Sites - Israel: Mamre
Mamre in Wikipedia
Mamre (Hebrew: מַמְרֵא), full Hebrew name Elonei Mamre ("Oaks/Terebinths of Mamre"), refers to a Canaanite cultic shrine dedicated to
the supreme, sky god of the Canaanite pantheon, El. Talmudic sources refer to the site as Beth Ilanim or Botnah. it was one of
the three most important "fairs", market place or caravanserai, in Palestine. It lies approximately half way between Halhul and
Hebron, (heading north from Hebron to Halhul at the intersection of the Halhul/Hebron road and the 3507, one turns right on to the
3507 towards Jericho [away from Bayt Jibrin] and Mamre is to be found some 500 yards further down, on the left).
Bronze age pottery shards found at the site may indicate that the cultic shrine was in use from 2600-2000 BCE. Mamre, in the
biblical account, was the site where Abraham came to set up his tents to camp, built an altar, and was brought divine tidings, in
the guise of three angels, of Sarah's pregnancy,  while elsewhere it is called 'the Terebinths of Mamre the Amorite'.
Mamre being the name of one of the three Amorite chiefs who joined forces with those of Abraham in pursuit of Chedorlaomer to save
Lot. (Gen. 14:13,24) The discrepancy is often explained as reflecting the discordance between the different scribal traditions
behind the composition of the Pentateuch, the former relating to the Yahwist, the latter to the Elohist recension, according to the
documentary hypothesis of modern scholarship.
The enclosure -
The ancient well, more than 5 m in diameter, is referred to as Abraham's Well. The 2 m thick stone wall enclosing area 60 m
wide and 83 m long was constructed by Herod the Great, possibly as a cultic place of worship.
The Herodian structure was destroyed by Bar Kochba's army, only to be rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian revived the
fair, which had long been an important one as it took place at an intersection forming the transport and communications nub of
transport of the southern Judaean mountains. This mercatus (Heb.yerid or shuq: Gk. paneguris) or fair/market, was one of the sites
chosen by Hadrian to sell remnants of Bar Kochba's defeated army into slavery.
Due to the pagan idolatrous nature of the rituals at the fair, Jews were forbidden to participate by their rabbis.
According to the Jerusalem Talmud:
'They prohibited a fair only in the case of one of the character of that at Botnah. And it has been taught along these same lines in
a Tannaitic tradition. There are three fairs, the fair at Gaza, the fair at Acre, and the fair at Botnah, and the most debased of
the lot of them is the fair of Botnah.' 
Under Christianity -
Notwithstanding the rabbinic ban, by the time of Constantine's reign the market had become an informal interdenominational festival,
in addition to its functions as a trade fair, frequented by Christians, Jews and pagans. The cultic shrine was made over for
Christian use after Eutropia, Constantine's mother-in-law, visited it and was scandalised by its pagan character. The drawing of the
site after the excavation of the German scholar A E Mader from 1926-1928, shows the Basilica and stores furthest from the Haram
Ramet el-Khalil, a well altar and tree, with the market place occupying the central enclosure. Constantine ordered the comes
Acacius to destroy all pagan idols and banned the pagan practises. The enclosure was then consecrated, Constantine had the
Basilica built, dedicated to St George and the enclosure of Terebinth of Mamre roofed over, the foundations of which are still
visible. The venerated tree was destroyed by Christian visitors taking souvenirs, leaving only a stump which survived down
to the seventh century. The Abraham's angel visitation being revered by the Eastern Orthodox Christians as a pre-figurement
of the new testament Holy Trinity. The Constantine church appears on the Madaba Map.
The fifth century account by Sozomen (Historia Ecclesiastica Book II 4-54) is the most detailed account of the practices at Mamre
during the early Christian period.
'The place is presently called the Terebinth, and is situated at the distance of fifteen stadia from Hebron, . . There every year a
very famous festival is held in the summer time, by people of the neighbourhood as well as by the inhabitants of more distant parts
of Palestine and by Phoenicians and Arabians. Very many come there for the sake of business, some to sell and some to buy. The feast
is celebrated by a very big congregation of Jews, since they boast of Abraham as their forefather, of heathens since angels came
there, of Christians since he who should be born from the Virgin for the salvation of humankind appeared there to that pious man.
Everyone venerates this place according to his religion: some praying God the ruler of all, some calling upon the angels and
offering libations of wine, burning incense or sacrificing an ox, a goat, a sheep or a cock... Constantine's mother in law
(Euthropia), having come there to fulfill a vow, gave notice of all this to the Emperor. So he wrote to the bishops of Palestine
reproaching them for having forgot their mission and permitted such a most holy place to be defiled by those libations and
The monastery on the site continued after Umar's conquest. During the Crusader occupation the site may have been used by the
Church of the Trinity.
If you notice a broken link or any error PLEASE report it by clicking HERE
© 1995-2016 Bible History Online