There are four places in Israel where the Bible records the Jewish people purchasing land. The ownership of many locations in Israel is often disputed by the Palestinians and much of the world, but the following four places unquestionably belong to Israel. References in the Bible record these places being bought for money, and in several instances, a deed of purchase was given in return:
- Shechem – Jacob bought a parcel of land from the sons of Hamor for 100 pieces of money (Genesis 33:19).
- Anathoth – Jeremiah bought a parcel of land just outside of Jerusalem for 17 shekels of silver and buried the deed in a clay pot (Jeremiah 32:9-10).
- The Temple Mount – David bought the threshing floor of Arunah for 50 shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24-25).
- The Cave of the Patriarchs – Abraham bought the field and cave in Hebron from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver as a burial place for his wife Sarah (Genesis 23:14-18).
It is no coincidence that the Torah portion that Jews all over the world study each week recently happened to be the story of Sarah’s death and Abraham’s purchase of the cave and land in Hebron. Just this week, newly appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennet announced the approval of a new Jewish neighborhood to be built in Hebron. The plan will call for building 70 new apartments and could double the current population of 800 Jewish residents!
There has been some controversy over the area where they are planning to build the new neighborhood, so here is a brief history of what has been known as the Old Wholesale Market:
- Jews lived here starting in 1807.
- In 1929, there was a massacre of the Jewish community by the local Arabs, and nearly 70 Jews were killed. There were nearly 60 more injured.
- In 1948, Jordan occupied Hebron and leased the area to the Hebron Municipality, which established a wholesale market, operating until 1994.
- In the 1980s a Jewish community was established close to the market, which became known as the “Avraham Avinu” neighborhood.
- In 1994, in another horrific massacre, Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians during the holiday of Purim. The IDF closed the market due to security concerns.
- Currently there are 800 Jewish residents and more than 200,000 Palestinians in Hebron.
According to Yishai Fleisher, Hebron’s International Spokesman, this area of land has been owned by Jews since 1807. The reality, however, is that Jewish presence in Hebron goes all the way back to when Abraham first purchased the cave of Machpelah and the surrounding land. He purchased the land for 400 shekels (the equivalent of at least one million dollars today), and received a land deed for the property. Out of the four recorded land purchases in the Bible, this one appears to have sold for the highest price. The natural conclusion would be that there is no question as to who owns this land, since Abraham received a land deed, right?
It’s ironic that out of all of the places in Israel, this place is so fiercely contested. There is historical evidence of a Jewish presence in Hebron for several hundred years. As believers in the Bible, however, that shouldn’t matter. When Sarah died, Abraham insisted on purchasing the Cave of Machpelah outright, and paid an exorbitant amount of money for it.
The covenant that God gave to Abraham should be all that believers in the Bible need to justify a Jewish presence in Hebron and in all of the land of Israel. God never goes back on His promises. It’s our job to stand with Him on those promises.