In response to Abraham’s request that a piece of property be “given” to him, the residents of the area respond with what seems to be a courtly gesture of extravagant generosity.
“Hear us, my Lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchers bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulcher, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.”
Behind the surface of all this bowing and scraping there are a couple of things you should be aware of.
First, the use of the term “mighty prince” is nothing more than an exaggeration, a buttering up of Abraham in preparation to ante up the price of the property as high as possible.
Second, notice also in the statement, a calculated avoidance of any reference to a “holding” or a permanent transfer of property.
Let’s take a look at Ephron’s response in verses 10 and 11.
“Pray my lord, hear me.
The field I grant you and the cave that is in it.
I grant it to you in full view of my kinfolk.
I grant it to you.
Bury your dead.”
This triple repetitive announcement from Ephron is a maneuver to elicit an offer from Abraham.
Ephron is well aware of Abraham’s real intentions to wish to buy the land and thus acquire inalienable rights to it.
So Abraham responds and after much ping pong balling back and forth, it is finally agreed that Abraham will pay 400 shekels of silver for the land.
The price was quite high.
If one was to make a comparison with prices of other property purchases in the Bible, this sum is practically equivalent to a king’s ransom.
However, Abraham agrees to pay the requested amount and he knows that it is to his advantage.
By paying the full price, he is effectively removing any potential legal challenges that could arise and cause trouble to his descendants concerning ownership of this particular piece of property in the future.
It should also be noted that Abraham’s only objective was just to purchase the cave at the far end of the field.
However, Ephron also threw the unrequested field into the bargain.
This seeming generosity was nothing but a ploy to be able to demand a high price from Abraham.