ABC:Genesis 23

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Verse 17[edit]

Jim Meritt of Infidels.org claims a contradiction exists and asks "Who's [sic] sepulchers?"[1]

Genesis 23:17 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.

Acts 7:15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

This appears to be a clear mistake by Stephen in mistakenly combining the purchase of burial places by Jacob and Abraham. Abraham bought a field in Genesis 23 that would be used as a future burial place for himself, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, Jacob. Abraham bought the field of Machpelah before Mamre from Ephron the Hittite, of the children of Heth, in the land of Canaan. This is the famous 'Tomb of the Patriarchs', one of Israel's most famous landmarks.[2]

Genesis 23:16 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.

Genesis 49:29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

Jacob on the other hand purchased the land referenced in Acts 7 from Hamor, Shechem's father near Shechem in Canaan where he erected an altar called Elelohe-Israel. The bones of Joseph were then carried there from Egypt after Joseph's death.

Genesis 33:18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20 And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.

Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Therefore, Stephen in Acts 7 actually transposes two different accounts in two different ways. If he'd stated Joseph (not Jacob) was buried in the Acts location referenced and that Jacob (not Abraham) had made the purchase, he would be correct. If on the other hand he'd stated Jacob was carried to a different location (Machpelah, not Shechem, Shechem was the location Jacob purchased) as purchased by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite (not Hamor the father of Shechem, Hamor was the one Jacob purchased his land from) he would be correct. Instead, Stephen combined the details of both accounts.

Now, with all of that said, it is quite possible the Bible itself does not contain a contradiction, and was simply recording faithfully the exact words of Stephen, even his own mistake during what was a complex accounting of Israel's history in Acts 7. In fact, Stephen's mistake may have even helped give rise to the Jewish outrage against him that caused his death in vv. 54-60, though of course this is mere speculation. At any rate, the possibility remains that such a mistake was made by Stephen and recorded in the same way I recorded for purposes of accuracy Meritt's own mistake at the top of this page, adding [sic] afterward to clarify it was his typo, not mine. However, sic was not used by the Bible writers to my knowledge, so they would not have been able to clarify this in such a way.

Sources[edit]

  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html.
  2. Jewish Virtual Library. The Cave of Machpelah Tomb of the Patriarchs. Retrieved from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/machpelah.html.