There is an interesting parallel between Abraham’s dealing with Ephron in Genesis 23 and his dealing with the King of Sodom in Genesis 14. In both cases, the patriarch is doing business with two pagans. From Ephron he wishes to buy some land and a cave where he can bury Sarah. The King of Sodom is grateful for Abraham’s help in returned some captives, including Lot, and their possessions that were taken as the result of a war between the city-states.
The King of Sodom offers to give Abraham part of the booty that was confiscated. It would have made him an even richer man than he already was. Abraham refuses saying, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread of the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” (14:22, 23, NIV). Abraham would not be beholden to a wicked man who denied God.
When Sarah died, Abraham asked to buy the land he wanted to bury her in. The owner, very graciously, offered to give Abraham the land and the cave. Abraham refused and asked Ephron to name his price. “Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighted for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.” (23:16, NIV). Abraham would not be beholden to an apparently kind man who denied God.
In life, we must deal with a world that denies Christ. That’s good because how else can we influence them for good and for God. But to be obligated to an unbeliever, however nice that person may be, is what Paul means when he writes in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 (NIV): “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”Considering how often Paul repeats himself, and the example we have of Abraham’s insistence, we know how important this issue is to God—as it should be to us.