animated by the hope of a better life, did not give way to fatigue. Moses says that Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years, and since he repeats the word years after each of the numbers, the Jews feign that this was done because she had been as beautiful in her hundredth, as in her twentieth year, and as modest in the flower of her age, as when she was seven years old. This is their custom; while they wish to prove themselves skilful in doing honour to their nations they invent frivolous trifles, which betray a shameful ignorance: as, for instance, in this place, who would not say that they were entirely ignorant of their own languages in which this kind of repetition is most usual? The discussion of others also, on the word "chayim", (lives,) is without solidity. The reason why the Hebrews use the word lives in the plural member, for life, cannot be better explained, as it appears to me, than the reason why the Latins express some things which are singular in plural forms. I know that the life of men is manifold, because, beyond merely vegetative life, and beyond the sense which they have in common with brute animals, they are also endued with mind and intelligence. This reasoning, therefore, is plausible without being solid. There is more colour of truth in the opinion of those who think that the various events of human life are signified; which life, since it has nothing stable, but is agitated by perpetual vicissitudes, is rightly divided into many lives. I am, however, contented to refer simply to the idiom of the language; the reason of which is not always to be curiously investigated. 2. "And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba." It appears from Josh. 15: 54, that this was the more ancient name of the city, which afterwards began to be called Heron. But there is a difference of opinion respecting the etymology. Some think the name is derived from the fact, that the city consisted of four parts; as the Greeks call the city divided into three orders, Tripoli, and a given region, Decapolis, from the ten cities it contained. Others suppose that Arba is the name of a giant, whom they believe to have been the king or the founder of the city. Others again prefer the notion, that the name was given to the place from four of the Fathers, Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were buried there with their wives. I willingly suspend my judgment on a matter of uncertainty, and not very necessary to be known. It more concerns the present history to inquire, how it happened that Sarah died in a different place from that in which Abraham dwelt. If any one should reply, that they had both changed their abode, the words of Moses are opposed to that, for he says that Abraham came to bury his dead. It is hence easily inferred, that he was not present at her death; nor is it probable that they were separated, merely by being in different tents; so that he might walk ten or twenty paces for the sake of mourning, while a more important duty had been neglected. For this reason, some suspect that he was on a journey at the time. But to me it seems more likely that their abode was then at Heron, or at least in the vale of Mamre, which adjoins the city. For, after a little breathing time had been granted him he was soon compelled to return to his accustomed wanderings. And although Moses does not say, that Abraham had paid to his wife while yet alive, the due attentions of a husband; I think that he omits it, as a thing indubitably certain, and that he speaks particularly of the mourning, as a matter connected with the care of sepulture. That they dwelt separately we shall afterwards see: not as being in different regions, but because each inhabited separate, though contiguous, tents. And this was no sign of dissension or of strife, but is rather to be ascribed to the size of the family. For as Abraham had much trouble in governing so large a herd of servants; so his wife would have equal difficulty to retain her maids under chaste and honest custody. Therefore the great number of domestics which it was not safe to mingle together, compelled them to divide the family. But it may be asked, what end could it answer to approach the body for the sake of mourning over it? Was not the death of his wife sufficiently sad and bitter to call forth his grief, without this additional means of excitement? It would have been better to seek the alleviation of his sorrow, than to cherish and even augment it, by indulgence. I answer; if Abraham came to his dead wife, in order to produce excessive weeping, and to pierce his heart afresh with new wounds, his example is not to be approved. But if he both privately wept over the death of his wife, so far as humanity prescribed, exercising self-government in doing it; and also voluntarily mourned over the common curse of mankind; there is no fault in either of these. For to feel no sadness at the contemplation of death, is rather barbarism and stupor than fortitude of mind. Nevertheless, as Abraham was a man, it might be, that his grief was excessive. And yet, what Moses soon after subjoins, that he rose up from his dead, is spoken in praise of his moderation; whence Ambrose prudently infers, that we are taught by this example, how perversely they act, who occupy themselves too much in mourning for the dead. Now, if Abraham at that time, assigned a limit to his grief; and put a restraint on his feelings, when the doctrine of the resurrection was yet obscure; they are without excuse, who, at this day, give the reins to impatience, since the most abundant consolation is supplied to us in the resurrection cf Christ. 