Ephron was a Hittite Who sold Abraham a burial cave.While Ephron’s story in scripture may not provide much in the way of spiritual lessons, his interactions with Abraham nevertheless offer an interesting window into typical business transactions in the ancient Near East.
Ephron and Abraham conducted their business in keeping with what any honorable man would have done in that day. When Abraham’s wife Sarah died, Abraham was living among the Hittites near the town of Hebron, almost twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem. As an alien, Abraham did not own a proper place to bury Sarah according to the customs of that time, so he needed to buy some land for that purpose.
Abraham and the Hittites wound their way through the delicate steps of business protocol, including the overture of giving the property to Abraham outright and his refusal to accept such a gift. In the end, they arrived at the sum of four hundred shekels of silver—likely the price that each expected from the beginning (Genesis 23).
Ephron’s cave would serve as the permanent burial place for Abraham’s family, including Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29–31).
Abraham and Ephron conducted their business at the city gate, which functioned much like a local courthouse does today. There business deals were recorded and ratified, and judgments were often rendered.
Other examples of similar activity taking place at the city gates include Boaz’s purchase of Ruth’s property (Ruth 4) and Absalom’s scheming appeals to those who came with grievances (2 Samuel 15).