I’ve come up with the only possibility that I think is feasible. I’ve searched far and wide and scoured the internet of all the resources I could. I believe the Tanakh to be 100% accurate and without error due to the scrutiny with which the scribes were under when writing it. This is not true of the New Testament though. I believe that the possibility for errors to be present in the NT is a reality that we cannot ignore, so in my search my intent was to get Acts 7 to line up with the Genesis 23 account.
The ONLY explanation I have been able to come up with is that there was a scribal error and part of what Stephen said is missing. Here are the facts:
Abraham purchased land in Hebron from Ephron the Hittite and this site became known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. It is still there today!
Genesis 23:17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
Jacob purchased land in Shechem from the sons of Hamor.
Joshua 24:32 And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver[a] from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.
Jacob was defiantly buried in the tomb that Abraham purchased in Machpelah in Hebron.
Genesis 50:12 So Jacob’s sons did as their father commanded. 13 They carried his body to the land of Canaan and buried it in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre. Abraham had bought this cave and field from Ephron the Hittite to use as a burial place.
We also know from Joshua 24:32 that Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem, which Jacob purchased. The bones of Joseph’s brothers were almost certainly buried there as well.
There is a possibility that Stephen was very nervous considering that he was basically being put on trial by the Sanhedrin and he just misspoke. If that were the case though, I would assume that Luke would have made mention of this little mix up when he wrote the book of Acts. Based on the facts it’s pretty obvious that Acts 7:15-16 does not line up with the Tanakh.
Acts 7:15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
Knowing what we do based on the accounts in the Tanakh and also assuming that Stephen knew the Tanakh very, very well leads me to believe that there was an error somewhere along the line and we are missing exactly what Stephen really said. Here’s Acts 7:15-16 reconstructed:
Acts 7:15-16 Then Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. They brought Jacob to the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of money from Ephron, while our fathers were brought to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
This is the only explanation that I think makes any sense.