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Tombs
        

Simplicity is the characteristic of Jewish sepulture. No sarcophagus or coffin or separate tomb structure for one individual; usually no pillar (but Jacob set one over Rachel, Genesis 35:20) or mound, no inscription or painting. The coffining and embalming of Joseph as a naturalized Egyptian, and the embalming of Jacob his father in Egypt, are exceptional cases. So also the burning of Saul, when his body was hastily rescued from the Philistines. The body was usually washed, anointed, wrapped in linen, and borne without pageant or prayers to the grave. "Great burnings" of perfumes accompanied the sepulture of kings (Mark 14:8; Mark 16:1; John 19:39, etc.; 2 Chronicles 16:14; Jeremiah 34:5). The Jewish rock tombs are of three classes:
        (1) Kokim tombs, which have parallel tunnels running in, three or four side by side, from the walls of a rectangular chamber; the bodies lay with their feet toward the chamber, and stone pillows for the heads at the further end; the entrance door is in the face of the cliff; this is the most ancient form of tomb, for the kokim are found sometimes in part destroyed to enlarge the tomb on a different system.
        (2) Loculus tombs; these often have decorated facades, within the chamber has an arched recess with rock-cut sarcophagus or loculus beneath, the body lying parallel to the side of the chamber; the rolling stone is found with the loculus, hardly ever with the koka tomb; our Lord's sepulchre was therefore a loculus.
        (3) Sunken tombs are not of Jewish origin. The so-called sepulchres of Joseph and Nicodemus are unmistakably Jewish kokim, rock-hewn.
        The present chamber in the church of the Holy Sepulchre was formed when the church was built, by cutting away a portion of the original tomb chamber so as to leave a sort of cave, and the floor was leveled at the same time. The side of the kok was cut away, and a canopy of rock left over its bed. In course of time, by pilgrims carrying off relics of rock the kok became entirely isolated, the canopy disappeared, and the tomb assumed its present form (Major Wilson). The angel at the head and the angel at the foot could only have been in a loculus, not a koka tomb. The Mishna (Baba Bathra, 2:9) says, "corpses and sepulchres are separated from the city 50 cubits." The fact that the locuhs tomb was formed out of an original koka tomb, whereas our Lord's loculus tomb was a "new" one "wherein was man never yet laid" (John 19:41), seems to be fatal to the claim of the so-called Holy Sepulchre, independently of the argument of its having been probably inside the walls.
        The loculi or recesses are about two feet wide by three high. A stone closes the outer end of each loculus. The shallow loculi were used only in the Greek-Roman period, when sarcophagi were introduced, and for embalmed bodies. The deep loculus lengthwise from the cave best suited the unembalmed body, for it whilst the body was decomposing could most easily be shut off with a small stone from the rest of the catacomb (compare John 11:38-40, "take away the stone," and "they took away the stone".) This, and the stone rolled away from out' Lord's tomb (Mark 16:3-4, "the stone was rolled away ... very great"), was that at the mouth of the cave, not as Smith's Dictionary supposes from the small mouth of the loculus inside. The stone, like a cheese or millstone, (generally three feet wide,) rolled right and left of the door (generally two feet wide) in a groove, so that it could be moved to one side when the tomb was opened and rolled back over the mouth in shutting the tomb. (See BURIAL.)
        The slope was down toward the cave mouth, so that it would roll down there by its own weight; but to roll it aside was to roll it upward and created the difficulty to the women; it is noticeable also that the earthquake would not roll it up, nor if rolled up would it remain so. Such is the case in the "tombs of the kings," so-called. The tomb of Helena, queen of Adiabene, is the only dated example of the loculus tomb with stone closed mouth; it was made in the first century (Josephus 20:4, section 3). The language of John can only apply to the mouth of the cave, not that of the loculus.
        "It was a cave and a stone lay upon it"; so Mark 16:3-4, "who shall roll us away the stone ('very great') from the door of the sepulchre?" The rock-cut tombs are few, not 1,000 in or near Jerusalem, so that the majority had to be content with graves dug in the earth. Shebna "hewed out a sepulchre on high," namely, in the rocks, for himself and his family. Isaiah (Isaiah 22:16) at the very spot accosts him, "what hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" (See SHEBNA.) His un-Hebrew name implies he was an alien, probably brought to court by Hezekiah's ungodly predecessor Ahaz. A stately tomb ill became such an upstart, who seems to have been of the ungodly faction who set at nought Isaiah's warnings (Isaiah 28-33).
