Four Hundred Silver Shekels

“Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘My lord, hear me: it is land of four hundred silver shekels value, between you and me, what is that? Bury your dead.”

(Genesis 23:14-15)

 

Ephron appeals to Abraham one more time, though this time he does so by answering Abraham’s question. And to those who would suggest that Ephron is just seeking to save face in the presence of the other Sons of Cheth by insisting Abraham take the property for free while at the same time offering up a purchase price, it should be noted that the price given here is very minimal. We find Abraham’s servant presenting Rebekah with a gold ring and bracelets (gold being more valuable than silver) worth ten and a half shekels between them as a gift for watering his camels and as a promise that he serves a master with financial means (Genesis 24:22). Later in Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery for twenty shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28) and when Joseph was reunited with his brothers and prepares them to return to Egypt with their father, as a special blessing to Benjamin, Joseph provides him with 300 shekels of silver (Genesis 45:22) and the redemption price for an ox who gores the slave of his master in Israel, was thirty shekels of silver (Exodus 21:32). When they constructed the Tabernacle, it would take 1,775 shekels of silver just to make the hooks for the pillars and the leaf to overlay the capitals of the pillars, making fillets (the thin band that joins the pillar to its capital) for them (Exodus 38:28).

The bottom line is that Ephron wants to appease Abraham by giving him an answer as to value, but continues to insist that the property is of little value in the grand scheme of things. It is likely fair to conclude that he expects that Abraham is not going to back down, but the price quoted is designed to bless Abraham, not to gain wealth.

Often in life we find ourselves in situations like this. Someone is pressing us for an amount that we are willing to sell an item for or to accept for our services and we would rather offer it for free or a nominal amount. And here even, we can learn from Ephron, that when pressed for a price, a fair price can be offered even if it is intentionally quoted on the low side. You can bless those you are serving in that they feel they have offered you payment for services (or items) rendered while still not taking advantage of the situation. Abraham will pay Ephron the silver, but it is here that the price is set and the contract made public.

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