AVRAHAM BUYS LAND Gen 23
CONTEXT: 14. Sales of whole villages are attested for the patriarchal age in northern Syria; cf. Wiseman The Alalakh Tablets, Nos. 52 ff. Prices ranged from 100 shekels to upward of 1000 shekels, depending on the size of the territory and the services and income involved; the weight of the shekel varied, of course, from one center to another, even during the same period. Nevertheless, 400 shekels for a piece of land containing a cave would seem to be excessive in any circumstances. Omri paid 6000 shekels for the entire site of Samaria (I Kings xvi 24; see von Rad); and Jeremiah gave only 17 shekels for land that was probably no less spacious than the field of Machpelah (Jer xxxii 9). At any rate, the sum here exacted appears to have been abnormally high, yet Abraham was in no position to demur.
16. at the current merchant rate. Literally "that passes to the merchant." That this is an old technical phrase is proved by the parallel Akk. mabirat illaku "the rate that is current," which is common in Old Babylonian and is used officially as early as the Eshnunna Laws (par. 41; cf. A. Goetze, AASOR 31 , 111 f.). This means that the goods which were offered in payment were computed in terms of silver at the fixed rate that was current at the time. The parallel just cited, together with the idiom discussed in the NOTE on vs. 10, points up the antiquity of the background of the account before us. The circumstance is suggestive, though not decisive.
17-18. The specifications read as though they followed closely the language of sale transactions. Moreover, the deal was duly witnessed by all the representative members of the community. In short, no effort was spared to make the sale strictly legal and incontestable. Speiser, GENESIS, The Anchor Bible, p171
Bridging between the Binding of Yitschak in the preceding chapter and the death of Sarah here, are five verses of family geneology that seem to be intended for ch. 24, referring to B’tuel. Note the remarkable difference in style between this data and the opening verse of ch. 23 with its language and vital statistics in classic P form.
Genesis 22:20-24 20It happened after these things (Aquedat Yitschak) that it was told to Avraham: Note, Milkah too has borne sons to Nachor, your brother: 21Uts, his firstborn and Buz his brother and Q’muel father of Aram. 22And Kesed, Chazo, Pildash, Yidlaf and B’tuel. 23(B’tuel begat Rivqah.) These eight Milkah bore to Nachor, Avraham’s brother. 24He had a concubine whose name was R’umah and she too bore: Tevach, Gacham, Tachash, and Ma’achah.
1The years of Sarah’s life were 127 years. 2Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron, in the land of K’na’an. Avraham arrived to lament for Sarah and to weep for her.
3Avraham rose from before his dead and spoke to the B’neyChet: 4“I am a sojourner and a resident alongside you. Give me a burial possession alongside you and I shall bury my dead from before me.”
5The BneyChet replied to Avraham, saying, 6“But, my lord, please hear us. You are a noble of god in our midst. In the choicest of our burials, bury your dead. Not a man of us would withhold from you his burial site, from burying your dead.”
7Avraham rose and prostrated to the people of the land, to the B’neyChet. 8He spoke to them, saying, “If you really want to bury my dead from before me, hear me and contact for me with Efron benTsohar, 9that he will give me the cave of the Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field. For full price let him give it to me in your midst, as a burial possession.”
10Efron the Chiti was sitting in the midst of the B’neyChet and he answered in the ears of B’neyChet, for all who had come to the gate of his city. 11“No, my lord. Hear me. The field, I have given it to you. And the cave which is in it, I have given it to you. Before the eyes of b’ney ami/my people, I have given it to you. Bury your dead.”
12Avraham prostrated himself before the am ha’arets/people of the land. 13He spoke to Efron in the ears of the am ha’arets, saying, “If indeed you would please hear me. I have given silver for the field. Take it from me and I shall bury my dead there.”
14Efron answered Avraham, “Please, 15my lord, hear me. Land of 400 shekels of silver–what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead!”
16Avraham heard Efron and weighed out the silver that he had spoken in the ears of B’neyChet, 400 shekels of silver, at the merchant’s exchange. 17And it stood, Efron’s field that was in the Machpelah which was before Mamre, the field and the cave that was in it, and every tree that was in the field in all its surrounding border; 18as a purchase for Avraham before the eyes of B’neyChet, all who had come to the gate of his city.
19Afterwards, Avraham buried Sarah, his woman, at the cave of Machpelah field, before Mamre–that is Chevron–in the land of K’na’an. 20The field and the cave that was in it stood for Avraham as a burial possession from the B’neyChet.
© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/