1. Abraham bought Sarah’s burial site for 400 shekels.

It was the year 2085 (counting forward from Creation).  Abraham was grieving because his beloved wife had just gone to her eternal rest at age 127. He was still relatively young at 137 and missing his wife. However, he had to find a place to lay her to rest.  He chose a cave in Machpelah and negotiated the purchase with Ephron the Hittite, who was the owner.

2. Ephron the Hittite did not want to sell the land for even 400 shekels

Since the Hittites honored Abraham as a great Prince, Ephron did not even want to sell the land, valued at 400 shekels of silver, to him.  He would have given it to him.

However, Abraham’s business sense was not dulled by grief and he insisted on purchasing the property at the current value.  Sometimes people have a way of reclaiming gifts!  He weighed the 400 shekels of silver and the land was his. The transaction was completed in the presence of the people of the city – right in the city gates. Then Abraham buried Sarah in the cave in Machpelah (Genesis 23).

3. What was the composition of the Currency Exchange System in Abraham’s day?  –  revealed by 400 shekels of silver

Abraham weighed the 400 shekels of silver to Ephron. The scriptures say that this was current money among the merchants” (Genesis 23: 16).  This scripture reveals that:

  • There was a system of currency called money in the times of Abraham.
  • It was used as a medium of exchange – this was not bartering.
  • The words “current value” implies that the value of the money varied in the same manner like a stock market.
  • Silver was the form in which the money was minted
  • The silver had a particular value in weight called the shekel.
  • Abraham had to weigh his silver in order to arrive at the value of 400 shekels.
  • How much was one shekel worth back then?

NB: Compare this historical practice with the value of gold, which is also based on a system of weights called grams or grains. The concept is the same.

4. What is the Hebrew meaning for “… money with the merchant”?

Cachar (H 5503) is the Hebrew word used for  “money with the merchant”.  Its usage reveals that people traded in goods and used money as the means of exchange, as early as Abraham’s time.  Other examples:

  • Joseph’s brothers sold him for 30 pieces of silver – human trafficing exposed (Genesis 37: 28).
  • Solomon’s merchants bought linen from Egypt on his behalf (1 Kings 10: 28).

Trafficing and trading  were two words commonly used in the King James translation to describe trade in those days  http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5503&t=KJV

The scenario and the language reveal that Abraham was a Business Magnate and well respected among the Canaanites.

5. What is the current value of silver in everyday currency exchanges?

Silver is relatively inexpensive today, but it may have been rare in Abraham’s time. Interestingly, silver still remains the medium of exchange worldwide and its usage as a medium of exchange shows me that its value seems to be relatively consistent: For example:

a. US Currency

  • A dime = 10 cents or 10 parts of 100.
  • Quarter =  25 cents or 25 parts of  100
  • A US dollar = 100 cents or 100 parts of 100 or

b. Eastern Caribbean currency (value of silver)

  • 5 cents = 5 parts of 100
  • 10 cents = 10 parts of  100
  • 25 cents = 25 parts of a dollar
  • 50 cents = 50 parts of a dollar
  • $ 1.00 = 100 cents or 100 parts of 100.

In the US currency, copper is used as the means of exchange for values less than 10 cents.

6. What is the current value of 400 shekels?

The Current exchange rate for the shekel is US $103.6914. Based on the exchange rate, it seems that Israel that would make a great place for investments; all else being equal.

Have fun exploring the current value of silver at this site

Have a great  day!