“And Ephron’s Field….And the cave within and all the trees in the field…was confirmed as Abraham’s as a purchase in the view of the Children of Heth…Afterwards Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah…which is in Hebron, in the Law of Canaan (Genesis 23: 17-19)”
An entire chapter in the Bible is dedicated to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, showing the site’s importance in scripture. Today we will visit this holy site, which unfortunately is not on many tour itineraries, but should be!
Abraham was told by G-d to go to Jerusalem and sacrifice his son Isaac. Just as he was about to offer up his beloved son, an angel of G-d stopped him, revealing it to be only a test for Abraham. On his return trip to his home in Beer Sheva (going south on today’s route 60), he passed through the city of Hebron and heard that his beloved wife Sarah has passed away. Heartbroken, he wanted to bury Sarah in the best plot of land, the Cave of the Patriarchs, owned by Ephron. Abraham asked the local Canaanites who revered him, to intercede on his behalf with Ephron to sell his field and cave. Ephron agreed, but at the outrageous price of 400 shekels in the currency “Most accepted by Merchants”. Despite its high price, Abraham accepted and paid him.
Why was Abraham so insistent that she be buried in this cave?
According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was once herding his cattle when one of his oxen went into the cave. Abraham went to catch him and immediately smelled the aroma of the Garden of Eden. He also discovered that this was also the burial spot of Adam and Eve, and knew that this is where he wanted his family to be ultimately buried.
Another question arises: Why did Abraham have to buy property which already belonged to him because G-d had promised Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit Israel as an eternal possession? Jewish sources reveal three places in Israel where their leaders bought their own “inherited” land, so no one should later claim that they were stolen (as many in the UN and Islamic world claim today):
- The Temple Mount (located at Mount Moriah) bought by King David (2nd Samuel: 24: 18-25)
2. Joseph’s Tomb which was bought by Jacob in Shechem (Genesis 33: 18-19)
3. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
Abraham, Isaac, Rivkah (Rebecca), Jacob and Leah are all buried here.
This grand building you see today was built on top of the cave by the infamous King Herod more than 2000 years ago.
Indeed, as you enter the building, you are walking on flooring more than 2 millennia old!
The cave itself, which is under the building, has been inaccessible for the last 700 years, when a fanatical Islamic empire called the Mamelukes took control and sealed the cave to all. They banned Jews, Christians and all non-Muslims from even entering the building.
In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel liberated Hebron. Chief Rabbi Goren of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) was so excited for the return of Jewish sovereignty for the first time since the 2nd Temple Era, that he drove himself to the Cave building and reached Hebron several hours before the IDF entered, and hoisted the Israeli flag atop the building.
Immediately, non-Muslims were permitted by Israel to enter the building for the first time in centuries. In a failed, unreciprocated gesture of peace, Israel allowed the Palestinians to take control of the majority of the building in the late 1990’s (See yellow area on the below map where non-Muslims are banned from entering), with Israel retaining a smaller section that allowed Jews, Christians and people of faith from all over the world to experience its majesty (see blue on the below map).
On your next trip to Israel, I highly recommend you put a visit to Hebron into your itinerary! To take a one of a kind virtual tour of Hebron right now, click here.
Please visit the author’s site: https://guidedtoursofisrael.com