3. "And spake unto the sons of Heth." Moses is silent respecting the rite used by Abraham in the burial of the body of his wife: but he proceeds, at great length, to recite the purchasing of the sepulchre. For what reason he did this, we shall see presently, when I shall briefly allude to the custom of burial. How religiously this has been observed in all ages, and among all people, is well known. Ceremonies have indeed been different, and men have endeavoured to outdo each other in various superstitions; meanwhile, to bury the dead has been common to all. And this practice has not arisen either from foolish curiosity, or from the desire of fruitless consolation, or from superstition, but from the natural sense with which God has imbued the minds of men; a sense he has never suffered to perish, in order that men might be witnesses to themselves of a future life. It is also incredible that they, who have disseminated certain outrageous expressions in contempt of sepulture, could have spoken from the heart. Truly it behaves us, with magnanimity, so far to disregard the rites of sepulture,--as we would riches and honours, and the other conveniences of life,--that we should bear with equanimity to be deprived of them; yet it cannot be denied that religion carries along with it the care of burial. And certainly (as I have said) it has been divinely engraven on the minds of all people, from the beginning, that they should bury the dead; whence also they have ever regarded sepulchres as sacred. It has not, I confess, always entered into the minds of heathens that souls survived death, and that the hope of a resurrection remained even for their bodies; nor have they been accustomed to exercise themselves in a pious meditation of this kind, whenever they had laid their dead in the grave; but this inconsideration of theirs does not disprove the fact; that they had such a representation of a future life placed before their eyes, as left them inexcusable. Abraham however, seeing he has the hope of a resurrection deeply fixed in his heart, sedulously cherished, as was meet, its visible symbol. The importance he attached to it appears hence, that he thought he should be guilty of pollution, if he mingled the body of his wife with strangers after death. For he bought a cave, in order that he might possess for himself and his family, a holy and pure sepulchre. He did not desire to have a foot of earth whereon to fix his tent; he only took care about his grave: and he especially wished to have his own domestic tomb in that land, which had been promised him for an inheritance, for the purpose of bearing testimony to posterity, that the promise of God was not extinguished either by his own death, or by that of his family; but that it then rather began to flourish; and that they who were deprived of the light of the sun, and of the vital air, yet always remained joint-partakers of the promised inheritance. For while they themselves were silent and speechless, the sepulchre cried aloud, that death formed no obstacle to their entering on the possession of it. A thought like this could have had no place, unless Abraham by faith had looked up to heaven. And when he calls the corpse of his wife "his dead"; he intimates that death is a divorce of that kind, which still leaves some remaining conjunction. Moreover, nothing but a future restoration cherishes and preserves the law of mutant connection between the living and the dead. But it is better briefly to examine each particular, in its order. 4. "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you." This introductory sentence tends to one or other of these points; either that he may more easily gain what he desires by suppliantly asking for it; or that he may remove all suspicion of cupidity on his part. He therefore confesses, that, since he had only a precarious abode among them, he could possess no sepulchre, unless by their permission. And because, during life, they have permitted him to dwell within their territory, it was the part of humanity, not to deny him a sepulchre for his dead. If this sense be approved, then Abraham both conciliates their favour to himself, by his humility, and in declaring that the children of Heth had dealt kindly with him, he stimulates them, by this praise, to proceed in the exercise of the same liberality with which they had begun. The other sense, however, is not incongruous; namely, that Abraham, to avert the odium which might attach to him as a purchaser, declares that he desires the possession, not for the advantage of the present life, not from ambition or avarice, but only in order that his dead may not lie unburied; as if he had said, I do not refuse to continue to live a stranger among you, as I have hitherto done; I do not desire your possessions, in order that I may have something of my own, which may enable me hereafter to contend for equality with you; it is enough for me to have a place where we may be buried. 6. "Thou art a mighty prince among us." The Hittites gratuitously offer a burying-place to Abraham wherever he might please to choose one. They testify that they do this, as a tribute to his virtues. We have before seen, that the Hebrews give a divine title to anything which excels. Therefore we are to understand by the expression, 'a prince of God,' a person of great and singular excellency. And they properly signalize him whom they reverence for his virtues, with this eulogium; thereby testifying, that they ascribe to God alone, whatever virtues in men are deserving of praise and reverence. Now some seed of piety manifests itself in the Hittites, by thus doing honour to Abraham, whom they acknowledge to be adorned with rare gifts of the Spirit of God. For profane and brutal men tread under foot, with barbarous contempt, every excellent gift of God, as swine do pearls. And yet we know with how many vices those nations were defiled; how much greater then, and more disgraceful is our ingratitude, if we give no honour to the image of God, when it shines before our eyes? Abraham's sanctity of manners procures him such favour with the Hittites, that they do not envy his preeminence among them; what excuse then is there for us, if we hold in less esteem those virtues in which the majesty of God is conspicuous? Truly their madness is diabolical, who not only despise the favours of God, but even ferociously oppose them. 7. "And Abraham stood up." He declines the favour offered by the Hittites, as, some suppose, with this design, that he might not lay himself under obligation to them in so small a matter. But he rather wished to show, in this way, that he would receive no gratuitous possession from those inhabitants who were