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Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary


Smith's Bible Dictionary

(double , or a portion). [HEBRON]

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 (Genesis 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 (Genesis 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), 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 Palestine Quarterly Statement, October 1882).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

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 Genesis 23:17. The name is applied to the ground in Genesis 23:19; Genesis 49:30; Genesis 50:13, and to the cave in Genesis 23:9; Genesis 25:9. In Genesis 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 (Genesis 23:8-16). It is described as "before," i.e. "to the East of" Mamre (Genesis 23:17) which (Genesis 23:19) is described as the same as Hebron (see, too, Genesis 25:9; Genesis 49:30; Genesis 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 A.D.) 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 which have been chiefly important through the writings of their companions-Stanley in 1862 and Wilson and Conder in 1882. One of the latest to be accorded the privilege was C.W. Fairbanks, late vice-president of the United States of America. What such visitors have been permitted to see has not been of any great antiquity nor has it thrown any certain fight on the question of the genuineness of the site.

The space containing the traditional tombs is a great quadrangle 197 ft. in length (Northwest to Southeast) and 111 ft. in breadth (Northeast to Southwest). It is enclosed by a massive wall of great blocks of limestone, very hard and akin to marble. The walls which are between 8 and 9 ft thick are of solid masonry throughout. At the height of 15 ft. from the ground, at indeed the level of the floor within, the wall is set back about 10 inches at intervals, so as to leave pilasters 3 ft. 9 inches wide, with space between each of 7 ft. all round. On the longer sides there are 16 and on the shorter sides 8 such pilasters, and there are also buttresses 9 ft. wide on each face at each angle. This pilastered wall runs up for 25 ft., giving the total average height from the ground of 40 ft. The whole character of the masonry is so similar to the wall of the Jerusalem Charam near the "wailing place" that Conder and Warren considered that it must belong to that period and be Herodian work.

The southern end of the great enclosure is occupied by a church-probably a building entirely of the crusading period-with a nave and two aisles. The rest is a courtyard open to the air. The cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebecca are within the church; those of Abraham and Sarah occupy octagonal chapels in the double porch before the church doors; those of Jacob and Leah are placed in chambers near the north end of the Charam. The six monuments are placed at equal distances along the length of the enclosure, and it is probable that their positions there have no relation to the sarcophagi which are described as existing in the cave itself.

4. The Cave:

It is over this cave that the chief mystery hangs. It is not known whether it has been entered by any man at present alive, Moslem or otherwise. While the cave was in the hands of the Crusaders, pilgrims and others were allowed to visit this spot. Thus Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, writing in 1163 A.D., says that "if a Jew comes, who gives an additional fee to the keeper of the cave, an iron door is opened, which dates from the times of our forefathers who rest in peace, and with a burning candle in his hand the visitor descends into a first cave which is empty, traverses a second in the same state and at last reaches a third which contains six sepulchres-those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, one opposite the other.... A lamp burns in the cave and upon the sepulchre continually, both night and day." The account reminds us of the condition of many Christian tomb-shrines in Palestine today.

It would appear from the description of modern observers that all entrance to the cave is now closed; the only known approaches are never now opened and can only be reached by breaking up the flags of the flooring. Through one of the openings-which had a stone over it pierced by a circular hole 1 ft. in diameter-near the northern wall of the old church, Conder was able by lowering a lantern to see into a chamber some 15 ft. under the church. He estimated it to be some 12 ft. square; it had plastered walls, and in the wall toward the Southeast there was a door which appeared like the entrance to a rock-cut tomb. On the outside of the Charam wall, close to the steps of the southern entrance gateway is a hole in the lowest course of masonry, which may possibly communicate with the western cave. Into this the Jews of Hebron are accustomed to thrust many written prayers and vows to the patriarchs.

The evidence, historical and archaeological seems to show that the cave occupies only the south end of the great quadrilateral enclosure under part only of the area covered by the church.



PEF, III., 333-46; PEFS, 1882, 197; 1897, 53; 1912, 145-150; HDB, III., article "Machpelah," by Warren; Stanley, SP and Lectures on the Jewish Church; "Pal under the Moslems," PEF; Pilgrim Text Soc. publications.

E. W. G. Masterman

Strong's Hebrew
4375. Makpelah -- a place near Hebron
... 4374, 4375. Makpelah. 4376 . a place near Hebron. Transliteration: Makpelah
Phonetic Spelling: (mak-pay-law') Short Definition: Machpelah. ... Machpelah. ...
/hebrew/4375.htm - 6k

Appendix D.
... for we know from the records of Old Testament history, that Jacob's body was not
laid in*a sepulchre at Sychem, but in the cave of Machpelah at Hebron;"we ...
// and interpretation/appendix d.htm

... Jerusalem. Let the reader judge. Of Machpelah, the burying-place near Hebron,
very many things are said by very many men. The city ...
/.../lightfoot/from the talmud and hebraica/chapter 49 hebron.htm

Chapter xxiii
... that my dead be buried out of my sight, then hear me and intercede for me with Ephron,
the son of Zohar, that he give me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs ...
/.../ of genesis volume 1/chapter xxiii.htm

The Patriarchs.
... When Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah for a, burial-place, it was in the full
certainty that though he was now a stranger in the land, it would be his ...
// chosen people/lesson ii the patriarchs.htm

Chapter xxv
... 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 was over against Mamre, the ...
// of genesis volume 1/chapter xxv.htm

The Israelites
... its Amoritish chieftains, as a leader of armed troops, even as the conqueror of
a Babylonian army, his only possession in it was the burial-place of Machpelah. ...
/.../sayce/early israel and the surrounding nations/chapter i the israelites.htm