        Some of the kings were buried close to the temple; Ezekiel 43:7-9 is thought to refer to this (Smith's Bible Dictionary); rather "kings" mean the idols who had been their lords, but now that Jehovah is their Lord (Isaiah 26:13) the idols, once their "kings," seem but "carcasses," so these are associated with the "high places." This is confirmed by Leviticus 26:30; Jeremiah 16:18; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:6. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah, have lain in the cave of Machpelah in the field so solemnly bought from Ephron the Hittite at Hebron, about 3,700 years (Genesis 23:4, etc., Genesis 50:31); but none is allowed to enter. A round hole in the mosque admits light, and air to the cave below. There is a like opening into the tomb under the Dome of the Rock, if tomb it be. A Muslim kubr now crowns the hill overlooking Petra, and is called Aaron's tomb; but whether this hill be Mount Hor or the tomb Aaron's is most doubtful.
        Joshua was buried in his inheritance in Timnath Serah (Joshua 24:30); Samuel in his own house at Ramah (1 Samuel 25:1); Joab in his house in the wilderness (1 Kings 2:34), i.e. in a loculus closed with a stone, so as to prevent effluvia, in the garden or court attached to the dwelling. Tombs of the kings. frontTIMNATH SERAH.) Of the 22 who reigned at Jerusalem from 1048 to 590 B.C., eleven (David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Ahaziah, Amaziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah; also the good priest Jehoiada) were buried in one common subterranean receptacle in "the city of David." Warren (Israel Exploration) supposes David, having hewn stones from the quarries called the cotton grotto (probably the same spot as "the royal caverns"), for the building of the temple, converted the subterranean recesses so made into his sepulchre. It seems (Josephus Ant. 16:7, section 1) Herod attempted to plunder David's tomb, but being strangely interrupted built a white stone monument in atonement at the mouth of the tomb.
        To this monument Titus advanced from Scopus, i.e. from the N.E. of the city (Josephus B.J., 5:3., section 2; 5:7, section 3; 5:13, section 3). According to this, David's tomb would be outside the N. wall of Jerusalem to the E. Asa was buried "in his own sepulchres which he had made for himself (a new chamber attached to the older sepulchre) in the city of David, and was laid in the bed (a loculus) filled with spices," etc. (2 Chronicles 16:14). Hezekiah was buried "in the chiefest (highest) of the sepulchres of the sons of David" (2 Chronicles 32:33), i.e. they excavated for him a chamber higher than the others. These instances prove the importance attached to an honourable burial among the Israelites. The rock-cut sepulchre under the wall of the present church of the Holy Sepulchre may be the site of the burial of the idolatrous kings. The site of the tomb of the kings was in (i.e. near, at, Bethlehem) the city of David (Nehemiah 3:16).
        The phrases "house," "city," "in," need some explanation. Jehoram is said to have been "buried with his fathers in the city of David" (2 Kings 8:24), yet "not in the sepulchres of the kings" (2 Chronicles 21:20); Josephus (Ant. 9:5, section 3) says "they neither buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers, nor vouchsafed him any honours, but buried him as a private man"; therefore the phrase "in the city of David" does not necessarily mean within the walls, but may mean at or near. The Hebrew is translated "Joshua was by Jericho," as it must mean in Joshua 5:13; so "in" must mean in Genesis 13:18; Genesis 37:12-13; Joshua 24:32. Again the phrase "city of David" includes the immediate environs (Numbers 35:25-28; 1 Kings 2:36-37, where the suburbs up to Kedron are included); moreover, "house" is applied to the tomb (Job 30:23; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Isaiah 14:18-19).
        This explains the difficulty, "they buried Samuel in his house" (his tomb, not his dwelling: Isaiah 22:16, where "habitation" is explained by "sepulchre"): 1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Kings 2:34, "Joab was buried in his own house in the wilderness"; 2 Chronicles 33:20, "they buried Manasseh in his own house," which is explained 2 Kings 21:18, "in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza." (Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, October 1877, p. 195-197). Uzziah, or Azariah, is said to have been buried "in the city of David," which is explained in 2 Chronicles 26:23, "in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings, for they said, He is a leper." This explains how Nehemiah's account of David's sepulchre as outside the then existing walls of Jerusalem is in harmony with the statement elsewhere that it was "in the city of David." David's sepulchres (Nehemiah 3:15-16; Nehemiah 3:26; Nehemiah 12:37) were not far from "the gate of the fountain ... the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and the stairs that go down from the city of David. ... Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the East."
