Genesis 23:10
And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
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(10) And Ephron dwelt among . . . —Again a mistranslation. The Heb. is, Ephron was sitting in the midst of the Hittites. At these assemblies held at the gate of the city every free-born citizen had a right to be present, and matters were settled by common consent. As Ephron was the owner of the cave, his approval was necessary, and this Abraham treats as a favour, and requests that Ephron’s fellow-citizens will intercede in his behalf.

23:1-13 The longest life must shortly come to a close. Blessed be God that there is a world where sin, death, vanity, and vexation cannot enter. Blessed be his name, that even death cannot part believers from union with Christ. Those whom we most love, yea, even our own bodies, which we so care for, must soon become loathsome lumps of clays, and be buried out of sight. How loose then should we be to all earthly attachments and adornments! Let us seek rather that our souls be adorned with heavenly graces. Abraham rendered honour and respect to the princes of Heth, although of the ungodly Canaanites. The religion of the Bible enjoins to pay due respect to all in authority, without flattering their persons, or countenancing their crimes if they are unworthy characters. And the noble generosity of these Canaanites shames and condemns the closeness, selfishness, and ill-humour of many that call themselves Israelites. It was not in pride that Abraham refused the gift, because he scorned to be beholden to Ephron; but in justice and in prudence. Abraham was able to pay for the field, and therefore would not take advantage of Ephron's generosity. Honesty, as well as honour, forbids us to take advantage of our neighbour's liberality, and to impose, upon those who give freely.The transaction now comes to be between Abraham and Ephron. "Was sitting." The sons of Heth were seated in council, and Ephron among them. Abraham seems to have been seated also; for he stood up to make his obeisance and request Genesis 23:7. "Before all that went in at the gate of his city." The conference was public. The place of session for judicial and other public business was the gate of the city, which was common ground, and where men were constantly going in and out. "His city." This implies not that he was the king or chief, but simply that he was a respectable citizen. If Hebron was the city of the Hittites here intended, its chief at the time seems to have been Arba. "The field give I thee." Literally, have I given thee - what was resolved upon was regarded as done. "In the sight of the sons of my people." This was a public declaration or deed before many witnesses.

He offers the field as a gift, with the Eastern understanding that the receiver would make an ample recompense. This mode of dealing had its origin in a genuine good-will, that was prepared to gratify the wish of another as soon as it was made known, and as far as it was reasonable or practicable. The feeling seems to have been still somewhat fresh and unaffected in the time of Abraham, though it has degenerated into a mere form of courtesy. "If thou wilt, hear me." The language is abrupt, being spoken in the haste of excitement. "I give silver." "I have given" in the original; that is, I have determined to pay the full price. If the Eastern giver was liberal, the receiver was penetrated with an equal sense of the obligation conferred, and a like determination to make an equivalent return. "The land is four hundred shekels." This is the familiar style for "the land is worth so much." The shekel is here mentioned for the first time. It was originally a weight, not a coin. The weight at least was in common use before Abraham. If the shekel be nine pennyweights and three grains, the price of the field was about forty-five pounds sterling. "And Abraham weighed." It appears that the money was uncoined silver, as it was weighed. "Current with the merchant." The Kenaanites, of whom the Hittites were a tribe, were among the earliest traders in the world. The merchant, as the original imports, is the traveller who brings the wares to the purchasers in their own dwellings or towns. To him a fixed weight and measure were necessary.

10. Ephron dwelt—literally, was "sitting" among the children of Heth in the gate of the city where all business was transacted. But, though a chief man among them, he was probably unknown to Abraham. Ephron dwelt, Heb. did sit, to wit, at that time, as one of the chief or rulers of the people; for so the word sitting is oft used, as we shall see hereafter.

His city; either where he was born, or at least where he lived.

And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth,.... Or "sat" (b) among them, in the present assembly of them; and, according to Jarchi, as their president for the time on this occasion; but if so, Abraham would have directed his speech to him: however, he was upon the spot, as appears from what follows:

and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth; he rose up in the assembly upon the mention of his name, and in the hearing of the rest of the princes gave an answer himself to Abraham's request:

even of all that went in at the gates of his city; the city of Kirjatharba, afterwards called Hebron, Genesis 23:2, where he was born, or however where he now lived; and perhaps it, or the greater part of it, was his possession and property: it was now at one of the gates of this city, where the assembly of the princes was held; it being usual to hold assemblies on any business, or courts of judicature, in such places, they being public, where multitudes resorted, or were continually passing and repassing, and so had the opportunity of hearing, and of being witnesses:

saying; as follows:

(b) Sept. "sedens", Montanus; "sedebat", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Schmidt.

And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that {c} went in at the gate of his city, saying,

(c) Meaning all the citizens and inhabitants.

10. audience] Lit. “ears,” as in Genesis 23:13; Genesis 23:16. The presence of witnesses is evidently requisite for the validity of the transaction: cf. Ruth 4:9-11.

all that went in at the gate of his city] Cf. Genesis 23:18. A technical phrase to denote full citizens. The gate was the place of popular assembly for the elders of a city; cf. Genesis 19:1.

A similar phrase occurs in Genesis 34:24, “all that went out at the gate.” The classical illustration of business transactions conducted at “the gate” of a city is to be found in the Book of Ruth, chap. Genesis 4:1 ff.

Verse 10. - And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth. Not habitabat (Vulgate), in the sense of resided amongst, but sedebat, ἐκάθητο (LXX.); was then present sitting amongst the townspeople (Rosenmüller), but whether in the capacity of a magistrate or councilor is not stated. And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Hath, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, - this does not imply that he was the chief magistrate (Keil), but only that he was a prominent citizen (Murphy). On the gate of the city as a place for transacting business vide Genesis 19:1 - saying - Genesis 23:10He then went to the Hittites, the lords and possessors of the city and its vicinity at that time, to procure from them "a possession of a burying-place." The negotiations were carried on in the most formal style, in a public assembly "of the people of the land," i.e., of natives (Genesis 23:7), in the gate of the city (Genesis 23:10). As a foreigner and sojourner, Abraham presented his request in the most courteous manner to all the citizens ("all that went in at the gate," Genesis 23:10, Genesis 23:18; a phrase interchangeable with "all that went out at the gate," Genesis 34:24, and those who "go out and in," Jeremiah 17:19). The citizens with the greatest readiness and respect offered "the prince of God," i.e., the man exalted by God to the rank of a prince, "the choice" (מבחר, i.e., the most select) of their graves for his use (Genesis 23:6). But Abraham asked them to request Ephron, who, to judge from the expression "his city" in Genesis 23:10, was then ruler of the city, to give him for a possession the cave of Machpelah, at the end of his field, of which he was the owner, "for full silver," i.e., for its full worth. Ephron thereupon offered to make him a present of both field and cave. This was a turn in the affair which is still customary in the East; the design, so far as it is seriously meant at all, being either to obtain a present in return which will abundantly compensate for the value of the gift, or, what is still more frequently the case, to preclude any abatement in the price to be asked. The same design is evident in the peculiar form in which Ephron stated the price, in reply to Abraham's repeated declaration that he was determined to buy the piece of land: "a piece of land of 400 shekels of silver, what is that between me and thee" (Genesis 23:15)? Abraham understood it so (ישׁמע Genesis 23:16), and weighed him the price demanded. The shekel of silver "current with the merchant," i.e., the shekel which passed in trade as of standard weight, was 274 Parisian grains, so that the price of the piece of land was 52, 10s.; a very considerable amount for that time.
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