Abraham bowed again to the people of the land, and he replied to Ephron as everyone listened. "No, listen to me," he insisted. "I will buy it from you. Let me pay the full price for the field so I can bury my dead there."
"Well," Ephron answered, "the land is worth four hundred pieces of silver, but what is that between friends? Go ahead and bury your dead."
So Abraham paid Ephron the amount he had suggested, four hundred pieces of silver, as was publicly agreed. (Genesis 23:12-16 NLT)
Close your eyes and listen for the echoed conversation. Can’t you almost hear Mario Puza’s Corleone patriarch and Abraham rising from the text? Ephron just saw a pleasant piece of real estate. Abraham saw the ground he had met with God on.
Abraham was the outsider. He had moved his family into the land of Canaan unannounced and uninvited. Why was he here? God sent him.
There is no evidence that Abraham made a public spectacle of his beliefs. Yet his devotion to his God was reflected in every choice he made.
First, there were the two trips to Egypt. He lied to kings that his gorgeous wife Sarah was his sister to avoid death. Not completely honest, but not totally false either. Each time he returned more prosperous than when he left.
King Abimelech, who suffered a plague due to Abraham’s deceit, drew up a treaty with Abraham over water rights to maintain peace. Years later, Isaac pulls the wool over Abimelech’s eyes with his wife Rebekah…like father like son! Some people never learn.
In fact, the prosperity of Abraham and his nephew Lot became so controversial; the land could not support them. Lot moved to Sodom. Abraham stayed in Canaan.
An alliance formed by five kings was not strong enough to ward off the invasion of Kedorlaomer. Abraham rounds up the 318 men born in his household and defeats Kedorlaomer freeing the five kings, his nephew Lot and all the possessions plundered in the attack.
He surprises everyone by offering a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedeck and returns all the goods to the King of Sodom. Why? So no one could say they made Abraham rich.
Imagine the local gossip when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Think of the buzz around the well at watering time when 90 year old Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Tongues probably wagged in hyper drive when Abraham banished Hagar and Ishmael to the desert with just a jug of water.
Then there was that whole incident with Sodom and Gomorrah. How would you like to be brushing your teeth before work and see fire raining down on the gated-communities beyond the ridge?
Finally, you hear the rumors of Abraham taking his beloved Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him. Nothing this stranger did made any sense. Yet no matter what he did, he only seemed to prosper.
Now years later, his wife has died and he needs a piece of ground with a cave for the family plot. He surveys the entire region and settles on the cave of Machpelah, down at the end of a field under the oaks of Mamre near the city of Hebron. After decades of squatting, Abraham is asking if it is okay to buy a piece of property.
What would you say? Would you, tell him no?
Three religions claim Abraham as the Father of the Faithful. Jewish Herod the Great built a wall around the site. In 325 A.D. Christians built a church over the site. Moslems covet the West Bank city of Hebron so they can lay claim to the burial site of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of all the land Abraham probably lived on, he only paid for one piece – a grave. One of the most highly contested pieces of real estate in the world.
Ephron’s descendants probably stagger over the value of that cave now, but who knew?
”…what’s four hundred pieces of silver between friends?” Ah, the shrewdness of God’s friend…
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