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The Hebron Purchase

The Hebron Purchase


In chapter 23 of Genesis, we read of the first tract in the Land of Israel to enter into Jewish possession.

Sixty years earlier, G‑d had told Abraham: “The entire land that you see, I will give to you and your descendants forever . . . Arise and traverse the land, in its length and in its breadth, for to you I shall give it” (Genesis 13:15,17). But this was a promise concerning the future; the land was not yet his, and Abraham took care not to even allow his sheep to graze on Canaanite property. (Indeed, this was the cause of the split between Abraham and his nephew Lot—see Rashi on Genesis 13:7.) The first part of the land of Israel to belong to the Jewish people in the actual and legal sense was the “Machpelah field and its cave” in the heart of Hebron, which Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite.

As our sages point out, there are three parts of Israel over which the Jewish right of ownership is most powerfully established. Even one who denies the divine promise quoted above—and reiterated by G‑d tens of times throughout the Bible—cannot contest the Jewish right over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, purchased by King David from Aravnah the Jebusite (as related in the closing verses of II Samuel); the section of Shechem (Nablus) purchased by Jacob from the family of the Canaanite ruler Hamor (Genesis 33:19); and the Machpelah field of Hebron, of which we read:

And Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver in negotiable currency . . .

Then Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, that is Hebron, in the land of Canaan.

The Torah recounts the Ephron-Abraham sale in great detail, including the sum of the purchase price—four hundred silver shekels. Based on this figure, the thirteenth-century sage Rabbi Yitzchak bar Yehudah (author of Paaneach Raza) makes an interesting calculation. According to Leviticus 27:16, the value of land in biblical times was 50 silver shekels for a beit kor, or 75,000 square amot (cubits). Thus, the area purchased by Abraham was eight beit kor, or 600,000 square cubits. A square cubit is the approximate area occupied by an upright human being.

The generation of Jews which left Egypt and received the Torah at Mount Sinai numbered some 600,000 heads of households. Our sages tell us that the Jewish nation consists of 600,000 souls, and that the soul of every Jew who ever lived is an offshoot of one of these 600,000 “general” souls. Thus the Torah contains 600,000 letters (counting the spaces between letters), for each Jew possesses something of the Torah.

The same is true of the Land of Israel. Israel is the eternal inheritance of the Jewish people, equally the property of every individual Jew. And so it has been from the very first moment of Jewish ownership of the Holy Land: the first plot of land obtained by the first Jew included a share for every Jewish soul.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Illustration by Chassidic artist Baruch Nachshon.
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Shlomo Toronto November 29, 2016

they really don't have a claim Sorry Jessica but they really don't have a claim! excellent article rav! Reply

merle lewis texas November 13, 2014

Suri makes a great point. I feel awkward trying to make one as I am small in nature. But I wonder why the world in general does not take note, as did George Washington here on this continent, that where the Jew is, there is peace and prosperity, where he is enslaved, or constrained, not true. Reply

Suri Katz Brooklyn, NY October 24, 2012

Sharing our land?! In Bereishit-Genesis 17:19 G-d told Abraham Avinu "Your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you shall name him Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his seed after him. For in Isaac will be called your seed.

Not Ishmael, not Eisav. Only in Isaac.

Please note, anyone who is not a threat to the Jewish nation lives freely in Israel. Even Arabs have more democratic rights in Israel than in their own countries.

G-d gave the land to our wonderful Jewish nation. Reply

Shosh T. Southfield, MI/USA November 16, 2011

Machpelah Land Calculation So Avraham's 400 Shekel Kesef bought 600,000 square amos--Absolutely fascinating! Thank you for a very intriguing Dvar Torah! Reply

Colin Alfred London, UK September 9, 2010

G-d had told Abraham: "The entire land that you see, I will give to you and your descendents forever... Arise and traverse the land, in its length and in its breadth, for to you I shall give it." (Genesis 13:15-17).
Abraham had two sons, so the descendants of Ishmael / Ismail are also his descendants. So presumably G-d, knowing the future, and ensuring that Sarah's son would have an older brother from a different ethnic group (who would also become a great nation), intended the land to be shared in the future (i.e. now). Perhaps the divine mission was for us Jews to show the world an example of how to solve conflicting territorial claims peacefully by sharing instead of through conflict. May this be the year when it happens. Reply

Shmuel Sokol Jerusalem, Israel December 15, 2008

who says that they have any claim someone who steals your house and squats in it doesn't gain title to it. most of the "Palestinians" came in during the late Ottoman times and many were brought in by the British during the Mandate times. They always considered themselves part of greater Syria and there has never been an independent "Palestinian state" in the territory of Judea. The ter Palestinian, as portraying a distinct nationalism only gained wide currency after '67, though it was used by the PLO (a terror group formed and operated by Arab governments, not native "Palestinians", since the 1950s. If the Romans had not renamed Judea Palestina after the great revolt, we would be fighting "Judean", rather than "Palestinian", terrorists now. Reply

Anonymous houston, Tx November 16, 2006

mind blowing bible bits! Reply

Jessica S. Toronto, Canada November 22, 2005

I found this article extremely informative. You have put forth a clear, concise explanation of the Jewish nation's claim to Israel.

Having presented all this "irrefutable proof", how would you account for the Palestianian claim to these same territories which you say cannot be contested?

They must have SOME sort of claim?!?! Reply

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