Burial At Hebron

by Keith Macnaughtan

Although it is now some 4000 years since the days of Abraham, on the human level there is no name more widely honoured than his. All Mohammedans respect that name, for they think of him as a great prophet of Allah, and usually call him ‘the Friend’, that is, the friend of God.

Arabs also recognize him as the ancestor of many of their peoples, as indeed he was, through his son Ishmael and his grandson Esau. And this is not to mention his other children, such as Midian, of whom Keturah was the mother, and all of whom, it seems, ultimately became the Arab nations of today.

Christians, too, honour Abraham’s name, for they see him as the ‘father’, spiritually, of all who put their trust in Yeshua HaMashiach. Jewish people, also, greatly honour him, for is he not their great ancestor and the patriarch of the Jewish race?

In the Scriptures his name occurs some 300 times – more frequently than the name of any other, including Moses. He is several times called God’s ‘friend’: 'Are not you our God, who did drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and gave it to the seed of Abraham your friend for ever?' (II Chronicles 20:7). 'But you, Israel, are my servant Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.' (Isaiah 41:8) 'And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness and he was called the Friend of God.' (James 2:23). Can man claim a greater honour than this?

Archaeology Supports Scriptures

Yet Abraham, too, was a descendant of Adam, and as such, was subject to death. He had made provision against the death of the body in the purchase of a burial-place for himself and his beloved wife, Sarah, and her body was the first to be laid to rest in that cave which was originally owned by a Hittite named Ephron.

The story of the purchase of that cave, and the field of which it was a part, is told in Genesis 23. And let us remark on the fact that here, as in so many other passages of the Word of God, the Scriptures have been wonderfully confirmed by the discoveries of archaeology. In instance after instance, the whole transaction as recorded in the Bible is now known to reflect faithfully the customs and laws of the Hittite people.

W.R. Lehmann has said, 'We have thus found that Genesis 23 is permeated with an intimate knowledge of intricate subtleties of Hittite laws and customs corresponding to the time of Abraham and fitting in with the Hittite features of the Biblical account.'

A British Officer on Forbidden Ground

Sarah, Abraham, Jacob and Leah all were buried in the cave-tomb of Machpelah or Hebron. Today a Mohammedan mosque stands over what is presumed to be the site of that tomb. Mohammedans will allow no one to examine what the mosque is designed to hide. Yet according to Joseph P. Free in his ARCHAEOLOGY AND BIBLE HISTORY the feet of one ‘infidel’ may have stood at least at that sacred site!

For 'during World War I, a certain British officer named Col. Meinertzhagen, entered the mosque and, passing through a door, he slid down a steep incline and found himself in a cave 20’ square. In it stood a block of stone 6’ long, 3’ wide and 3’ high. He left without investigating further, and when later the British tried to get into the cave, the guardians' -- who presumably had by this time returned to the mosque -- 'would not permit it.'

Brave Michal Enters the Tomb(s)

But more: in his LIVING WITH THE BIBLE, Moshe Dayan says that when Hebron was captured by Israel in the war of 1967, it was proposed to build a synagogue outside the mosque and from the synagogue an entrance to the tomb could be made through a supposedly sealed door in an underground chamber.

To enter this chamber from above one must be lowered through an aperture only 11' wide. This was undertaken by a 12 year old Jewish girl named Michal. With a torch and a camera, she was lowered by a rope, but she found no sealed entry.

She reported to Moshe Dayan on her visit to the cave on 9th October 1968 that the cave opening was indeed exactly 11' wide and that when ropes had been tied round her she was given a torch and matches to test the air below and then lowered – to land on a heap of paper and money bills!

She said she was in a square room and that there were three tombstones, the middle one higher and more decorated than the others. In the wall opposite her was a small square opening, so when more rope was released to her she went through into a low, narrow corridor whose walls were cut out of rock, and whose length was about 30’.

She later descended again several times and photographed what she had seen and sketched and measured the room and the tombstones.

The Secret of the Tomb

Have they then found the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Leah? We cannot be absolutely sure, though it is likely this is so. As Moshe Dayan has pointed out, for 700 years until June 1967, no Jews could enter the building over the traditional cave of Machpelah. In the first century C.E. a building was erected there by King Herod. After the Moslem conquests it became a mosque.

During the Crusades it became a church, but when the Crusaders were defeated it was again converted into a mosque and the nearest a Jewish person was permitted to approach was to the seventh step on the outside eastern wall.

Once again the Jewish nation has control of the Land, so who knows? Some day we may read again that the BURIAL AT HEBRON has been brought to light; the resting-place of the sacred bones of the patriarchs will have been discovered.