to be ejected by the hand of Gods in order that he might succeed in their place: for he always kept all his thoughts fixed on God, so that he far preferred His bare promise, to present dominion over the land. Moses also commends the modesty of the holy man, when he says that he 'rose up to do reverence to the people of the land.' As to the use of the word signifying 'to adore,' it is simply taken for the reverence, which any one declares, either by bowing the knee, or any other gesture of the body. This may be paid to men, as well as to God, but for a different end; men mutually either bend the knee, or bow the head, before each other, for the sake of civil honour; but if the same thing be done to them, for the sake of religion, it is profanation. For religion allows of no other worship them that of the true God. And they childishly trifle who make a pretext for their idolatry, in the words 'dulia' and 'latria', since the Scripture, in general terms, forbids adoration to be transferred to men. But lest any one should be surprised that Abraham acted so suppliantly, and so submissively, we must be aware that it was done from common custom and use. For it is well known that the Orientals were immoderate in their use of ceremonies. If we compare the Greeks or Italians with ourselves, we are more sparing in the use of them than they. But Aristotle, in speaking of the Asiatics and other barbarians notes this fault, that they abound too much in adorations. Wherefore we must not measure the honour which Abraham paid to the princes of the land by our customs. 8. "If it be in your mind." Abraham constitutes them his advocates with Ephron, to persuade him to sell the double cave. Some suppose the cave to have been so formed that one part was above, and the other below. Let every one be at liberty to adopt what opinion he pleases; I, however, rather suppose, that there was one entrance, but that within, the cave was divided by a middle partition. It is more pertinent to remarks that Abraham, by offering a full price, cultivated and maintained equity. Where is there one to be found, who, in buying, and in other business, does not eagerly pursue his own advantage at another's cost? For while the seller sets the price at twice the worth of a thing, that he may extort as much as possible from the buyer, and the buyers in return, by shuffling, attempts to reduce it to a low price, there is no end of bargaining. And although avarice has specious pretexts, it yet causes those who make contracts with each other, to forget the claims of equity and justice. This also, finally deserves to be noticed; that Abraham often declares that he was buying the field for a place of sepulture. And Moses is the more minute in this matter, that we may learn, with our father Abraham, to raise our minds to the hope of the resurrection. He saw the half of himself taken away; but because he was certain that his wife was not exiled from the kingdom of God, he hides her dead body in the tomb, until he and she should be gathered together. 11. "Hear me." Although Ephron earnestly insisted upon giving the field freely to Abraham, the holy man adheres to his purpose, and at length compels him, by his entreaties, to sell the field. Ephron, in excusing himself, says that the price was too small for Abraham to insist upon giving; yet he estimates it at four hundred shekels. Now, since Josephus says that the shekel of the sanctuary was worth four Attic drachms, if he is speaking of these, we gather from the computation of Budaeus that the price of the field was about two hundred and fifty pounds of French money; if we understand the common shekel, it will be half that amount. Abraham was not so scrupulous but that he would have received a greater gift, if there had not been a sufficient reason to prevent him. He had been presented with considerable gifts both by the king of Egypt and the king of Gerar, but he observed this rule; that he would neither receive all things, nor in all places, nor from all persons. And I have lately explained, that he bought the field, in order that he might not possess a foot of land, by the gift of any man. 16. "And Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver." I know not what had come into Jerome's mind, when he says, that one letter was abstracted from Ephron's name, after he had been persuaded, by Abraham's entreaties, to receive money for the field; because, by the sale of the sepulchre, his virtue was maimed or diminished: for, in fact, the name of Ephron is found written in the very same manner, after that event, as before. Nor ought it to be imputed to Ephron as a fault, that, being pressed, he took the lawful price for his estate; when he had been prepared liberally to give it. If there was any sin in the case, Abraham must bear the whole blame. But who shall dare to condemn a just sale, in which, on both sides, religion, good faith, and equity, are maintained? Abraham, it is argued, bought the field for the sake of having a sepulchre. But ought Ephron on that account to give it freely, and under the pretext of a sepulchre, to be defrauded of his right? We see here, then, nothing but mere trifling. The Canonists, however,--preposterous and infatuated as they are,--rashly laying hold of the expressions of Jerome, have determined that it is a prodigious sacrilege to sell sepulchres. Yet, in the meantime, all the Papal sacrificers securely exercise this traffic: and while they acknowledge the cemetery to be a common sepulchre, they suffer no grave to be dug, unless the price be paid. "Current money with the merchant." Moses speaks thus, because money is a medium of mutual communication between men. It is principally employed in buying and selling merchandise. Whereas Moses says, in the close of the chapter, that the field was confirmed by the Hittites to Abraham for a possession; the sense is, that the purchase was publicly attested; for although a private person sold it, yet the people were present, and ratified the contract between the two parties. End of John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1 (...end) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: cvgn1-32.txt .