At the age of 127, Abraham’s beloved wife, Sarah, passes away. He sets out to find an appropriate burial site in his adopted home-town of Hebron for his departed. In an elaborate bargaining ceremony, Abraham negotiates the price for a double-cave, the Cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the Hittite, settling at last on a price of four hundred silver shekels.
The name Hebron in Hebrew, the Israel Bible points out, comes from the same root as the word chaver, or friend. The Sages taught that Chevron is a contraction for chaver and na’eh, meaning agreeable. Thus, the city’s name demonstrates that Abraham, who settled there, was the first ‘agreeable friend’ of God, or as it says in Isaiah 41:8, “The seed of Abraham, My friend.”
Although Abraham had already lived in the Land of Israel for over sixty years, this is the first mention of him or his family members purchasing land. The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Moshe Lichtman, who notes that the juxtaposition of loss to the purchase highlights a fundamental truth about the Holy Land: it is acquired through suffering. Only after feeling the pain of losing a loved one did Abraham acquire his first portion of the land. However, the Sages taught in Ethics of the Fathers (5:26), “According to the suffering is the reward.”
Virtual Classroom Discussion
If Ephron the Hittite was willing to give Abraham the Cave of Machpelah for free, why do you think Abraham insisted on paying for it?