Property rights and institutions in biblical society: The purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs
A market economy and civil society require specification and certification of property rights. Where property rights are recognized, allowable transactions are also institutionally specified. In this paper we describe and analyze the earliest documented transfer of property rights to land, in Hebron in the 17th century BCE when Abraham purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs from Ephron the Hittite. We show how a property right perspective with institutional constraint on permissible transactions resolves the puzzles that have been previously noted in the bargaining between the buyer and seller.
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