        "The house (not palace) of David" answers to the sepulchres of David (Nehemiah 12:37; Nehemiah 3:16). Nehemiah's procession (in Nehemiah 3) began at the N.E., went round by the W. and S., and returned to the starting point in the N.E. The procession (in Nehemiah 12) of the first company went from W. by S. to E. The fountain gate was near the pool of Siloam. The water gate led from Ophel to the Virgin fountain. "The pool that was made" (the lower pool of Siloam) was one lower down the Tyropoeon valley. The stairs of the city of David led down Ophel to near the pool of Siloam; probably then David's tomb was either cut in the face of the rock or near to the top of the steep (40 or 50 feet high) with which Ophel ridge ends, just over Siloam. The field of the burial of the kings (2 Chronicles 26:28; 2 Kings 21:18; 2 Kings 21:26) was probably just below, at the S. end of Ophel in the Tyropoeon valley, the site of the king's winepresses, near the king's garden (Zechariah 14:10) (W. F. Birch).
        The tombs of the prophets, on the W. side of Mount Olivet, are decidedly Jewish. A natural cavern is improved by art, which has constructed an outer gallery into which 27 loculi placed lengthwise open. It has no architectural moldings, and no shallow loculi breadthwise, to indicate anything unJewish. In the valley of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, and on the high land N. of Jerusalem, are rock-hewn tombs betraying by their ornamentation Greek and Roman times. The tomb of Zacharias so-called is a square pyramid-topped building, with four Ionic columns and Assyrian cornice on each side; but in the form of the volutes, the egg and dart molding, etc., beneath it is Roman. (See ZACHARIAS.) The so-called "tomb of Absalom" is larger and of the Roman Ionic order, with a frieze of the Roman Doric order. In the rear of the monolith is a sepulchral cavern called "the tomb of Jehoshaphat."
        It is now closed by the stones thrown by passers at the tomb of the undutiful Absalom. Its pediment is identical in style with the tombs of the judges, therefore of the same age. "The tomb of James" is between the other two; a verandah with two Doric pillars of a late Greek order; behind is a rock-cut chamber with deep loculi, and in the rear is an apartment with three shallow loculi, which therefore are post-Judaic. The "tomb of the judges" contains 60 deep loculi in three storeys with ledges in front to support the closing stones, the lowest level with the ground. The architecture is that of "the tomb of Jehoshaphat," and has a Greek pediment of an age later than the debased Roman of "the tomb of Absalom." The unnamed "Jewish tomb" adjoining, with beveled facade but late Roman Doric details, betrays its late age. Tomb of Herod. Josephus (B. J. 5:4, section 2; 3, section 2; 12, section 2) says the wall reached from the tower Psephinus (on the ridge above the pool Birket Mamilla) to the site opposite the monument of Helena; then it extended a long way until it passed the sepulchral caverns of the kings.
        They also are named "Herod's tombs" or "monuments," for here he was buried, the procession passing "eight stadia to the Herodium" (Josephus Ant. 17:8, section 3); this (eight stadia or one mile) is the exact distance between the palace and the tombs. The facade is Roman Doric, with bunches of grapes and local foliage, evidently of the same age as the "tomb of Jehoshaphat" and "of the judges." The entrance is concealed below the ground level, and closed by a rolling stone. The vestibule is 20 ft. square, from which three square apartments open, surrounded by deep loculi; a small square apartment again is at the head or side of the loculi, the use of which is unknown, but certainly it is not Jewish. There is an innermost sarcophagus chamber in which two sarcophagi were found, one of which is now in the Louvre, deposited by DeSaulcy.
        This and the "James's tomb" are the only sarcophagus chambers at Jerusalem; as then Herod, appointed king by Rome, affected Roman usages, he would be buried in the Roman mode, so that this was probably the sepulchre of Herod. Scarcely a tomb of Jerusalem could be pointed out, of any but the Roman age. Tomb of Helena, queen of Adiabene. Though a convert to Judaism, she did not think it needful to be buried under ground. Josephus (Ant. 20:4, section 3) says "she and her brother were buried in the pyramids she constructed three stadia from Jerusalem." Pausanias (8:16) too speaks of it as a built up tomb, (tafos) not a cave. Its site was between the tower Psephinus and the royal caverns (Josephus B. J. 5:22; 5:4, section 2).
        This tomb was N.W. of Herod's, which was on the N. of the city. Tombs used to be whitewashed yearly on the 15th of Adar, to warn off passers by, so as not to contract pollution. Jacob's "pillar" over Rachel was called matseqeth; the tomb is qeber; the "cave", mearah; the "stone" at the mouth, golel. Major Wilson divides tombs thus: (1) Rock hewn (the oldest) tombs; (2) Masonry tombs (as at Kedesh and Tel Hum); and (3) Sarcophagi. The simplest of (1) is a grave-shaped loculus sunk in the rock, with a covering slab; so at Kedesh; a second kind is an arched recess in the rock and a loculus sunk under it, as at Meiron; sometimes loculi are cut in the sides of a natural cavern.


Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'tombs' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Fausset's; 1878.

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