The Conversational Dance of Cultures

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Chapter-a-Day Genesis 23

Ephron answered Abraham, “My lord, please listen to me. The land is worth 400 pieces of silver, but what is that between friends? Go ahead and bury your dead.”

So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price and paid the amount he had suggested—400 pieces of silver, weighed according to the market standard. The Hittite elders witnessed the transaction. Genesis 23:14-16 (NLT)

In case you didn’t notice it, today’s chapter is a conversational dance between Abraham, who was a wayfaring nomad without a country to call home, and the Hittite leaders among whom Abraham and his household were currently living. I’m sure that this was a formalized little conversation they went through in that culture when haggling over a plot of land. Notice how they negotiate the price and location of the burial site while maintaining the same basic conversation:

  1. Abraham insists on buying the land
  2. The Hittites insisting on giving it to him.

Abraham promises to pay full price for the land three times, and with each subsequent offer a little bit more information is given. Each time the Hittites offer to give it to him and maintaining an air of generosity. Each counter provides another scrap of information to the deal being made. At the end of the little conversational dance, the location of the land, the current owner, and the value are all established. Abraham pays the full price in front of the appropriate witnesses and the deal is done.

This is not unlike a conversation two midwestern people might have over a lunch tab, in front of their witnessing neighbors, at the Windmill Cafe uptown:

Hank: (waiting until Arvin grabs the check from the table before reaching for it) Let me get that…

Arvin: No, no. It’s my turn to buy today.

Hank: But, I’m the one who invited you to lunch. I should pay for it.

Arvin: Yeah, but I’m pretty sure you got it last time. I got it.

Hank: But, my Blue Plate Special was more than your Meatloaf Sandwich. At least let me pay for my own lunch.

Arvin: Nah. Don’t worry about it. Not a problem. You can get it next time.

Hank: Well, at least let me get the tip, then.

Arvin: Yeah, okay.

Hank: Thanks. I owe you.

Arvin: You betcha. Don’t mention it. You don’t owe me a thing.

Hank: Alright, then.

The more things change, the more they stay the same 😉

3 thoughts on “The Conversational Dance of Cultures”

  1. Today triggered a silly childhood memory. My mom and grandma used to argue about who was going to pay for what. My grandma would bring something and my mom would offer to pay and my grandma would refuse. It was comical, even to a kid. The story of Abraham and Ephron triggered that memory. The reason it was comical to me was that I knew that my mom SHOULD pay. What I didn’t understand at that age is that my grandma was trying to bless my mom by helping her out. It’s funny though because it even affects me today. I am always sure to pay my debts and not be on the take and not have “alligator arms” when I am out and about with friends, all because of an observation that started as a young child.

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