So much is reflected even in that opening statement. As a “stranger and sojourner” � a more recent translation renders it “resident alien” � Abraham acknowledges his inferior legal status to the owners of the land. He is a wanderer, a foreigner, and without legal rights. Thus, he can secure only those rights � for example, the right to own land � that the Hittites agree to confer upon him through a valid contract that will bind them.

THE HITTITE RESPONSE

The response of the Hittites would seem to be everything one could hope for in terms of civility:

Hear us, my lord; you are the elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold his burial place from you for burying your dead.

Stranger he may be, but a distinguished one, and the Hittites offer their own family sepulchers to Abraham, as a gift. They would not dream of charging him.

Yet Abraham declines this offer, bowing graciously to the townsmen, and saying:

If it is your wish that I remove my dead for burial, you must agree to intercede for me with Ephron, son of Zohar. Let him sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, which is at the edge of his land. Let him sell it to me, at the full price, for a burial site in your midst.

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