Six Cities
... On its eastern height is the spot which gives it to this day perhaps its most sacred
interest"the cave of Machpelah, where the dust of the patriarchs has ...
/.../macduff/the cities of refuge or the name of jesus/ii six cities.htm

The Death of Abraham
... For we read in the following verse: 'And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in
the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hittite ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/the death of abraham.htm

A Coffin in Egypt
... did his work manfully in the land of his adoption, and flung himself eagerly into
its interests, but his heart turned to the cave at Machpelah, and, though he ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/a coffin in egypt.htm

Following the Cloud.
... They bore with them the embalmed body of Joseph, for they had promised to bury him
with his fathers in the cave of Machpelah; and they also had much wealth in ...
/.../lathbury/childs story of the bible/chapter xii following the cloud.htm

Machpelah (6 Occurrences)
... Between the cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebekah there is a circular opening in the
floor into the cavern below, the cave of Machpelah. ...MACHPELAH. ...
/m/machpelah.htm - 19k

Mach-pe'lah (6 Occurrences)
Mach-pe'lah. Machpelah, Mach-pe'lah. Maconah . Multi-Version Concordance
Mach-pe'lah (6 Occurrences). Genesis 23:9 that he may give ...
/m/mach-pe'lah.htm - 8k

Ephron (13 Occurrences)
... Easton's Bible Dictionary Fawn-like. (1.) The son of Zohar a Hittite, the owner
of the field and cave of Machpelah (qv), which Abraham bought for 400 shekels ...
/e/ephron.htm - 13k

Mamre (10 Occurrences)
... thus designated after Abraham's ally. This "grove" must have been within
sight of or "facing" Machpelah (qv). The site of Mamre ...
/m/mamre.htm - 16k

Cave (40 Occurrences)
... 19:30). The next we read of is the cave of Machpelah (qv), which Abraham
purchased from the sons of Heth (Genesis 25:9, 10). It ...
/c/cave.htm - 25k

Hollow (35 Occurrences)
... Genesis 23:9 That he will give me the hollow in the rock named Machpelah, which
is his property at the end of his field; let him give it to me for its full ...
/h/hollow.htm - 20k

Hebron (71 Occurrences)
... pitched his tent under the oaks of Mamre, by which name it came afterwards to be
known; and here Sarah died, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23 ...
/h/hebron.htm - 41k

Burying-place (19 Occurrences)
... Root in YLT). Genesis 23:9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which
he has, which is in the end of his field. For the full ...
/b/burying-place.htm - 12k

Buryingplace (7 Occurrences)
... 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 ...
/b/buryingplace.htm - 8k

Burying (22 Occurrences)
... (DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV). Genesis 23:9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah,
which he has, which is in the end of his field. For ...
/b/burying.htm - 13k

What is the significance of the cave of Machpelah? |

Why was a burial place so important in the Bible? |

Is it true that Jesus was crucified above the tomb of Adam? |

Bible ConcordanceBible DictionaryBible EncyclopediaTopical BibleBible Thesuarus
Machpelah (6 Occurrences)

Genesis 23:9
that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he has, which is in the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me among you for a possession of a burying-place."

Genesis 23:17
So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all of its borders, were deeded

Genesis 23:19
After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

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

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 from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place.

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 burial site, from Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.



Machpelah: The Burying Place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob


Related Terms

Mach-pe'lah (6 Occurrences)

Ephron (13 Occurrences)

Mamre (10 Occurrences)

Cave (40 Occurrences)

Hollow (35 Occurrences)

Hebron (71 Occurrences)

Burying-place (19 Occurrences)

Buryingplace (7 Occurrences)

Burying (22 Occurrences)

Site (19 Occurrences)

Hittite (45 Occurrences)

Opposite (137 Occurrences)

Buried (125 Occurrences)

Sepulchre (57 Occurrences)

Resting-place (211 Occurrences)

Rock (176 Occurrences)

Leah (30 Occurrences)

Facing (79 Occurrences)

Rebekah (31 Occurrences)

Money (284 Occurrences)

East (228 Occurrences)

Possession (251 Occurrences)

Bury (78 Occurrences)

Burial (25 Occurrences)

Field (390 Occurrences)

Sarah (38 Occurrences)

Bought (66 Occurrences)

Abraham (2539 Occurrences)

Possess (193 Occurrences)

Ishmael (44 Occurrences)

Canaan (102 Occurrences)

Front (327 Occurrences)

Zohar (5 Occurrences)

Owns (13 Occurrences)

Ish'mael (40 Occurrences)

Faced (32 Occurrences)

Ephron's (2 Occurrences)

Extremity (46 Occurrences)

Deeded (2 Occurrences)

Machnad'ebai (1 Occurrence)

Border (233 Occurrences)

Buying (12 Occurrences)

Confines (3 Occurrences)

Hittites (39 Occurrences)

Area (66 Occurrences)

Sell (58 Occurrences)

Borders (104 Occurrences)

Worth (36 Occurrences)

Established (200 Occurrences)

Zoar (12 Occurrences)

Amongst (47 Occurrences)

Jacob (361 Occurrences)

Sarai (13 Occurrences)

Giveth (378 Occurrences)

Therein (269 Occurrences)

Belongs (127 Occurrences)

Price (181 Occurrences)

Trees (179 Occurrences)

Isaac (127 Occurrences)

Throughout (291 Occurrences)

Thereof (845 Occurrences)

Property (212 Occurrences)

Carried (327 Occurrences)

Canaanites (63 Occurrences)

Midst (657 Occurrences)

Sure (142 Occurrences)

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