8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, 9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you. 10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. 12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. 13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
The extreme good manners continue in this part of the story. The people of Heth have asked Abraham to name whatever plot of land he wants as a burying place for Sarah. He approached them meekly and at their mercy, but now they have encouraged him to speak his desire directly. So emboldened, Abraham names a cave that belongs to Ephron, and asks him to name what that place is worth and he will pay it. Continuing with the politeness, Ephron says Abraham may certainly have the cave, and he will even give it to him freely, no pay is necessary. Abraham, of course, refuses, and insists on paying whatever the fair price for the plot of land is. And Abraham is making the right choice here because of three reasons.
The first is that it will provide Abraham security. With an official payment his ownership of the land becomes sure. No one will be able to doubt that Abraham legally owns the cave, as there will be a clear transaction to prove his rightful purchase of it.
The second is that this is doing right by Ephron. This whole conversation has been public, polite, and formal, and Ephron could possibly feel compelled to offer up his land for free, even if he didn’t really want to. But Abraham won’t let Ephron be taken advantage of that way. He will give the man what he is due.
The third reason is that this is doing right by Sarah. She is Abraham’s beloved wife, and he should be willing to sacrifice his personal possessions for her. He wouldn’t insult her memory by giving her a resting place that he obtained cheaply. This is him showing that she is worth it.