Read & Study the Bible Online - Bible Portal

Verse 20

And the field, etc. were made sure - ויקם vaiyakom , were established, caused to stand; the whole transaction having been regulated according to all the forms of law then in use.

1. In this transaction between Abraham and the sons of Heth concerning the cave and field of Machpelah, we have the earliest account on record of the purchase of land. The simplicity, openness, and candour on both sides cannot be too much admired.

2. Sarah being dead, Abraham being only a sojourner in that land, shifting from place to place for the mere purpose of pasturing his flocks, and having no right to any part of the land, wished to purchase a place in which he might have the continual right of sepulture. For this purpose, 1. He goes to the gate of the city, the place where, in all ancient times, justice was administered, and bargains and sales concluded, and where for these purposes the elders of the people sat. 2. He there proposes to buy the cave known by the name of the Cave of Machpelah, the cave of the turning or the double cave, for a burying place for his family. 3. To prevent him from going to any unnecessary expense, the people with one voice offer him the privilege of burying his wife in any of their sepulchers; this appearing to them to be no more than the common rights of hospitality and humanity required. 4. Abraham, intent on making a purchase, Ephron, the owner of the field and cave, values them at four hundred shekels, but at the same time wishes Abraham to receive the whole as a gift. 5. Abraham refuses the gift and weighs down the silver specified. 6. The people who enter in at the gate, i.e., the inhabitants coming from or going to their ordinary occupations in the country, witness the transaction, and thus the conveyance to Abraham is made sure without the intervention of those puzzlers of civil affairs by whose tricks and chicanery property often becomes insecure, and right and succession precarious and uncertain. But this censure does not fall on lawyers properly so called, who are men of honor, and whose office, in every well-regulated state, is as useful as it is respectable. But the accumulation and complex nature of almost all modern systems of law puzzle even justice herself, and often induce decisions by which truth falls in the streets and equity goes backwards. In the first ages of mankind, suspicion, deceit, and guile seem to have had a very limited influence. Happy days of primitive simplicity! When shall they return?

3. We often hear of the rudeness and barbarity of the primitive ages, but on what evidence? Every rule of politeness that could be acted upon in such a case as that mentioned here, is brought into full practice. Is it possible to read the simple narration in this place without admiring the amiable, decent, and polite conduct displayed on both sides? Had even Lord Chesterfield read this account, his good sense would have led him to propose it as a model in all transactions between man and his fellows. There is neither awkward, stiff formality on the one hand, nor frippery or affectation on the other. Decent respect, good sense, good nature, and good breeding, are all prominently displayed. And how highly laudable and useful is all this! A pedant or a boor on either side might have destroyed the simplicity of the whole transaction; the one by engendering caution and suspicion, and the other by exciting disgust. In all such transactions the beau and the boor are equally to be avoided.

From the first no sincerity can be expected, and the manners of the latter render him intolerable. The religion of the Bible recommends and inculcates orderly behavior, as well as purity of heart and life. They who, under the sanction of religion, trample under foot the decent forms of civil respect, supposing that because they are religious they have a right to be rude, totally mistake the spirit of Christianity, for love or charity (the soul and essence of that religion) behaveth not itself unseemly. Every attentive reader of the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, will clearly discern that the description of true religion given in that place applies as forcibly to good breeding as to inward and outward holiness. What lessons of honesty, decent respect, and good manners could a sensible man derive from Abraham treating with the sons of Heth for the cave of Machpelah, and William Penn treating with the American Indians for the tract of land now called Pennsylvania! I leave others to draw the parallel, and to show how exactly the conduct and spirit of patriarch the first were exemplified in the conduct and spirit of patriarch the second. Let the righteous be had in everlasting remembrance!

Be the first to react on this!

Scroll to Top

Group of Brands