BURYING OF THE
(Acts 7:15, 16). Appendix 187 To The Companion Bible.
It is recorded that there were two distinct purchases by Abraham and Jacob for the purpose of burying their dead: one a field with a cave (Machpelah) at the end of it, which was bought by Abraham of Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver (Genesis 23:16-18); the other, "a parcel of a field" which was bought by Jacob of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of money (Genesis 33:18, 19).
In the former were buried Sarah (Genesis 23:19), Abraham (Genesis 25:9), Isaac (Genesis 49:31), Rebekah and Leah (Genesis 49:31), and Jacob (Genesis 50:12, 13).
In the latter were buried Joseph (Joshua 24:32), and the other sons of Jacob who died in Egypt (Acts 7:16).
In Acts 7:16 Stephen referred to these events, well known to his hearers who were seeking his life. These found nothing to stumble at in his statement that Abraham bought the sepulcher of the sons of Emmor (the father)¹ of Sychem, whereas Genesis 33:18, 19 states that Jacob was the buyer of "a parcel of a field" from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
¹ Almost all the texts read en = in, instead of tou = the (father) of.
The explanation probably is simple,—Abraham was a rich man: rich men often buy, if they can, "parcels" of land for some reason or other: why should not Abraham have had a second place of sepulture assured, if he so desired?
As the Hittites were eager to oblige the rich and powerful sojourner among them, in the matter of Machpelah, as we know; so he would have little difficulty in buying the parcel at Sychem from the original holders in his time. Between Abraham's death and the appearance of Jacob at Sychem, eighty-five years had passed (Appendix 50). Jacob was a keen man of business, but during his long absence "abroad" the title may have lapsed, or become obscure. Hence, when he desired to resume possession of a piece of family property, so to speak, he had to pay something by way of forfeit to make good his claim. The comparatively small sum recorded strengthens this suggestion. Modern instances are familiar to us. There is no reason why it should not be so in this case. And have we never heard of two family burying-places? So here, Jacob was buried in the one, Machpelah; Joseph and his brethren in the other at Sychem.