5 occurrences in 5 dictionaries

Reference: Machpelah


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 (Ge 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 (Ge 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).

Illustration: El-Haram

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The tract containing the field and cave in the end of Ephron's field, which Abraham bought as his burying ground from Ephron and the sons of Heth (Ge 23:9); his only possession in the land of promise. All ancient versions translated Machpelah "the double cave," from kaphal, "to divide or double". Either there were two entrances or two receptacles for bodies. Gesenius derives it from a root, "portion." A mosque now covers it. The sacred precinct (harem) is enclosed by a wall, the oldest in Palestine. The masonry is more antique than the S.W. wall of the haram at Jerusalem; one stone is 38 ft. long, 3 1/4 ft. deep. The beveling is shallow, and at latest belongs to the age of Solomon; Jewish ancient tradition ascribes it to David. It lay near Hebron. (See HEBRON.) The sepulchers of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah are shown on the mosque floor; but the real sepulchers are in the cave below the floor; the cave opens to the S., and the bodies were laid with their heads to the N.

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The name of a locality in which, according to the Priestly narrative of the Hexateuch, were situated a field and a cave purchased by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, to serve as a burial-place for himself and his family (Ge 23:17-18). Here Sarah was buried by her husband; and subsequently Abraham himself, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were laid to rest in the same spot (Ge 49:31). The appellation 'Machpelah,' which seems in strictness to designate the site comprehensively, is also applied to the actual field and the cave within it, which are respectively called 'the field of Machpelah' (Ge 23:19; 49:30; 50:18) and the 'cave of Machpelah' (Ge 23:9; 25:9). The place is described as being 'before Mamre' (Ge 25:9), 'before' usually meaning 'east of' (see Ge 25:18; Jos 13:3; 1Ki 11:7), just as 'behind' signifies 'west of' (Nu 3:23). Mamre, in Ge 23:19, is identified with Hebron, which is the modern el-Khalil ('the Friend,' i.e. Abraham, cf. Isa 41:3; Jas 2:23), a town built on the sides of a narrow valley, the main portion of it lying on the face of the E. slope. The traditional site of the cave of Machpelah is on the E. hill, so that it would appear that ancient Hebron was built to the west of the modern city, on the W. hill, and that it has subsequently extended into the valley and climbed the opposite declivity.

Above the supposed site of the cave there is now a rectangular enclosure called the Haram, measuring 181 ft. by 93 ft. internally (the longer axis running from N.W. to S.E.), and surrounded by massive walls 40 ft. high, which are conjectured to date from the time of Herod the Great, though some authorities incline to assign them to a still earlier period. At the S.E. end of the quadrangle is a mosque, once a Christian church, 70 ft. by 93 ft., parts of which are attributed to the 12th century. Within the mosque are cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebekah; in a porch on the N.W. side are those of Abraham and Sarah; whilst at the opposite end of the enclosure are those of Jacob and Leah. The Haram has been but rarely entered by Christians in modern times. King Edward vii. was admitted to it, when Prince of Wales, in 1862; and the present Prince of Wales, with his brother, visited it in 1882. The cave, which is reputed to be the real resting-place of the patriarchs and their wives, is below the floor of the mosque, and is thought to be double, in accordance with a tradition which perhaps is derived from the Septuagint rendering of Machpelah as 'the double cave.' The entrances to it, of which there are said to be three, are in the flagged flooring of the building. It is doubtful whether any Christian has been allowed to enter it in modern times.

G. W. Wade.

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Both a field and a cave which Abraham bought of the children of Heth for a burying place. It was near Hebron; Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were buried there. Ge 23:9,17,19; 25:9; 49:30-31; 50:13. The manner in which the purchase was accomplished is exactly the way bargains are to this day arranged in the East by the Bedouins. See HEBRON.

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(double, or a portion). [HEBRON]

See Hebron