Genesis 23:16
And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
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(16) Abraham weighed . . . current money with the merchant.—Shekel literally means weight, and money was not coined until long afterwards. In the last clause, by inserting money our version antedates facts. According to the Hebrew, it was the silver that was current with the merchants. The metal was probably made into small bars, marked by the refiner to indicate their quality: and Abraham weighed out to Ephron about 200 ounces of silver in bars of the quality usual in trade.

23:14-20 Prudence, as well as justice, directs us to be fair and open in our dealings; cheating bargains will not bear the light. Abraham, without fraud or delay, pays the money. He pays it at once in full, without keeping any part back; and by weight, current money with the merchant, without deceit. See how anciently money was used for the help of trade, and how honestly it should be paid when it is due. Though all the land of Canaan was Abraham by promise, yet the time of his possessing it not being come, what he had occasion for he bought and paid for. Dominion is not founded in grace. The saints' title to an eternal inheritance does not entitle them to the possessions of this world, nor justify them in doing wrong. Ephron honestly and fairly makes a good title to the land. As that which is bought, must be honestly paid for, so that which is sold, must be honestly delivered and secured. Let us manage our concerns with punctuality and exactness, in order to avoid contention. Abraham buried Sarah in cave. or vault, which was in the purchased field. It would tend to endear the land to his posterity. And it is worth noting, that a burying-place was the only piece of the land which Abraham possessed in Canaan. Those who have least of this earth, find a grave in it. This sepulchre was at the end of the field; whatever our possessions are, there is a burial-place at the end of them. It was a token of his belief and expectation of the resurrection. Abraham is contented to be still a pilgrim while he lives, but secures a place where, when he dies, his flesh may rest in hope. After all, the chief concern is, with whom we shall rise.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.

16. Abraham weighed … the silver—The money, amounting to £50 was paid in presence of the assembled witnesses; and it was weighed. The practice of weighing money, which is often in lumps or rings, each stamped with their weight, is still common in many parts of the East; and every merchant at the gates or the bazaar has his scales at his girdle. In those times silver was paid by weight, Genesis 43:21 Jeremiah 32:10.

Current money with the merchant, i.e. right for quality as well as weight in the judgment of merchants, whose frequent dealing in it makes them more able to judge of it.

And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron,.... He agreed at once to give him the sum proposed, judging it to be a moderate price between man and man, and he was satisfied with it, and well content to pay him the money:

and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver: for in those times money had no mark or stamp upon it to show its value, and therefore was not told by pieces, but weighed, by which its full worth was known; and that Ephron might have his whole and just demand, the silver was weighed to him:

which he had named, in the audience of the sons of Heth; who were witnesses of the bargain, of the price set by Ephron, and of the payment of it by Abraham:

four hundred shekels of silver: the sum before mentioned, Genesis 23:15,

current money with the merchant; such as was used by merchants in buying and selling; such as they would receive, who knew the value of it, and were careful not to take any that was bad; wherefore such as would pass, with them would go anywhere, was current money; how all this is consistent with what Stephen says; See Gill on Acts 7:16.

And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
16. weighed] The scales were ready. “Weighed” is the appropriate word for the payment of money in days when money was not coined. Coined money seems not to have been in use among the Israelites before the Exile. The price of an article was reckoned by the weight of metal—silver or bronze—given in exchange for it. The metal might consist of bars or rings. Possibly in Joshua 7:21, “a wedge of gold” was a bar, or ingot. For other instances in which the word for “to pay” is in the Hebrew “to weigh,” cf. 1 Kings 20:39; Isaiah 55:2 (“spend”); Jeremiah 32:9-10; Zechariah 11:12. Sayce (quoted by Skinner, p. 338, n.) mentions evidence for “shekels stamped with a seal” in the period of Hammurabi (Cont. Rev. Aug. 1907).

silver, current money with the merchant] Lit. “silver passing over to the merchant,” i.e. pieces of good metal used in commercial exchange. LXX τετρακόσια δίδραχμα ἀργυρίου δοκίμου ἐμπόροις, Lat. quadringentos siclos argenti probatae monetae publicae.

Verse 16. - And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron (either as knowing that the price he asked was reasonable, or as being in no humor to bargain with him on the subject); and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, - "Even this is still common; for although coins have now a definite name, size, and value, yet every merchant carries a small apparatus by which he weighs each coin to see that it has not been tampered with by Jewish Clippers" ('Land and Book,' p. 578) - which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth (the stipulation and the payment of the money were both made in the presence of witnesses), four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant - literally, silver passing with the merchant, or goer about, i.e. with merchandise; from sachar, to go about (cf.. ἔμπορος, ἐμπορεύομαι). The Canaanites, of whom the Hittites were a branch, were among the earliest traders of antiquity (cf. Job 40:30; Proverbs 31:24); and the silver bars employed as the medium of exchange in their mercantile transactions were probably stamped in some rude fashion to indicate their weight. Genesis 23:16He 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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