The Business Transaction That Takes Place Publicly
The rest of this chapter is devoted to a detailed – and at points even quite legally worded – description of the business transaction by which Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah (as a burial site for Sarah) and the surround field from Ephron the Hittite.
Abraham got up and bowed in respect to the people of the land, the Hittites.
Genesis 23:7 (VOICE)
In the East in that day, most business transactions were carried on at the city gate with the people as witnesses. Arriving at a final price for a piece of property usually involved a great deal of bargaining and deferential politeness that sometimes covered up greed and intrigue. But Abraham was open and honest in his request: He wanted to buy the cave of Machpelah from Ephron, who was in the crowd at the time.
A godly man doesn’t only do good to the godly, but he will conduct himself respectfully even to unbelievers.
Abraham (to the Hittites): If you are really willing for me to give my dead wife a proper burial, then would you please ask Ephron (Zohar’s son) for me if I might buy the cave of Machpelah. It is a tract of land he owns located at the end of his field. With you as my witnesses, I will offer him full price for the property as a place to bury my dead.
Now it happened that Ephron was sitting right there among the Hittites. He personally answered Abraham so that all those present at the city gate could hear.
Ephron: No, my lord, listen: I will not sell it to you; I will give you the field and the cave that lies on the property. In the presence of all of these people, my people, I give it to you so that you can go and bury your dead.
Abraham again bowed in respect to the people of the land and replied to Ephron so all those present could hear.
Abraham: Please, listen to what I have to say. I will gladly pay you a fair price for the field. Please accept it from me. That way I can bury my dead in peace.
|This account reveals the complex and rather ambiguous Near Eastern way of negotiating a purchase. The business transaction takes place publicly at the city gate in the presence of the community leaders who could serve as advisors to the deal or witnesses if the deal goes awry. Initially Ephron offers to give the land to Abraham for a burial site, but in true Near Eastern style the patriarch indicates respectfully that he desires to purchase it instead.
Ephron’s true motive may be seen in his counteroffer; the property is worth 10 pounds of silver, a not-so-insignificant price for a tract of land on the edge of his property. Abraham’s motive is clear enough. He wants to own outright a parcel of land near where he and his family have lived for many years, a land promised to him by God, a land where now Sarah has died and needs a proper burial.
Gifts come with strings attached, and Abraham does not want to owe Ephron or anyone else for that matter. He knows full well he owes everything to God.
Ephron answered Abraham.
Ephron: My lord, listen to me. The property is worth 10 pounds of silver. Surely that is an amount we can agree on. So go, and bury your dead in peace.
So Abraham accepted Ephron’s offer, and he weighed out the silver for him in the amount they had agreed upon in the presence of the Hittites—10 pounds of silver, according to the weights among the merchants of that time.
Genesis 23:8-16 (VOICE)
Following the custom of the East, Ephron offered to give Abraham not only the cave but also the whole field in which the cave was located. Of course, this was only a clever maneuver on his part, for he had no intentions of giving away a valuable piece of property, especially to a man as wealthy as Abraham. But Ephron’s reply gave Abraham two pieces of information: Ephron was willing to sell, but he wanted to sell the whole field and not just the cave.
Ephron had Abraham in a corner, and he knew it. Sarah had to be buried soon, and Ephron had the only piece of property that met Abraham’s needs. So, Abraham agreed to buy both the cave and the field even before Ephron named the price. That is really living by faith! Ephron’s price was far too much, but Abraham paid it and claimed the property for himself.
In our business dealings with the people of the world, we must be careful to maintain honesty and integrity and to put our witness for the Lord ahead of monetary gain.
Abraham knew that Ephron had him trapped and that it was foolish to haggle over the price, as much as Easterners love to do it.
|The Moody Bible Commentary
By Edited by Michael Rydelnik & Michael Vanlaningham / Moody Publishing
The Moody Bible Commentary brings together 29 Moody Bible Institute faculty to produce a one-volume commentary on the whole Bible. Each book is introduced with a description of its author, date, purpose, and themes, and is outlined to show its overall structure. Drawing on the best evangelical scholarship, the authors provide commentary on sections and passages, communicating the meaning of the text. Scripture commented on is shown in bold print for easy reference, and maps and charts provide visual aids for learning. Additional study helps include bibliographies for further study and a subject and Scripture index.
General editors Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham have led a team of contributors whose academic training, practical church experience, and teaching competency make this commentary excellent for anyone who needs help understanding the Scriptures. This comprehensive and reliable reference work should be the first place Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, missionaries, and pastors turn to for biblical insight. The Moody Bible Commentary will help you better understand and apply God’s written revelation to all of life!