Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online

Bible History Online

Sub Categories

Back to Categories

November 21    Scripture



More Bible History
Bible Cities: Machpelah
Ancient Field or Cave of Machpelah

Map of Ancient Machpelah


Machpelah in Easton's Bible Dictionary portion; double cave, the cave which Abraham bought, together with the field in which it stood, from Ephron the Hittite, for a family burying-place (Gen. 23). It is one of those Bible localities about the identification of which there can be no doubt. It was on the slope of a hill on the east of Hebron, "before Mamre." Here were laid the bodies of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah (Gen. 23:19; 25:9; 49:31; 50:13). Over the cave an ancient Christian church was erected, probably in the time of Justinian, the Roman emperor. This church has been converted into a Mohammedan mosque. The whole is surrounded by the el-Haram i.e., "the sacred enclosure," about 200 feet long, 115 broad, and of an average height of about 50. This building, from the immense size of some of its stones, and the manner in which they are fitted together, is supposed by some to have been erected in the days of David or of Solomon, while others ascribe it to the time of Herod. It is looked upon as the most ancient and finest relic of Jewish architecture. On the floor of the mosque are erected six large cenotaphs as monuments to the dead who are buried in the cave beneath. Between the cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebekah there is a circular opening in the floor into the cavern below, the cave of Machpelah. Here it may be that the body of Jacob, which was embalmed in Egypt, is still preserved (much older embalmed bodies have recently been found in the cave of Deir el-Bahari in Egypt, see PHARAOH -T0002923), though those of the others there buried may have long ago mouldered into dust. The interior of the mosque was visited by the Prince of Wales in 1862 by a special favour of the Mohammedan authorities. An interesting account of this visit is given in Dean Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church. It was also visited in 1866 by the Marquis of Bute, and in 1869 by the late Emperor (Frederick) of Germany, then the Crown Prince of Prussia. In 1881 it was visited by the two sons of the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Sir C. Wilson and others. (See Israel Quarterly Statement, October 1882).

Machpelah in Fausset's Bible Dictionary The tract containing the field and cave in the end of Ephron's field, which Abraham bought as his burying ground from Ephron and the sons of Heth (Genesis 23:9); his only possession in the land of promise. All ancient versions translated Machpelah "the double cave," from kaphal, "to divide or double". Either there were two entrances or two receptacles for bodies. Gesenius derives it from a root, "portion." A mosque now covers it. The sacred precinct (harem) is enclosed by a wall, the oldest in Israel. The masonry is more antique than the S.W. wall of the haram at Jerusalem; one stone is 38 ft. long, 3 1/4 ft. deep. The beveling is shallow, and at latest belongs to the age of Solomon; Jewish ancient tradition ascribes it to David. It lay near Hebron. (See HEBRON.) The sepulchers of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah are shown on the mosque floor; but the real sepulchers are in the cave below the floor; the cave opens to the S., and the bodies were laid with their heads to the N.

Machpelah in Hitchcock's Bible Names double

Machpelah in Naves Topical Bible The burying place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob Ge 23:9,17-20; 25:9; 49:30,31; 50:13; Ac 7:16

Machpelah in Smiths Bible Dictionary (double, or a portion). [HEBRON]

Machpelah in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE mak-pe'-la (ha-makhpelah, "the Machpelah"; to diploun, "the double"): The name of a piece of ground and of a cave purchased by Abraham as a place of sepulcher. The word is supposed to mean "double" and refers to the condition of the cave. It is translated "double cave" (to diploun spelaion) in the Septuagint in Gen 23:17. The name is applied to the ground in Gen 23:19; 49:30; 50:13, and to the cave in Gen 23:9; 25:9. In Gen 23:17 we have the phrase "the field of Ephron, which was in (the) Machpelah." 1. Scriptural Data: The cave belonged to Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, from whom Abraham purchased it for 400 shekels of silver (Gen 23:8-16). It is described as "before," i.e. "to the East of" Mamre (Gen 23:17) which (Gen 23:19) is described as the same as Hebron (see, too, Gen 25:9; 49:30; 50:13). Here were buried Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. (Compare however the curious variant tradition in Acts 7:16, "Shechem" instead of "Hebron.") 2. Tradition Regarding the Site: Josephus (BJ, IV, ix, 7) speaks of the monuments (mnemeia) of Abraham and his posterity which "are shown to this very time in that small city (i.e. in Hebron); the fabric of which monuments are of the most excellent marble and wrought after the most excellent manner"; and in another place he writes of Isaac being buried by his sons with his wife in Hebron where they had a monument belonging to them from their forefathers (Ant., I, xxii, 1). The references of early Christian writers to the site of the tombs of the patriarchs only very doubtfully apply to the present buildings and may possibly refer to Ramet el-Khalil (see MAMRE). Thus the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333 AD) mentions a square enclosure built of stones of great beauty in which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried with their wives. Antonius Martyr (circa 600) and Arculf (698) also mention this monument. Mukaddasi speaks (circa 985) of the strong fortress around the tombs of the patriarchs built of great squared stones, the work of Jinns, i.e. of supernatural beings. From this onward the references are surely to the present site, and it is difficult to believe, if, as good authorities maintain, the great buttressed square wall enclosing the site is work at least as early as Herod, that the earlier references can be to any other site. It is certain that the existing buildings are very largely those which the Crusaders occupied; there are many full references to this place in medieval Moslem writers. 3. The Charam at Hebron: The Charam at Hebron, which present-day tradition, Christian, Jewish and Moslem, recognizes as built over the cave of Machpelah, is one of the most jealousy guarded sanctuaries in the world. Only on rare occasions and through the exercise of much political pressure have a few honored Christians been allowed to visit the spot. The late King Edward VII in 1862 and the present King George V, in 1882, with certain distinguished scholars in their parties, made visits...

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 23:17 And the field of Ephron, which [was] in Machpelah, which [was] before Mamre, the field, and the cave which [was] therein, and all the trees that [were] in the field, that [were] in all the borders round about, were made sure

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 23:19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same [is] Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 23:9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which [is] in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which [is] before Mamre;

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 49:30 In the cave that [is] in the field of Machpelah, which [is] before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.

Machpelah Scripture - Genesis 50:13 For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

If you notice a broken link or any error PLEASE report it by clicking HERE
© 1995-2019 Bible History Online


Bible Maps