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An Old Testament KnoWhy Gospel Doctrine Lesson 8: Living Righteously in a Wicked World (Genesis 13–14; 18–19) (JBOTL08B)
Cover image: The Cave of Machpelah in Hebron or Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat HaMachpelah)
The purpose of this five-part series of videos is to provide a brief introduction to some of the places linked in tradition to the lives of the family of Abraham and Sarah. Many, though not all, of the sites we will visit are in or near the city of Hebron. Hebron and surrounding areas served as somewhat of a hub for Abraham in his many journeys.
Although archaeology cannot directly substantiate the scriptural stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it can tell us something about the geography, settlements, and daily life of their contemporaries. Learning more about these places helps us get a more realistic sense of the setting in which the patriarchs lived. It is hoped that this series of presentations will increase exposure to these lesser-known sites, so rich in biblical history.
This second presentation will take us to the most well-known site connected with Abraham, the Tomb of the Patriarchs located in modern Hebron. In the Bible, this site is connected with the place names of Machpelah and Kiryat Arba. Here Abraham purchased a cave for the burial of Sarah from local residents.
The cave of Machpelah has been a site of pilgrimage for thousands of years. Machpelah has been under the control of Jews, Christians and Muslims at various times in its history. It was enclosed two thousand years ago within a roofless structure whose imposing walls were built by Herod the Great. It was later the site of Byzantine and Crusader Christian churches. In 1267, minaret towers were added by Muslim rulers and the structure was transformed into a large mosque, al-Haram al-Khalil, the al-Khalil referring to Abraham as “the friend,” meaning the friend of God. Jews call it Me’arat HaMachpelah.
The most important features of the structure are its six cenotaphs, monuments to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. The bodies themselves are thought to be buried in the cave beneath the building. Currently sealed off to access, this cave previously has been examined by ancient and modern explorers, and interesting artifacts have been found.