The Tomb of the Patriarchs
One of the most ancient settlements of the Holy Land, the city of Hebron is referred to in the Old Testament both by that name and as Kyriat Arba – City of the Four, after the confederation of four local towns.
Situated in a fertile region of the Judean Hills, it was to Hebron that Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the area when the Children of Israel approached Canaan on their way back from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Most returned with reports of a land flowing with milk and honey, one in which a bunch of grapes grew so large that it had to be carried on a pole help by two strong men. But some scouts came back fearful of the local population, and reported that giants inhabited the land, Numbers 13.
Led by Joshua, whose bravery quelled their fears, the people did manage to conquer Canaan, and slowly forged the twelve tribes into a nation. Centuries later, David – the shepherd boy who killed the philistine giant, Goliath, with his sling – was brought to Hebron to be anointed king over the combined kingdoms of Judah & Israel, the southern and northern parts of the country. David made Hebron his capital for seven years.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs
Venerated by Jews, Christians and Moslems alike, the Tomb of the Patriarchs has its roots in antiquity. According to the Book of Genesis, it was in Hebron that the Patriarch Abraham – till then a wandering nomad – purchased his first plot of land in Canaan. It was a field containing the cave of the Machpelah, that he bought as a tomb in which to bury his deceased wife, Sarah, Genesis 23:4-20.
Built over the Cave of the Machpelah, today the Tomb of the Patriarchs serves as a synagogue and mosque- but the Cave is visible only through a small opening in the wall.
Later, when Jacob died in Egypt, Joseph led his brothers back to Canaan to bury their father in the Machpelah cave next to his grandparents, Abraham and Sarah, his parents, Isaac and Rebecca, and his first wife, Leah. These are the Patriarchs buried in the tomb.
In the Second Temple period, Herod the Great added to the Tomb hoping to win the favour of his Jewish subjects. He built the powerful outer wall, giving it more than just the appearance of a fortress – its walls are actually eight and a half feet thick!
Following the conquest of the land by the Mameluks in the 12th century, the town became known by its Arabic name of Al-Khalil, meaning The Friend. The name stems from the title given to Abraham – the father of the Arab nation through his first son Ishmael – who is called Al-Khalil el-Rahman, the Friend of the Lord. Likewise, the tomb itself is known to the Arab world as Haram el-Khalil, the Sanctuary of the Friend.
This page is part of the book The Holy Land of JesusShare this page with your friends
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