ASV notes on Genesis 23:1-20 and questions

Abraham, Ephrom and the cave of Machpelah

37 years of age

Isaac was born when Sarah was 90 and when she died at the age of 127, Isaac must have been 37 years of age. When Sarah died Abraham and all his Camp were in the area surrounding the city Kiriath-arba, where also his friends Mamre and his brothers lived, they who helped Abraham in the battle against the four kings from the east when saving Lot.

A burying place

When Isaac was 37, the Hittites owned and ruled the land, a mighty people at the time. Later the city of Kiriath-arba changed its name to Hebron. After Sarah’s death, Abraham went to the city and found most of the men at the city gate where all the trading and discussions took place. Abraham wanted to buy a burying place for Sarah, and he knew the land he wanted, not only to bury Sarah there but also as a burring place for his whole family and descendants after him.

Trust in your God

When we read about how the negotiation went on between Abraham, the Hittites and Ephron the owner of the land. We can learn a good bargain technique from it. First Abraham stood up, talked to the Hittites, and said that he was a sojourner and a stranger among them, meaning he didn’t owe any land there and he asked them to give him land. The Hittites answered that he could bury his wife where he wanted because he was a prince of God, the Hittites in a polite way said no, thrust in your God.

Approval

It seems that the custom was that those who spoke were standing, and all the other were sitting. Then Abraham stood up again, and this time he showed humbleness and bowed down to the ground and said, “Please, I need your help.” Listen to me, and plead with Ephron the son of Zohar for me so that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns—it is at the end of his field; let him give it to me here in your presence for the full price as a burial site. Abraham didn’t talk directly to Ephron the owner, first he wanted the approval of all who lived in the area by asking them to bring the question forward to Ephron, this, to make the deal secured for future times.

Smartness

Abraham was humble and polite, but he also was a smart businessperson, Ephron could have priced the land very high, Abraham would have accepted it, but in front of all the people, Ephron had to give a fair price to keep his honor. Then Abraham bowed down in front of all the people a second time pleaded to Ephron to give a price for the land in front of all. The pressure was now on Ephron and he had to come up with the fair price of 400 shekels and honored Abraham by saying that this price was nothing for rich and honorable people like Abraham and himself. 

Honor

Ephron was present among the Hittites in the city gate of Kiriath-arba and now he knew what Abraham wanted and that he was willing to pay the full price for the land. He could have stood up and said: “four hundred shekels of silver and the land is yours”. But instead Ephron stood up and said; “No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I also give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the men of my people I give it to you; bury your dead” Ephron showed generosity in front of his people, but he knew that Abraham had to pay the full price if he wanted to be respected as an honorable man in the future.

The deed

Abraham didn’t hesitate, he immediately weighed up 400 shekel of silver and handed it over to the owner and the deed was written and signed. In the deed were all the details as we can see in verse 17, “So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre the field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field and in all its borders around it—were deeded over

Common knowledge

All this negotiation between Ephron and Abraham happened at the city gate of Kiriath-arba when most of the men of the city were present as witness. Now all in the area knew that the land with the cave of Machpelah belonged to Abraham and his descendants. Then when Abraham legally owned the land he could bury his wife there, Abraham secured and respected his dead wife, like we should respect our dead and their graves.  

Questions

  1. Where is Kiriat-arba today?
  2. In old times, where did people negotiate?

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