Heth is 3rd generation post-flood. His descendants in Genesis 23 had developed an orderly economic system. By establishing private property and laws to protect private property, the Hethites were able to buy and sell property without fear of theft.
Removing theft from the concern allows for a fruitful civilization. Instead of devoting energy to being strong enough to protect your property, individuals can devote time and resources to developing ideas and products that are useful to others. By creating a surplus of goods, the individual can then exchange for other goods they are lackiing.
Abraham exchanged silver for land. Ephron exchanged land for silver. In both men’s mind, the exchange resulted in an increase in their individual well being.
Would Abraham be as comfortable with his own security in Gensis 14 as he was in Genesis 23? Consider the narrative in Genesis 14. What was the problem that Abraham was facing? Genesis 15:11-15 “And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”
Lot, amongs others, had been taken captive by “the Kings of the vale of Sidom”, (Genesis 14:3) who were also taking “..goods and victals”. They were theives using force to capture as much as they could and bring it under subjection. The fact that they were called “Kings” is completely irrelavant. For whatever reason, they justified the use of force to establish a new equilibrium in the region that was more to their liking than the confederation that currently existed.
After the dust settled, “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:”. The King of Sodom wanted his persons back that he had lost in v. 10, and was than willing to allow Abraham to keep the goods. The laborer is more valuable for future production, than for what he has already produced.
All of this would seem rather innocuous if it where not for the fact Genesis 14:1 “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar,“. Here in the 21st century we are quite accustomed to the history of warring kings. When we use the bible as our source of information, we are met with the stark reality of the rebellious nature of man, using force as the means to establish civil authority for ungodly purposes. The economic lessons for us hinge on this verse.
We do not know the complete nature of Heth’s descendants in Genesis 23, but we do have a picture of an orderly society, in which a stranger can say, (Genesis 23:4″) “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” Proceed peacefully and in accord with establised rules and security for those rules to voluntarily exchange one good (silver) for another (land). There were magistrates (Genesis 23:10, “the audience of the children of Heth) that acknowledge the transaction and bankers (Genesis 23: 16c “current money with the merchant”) who verified funds. An ever ready benevolent force (Genesis 23:20 “were made sure untio Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth”) protected the rights of the property owners. A full fledged unhamperd market.
The sons of Heth do not show up anywhere else in scripture. As children of Canaan we would be suspicious of their nature because of two reasons. First, Canaan was cursed by Noah in Genesis 9:25 and Heth was Canaan’s son. Second, the Canaanites, Canaan’s other sons were targets of destruction for Israel when they entered the promised land. The evidence we do have suggest an orderly society.