A Daily Genesis

Genesis 23:10b-20

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†. [/COLOR]Gen 23:10b-11 . . saying: No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and I give you the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.[/B]

Ephron's generosity was no doubt sincere, but merely one more formality towards closing a deal on the property. Not wanting to appear a greedy beast profiteering on the loss of a man's wife, he first offered it to Abraham for free.

That was actually a very kind show of respect for Abraham's grief. Abraham will pay for the property, and I have no doubt both men fully expected a monetary settlement; but not before Ephron first has an opportunity to make certain everyone in town sees him pay his respects for the dead of one of the most, if not the most, highly respected men in all of Canaan.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 23:12-15 . .Then Abraham bowed low before the people of the land, and spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying; If only you would hear me out. Let me pay the price of the land; accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there. And Ephron replied to Abraham, saying to him; My lord, do hear me. A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver-- what is that between you and me? Go and bury your dead.[/B]

The shekel of Abraham's day wasn't coinage; but rather, a unit of weight equal to 20 gerahs (Ezk 45:12) which is equivalent to 10 English pennyweights or 1/2 ounce troy. So it would take two of Abraham's shekels to equal one troy ounce of silver.

The average value of a troy ounce of silver as of Dec 31, 2015 was around 14 US dollars. So 400 full shekels would be worth about 2,800 of today's US dollars (2,567 Euro)

No doubt Ephron had mixed feelings about the property. On the one hand, he, as well as his countrymen, would prefer it not be sold to a non Hittite. Yet they all admired Abraham and didn't want to disappoint him, especially during a time of bereavement.

Ephron didn't actually ask for four hundred shekels. He merely told Abraham what the property was worth, but that its value meant nothing between friends; as if Abraham could have it for free. But it was really a subtle way of naming a price without actually coming right out and naming it; know what I mean?

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 23:16 . . Abraham accepted Ephron's terms. Abraham paid out to Ephron the money that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites-- four hundred shekels of silver at the going merchants' rate.[/B]

In those days they used a balance scale to weigh out precious metals for trading purposes. Merchant rates are typically less than consumer rates. So Abraham's 400 shekels would have been weighed out with a lighter set of counterweights than normal in order for him to buy the land at wholesale.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 23:17-18 . . So Ephron's land in Machpelah, near Mamre-- the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field --passed to Abraham as his possession, in the presence of the Hittites, of all who entered the gate of his town.
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Abraham's purchase of Hittite territory was done in the presence of a goodly number of blue-blooded Hittite witnesses so there would be no basis for anyone to contest his rightful ownership. Abraham didn't purchase just the cave, but also the wooded grounds around it so that Sarah's gravesite was originally a very nice cemetery.

But if you want to visit her burial site today, be forewarned. The region in and around Hebron is a political strife zone these days. The monumental shrine erected over the cave in which Abraham was buried makes this one of the great sights for visitors with an interest in scriptural history; but since there are frequently violent clashes between Arabs and Israelis in Hebron it is essential before visiting the town to check up on the current situation with the tourist information office in Jerusalem.

Sarah's gravesite today (if indeed anybody knows where it really is) is covered by an Islamic structure called Al-lbrahimi Mosque; in honor of Abraham, Ishmael's dad. It should be pointed out that the Mosque isn't intended to promote Judaism's Yhvh, but rather, Islam's Allah.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 23:19-20 . . And then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre-- now Hebron --in the land of Canaan. Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.[/B]

Not only a burial site, but also as a permanent real estate holding-- the people of Israel's very first piece of their very own country; which gives them legitimate roots there even prior to the Exodus; and way ahead of the Muslims.

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