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Reference: Tombs


of the Hebrews were generally excavated in the solid rock, or were natural caves. Mention is made of such tombs in Jg 8:32; 2Sa 2:32; 2Ki 9:28; 23:30. They were sometimes made in gardens (2Ki 21:26; 23:16; Mt 27:60). They are found in great numbers in and around Jerusalem and all over the land. They were sometimes whitewashed (Mt 23:27,29). The body of Jesus was laid in Joseph's new rock-hewn tomb, in a garden near to Calvary. All evidence is in favour of the opinion that this tomb was somewhere near the Damascus gate, and outside the city, and cannot be identified with the so-called "holy sepulchre." The mouth of such rocky tombs was usually closed by a large stone (Heb golal), which could only be removed by the united efforts of several men (Mt 28:2; comp. Joh 11:39). (See Golgotha.)

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Simplicity is the characteristic of Jewish sepulture. No sarcophagus or coffin or separate tomb structure for one individual; usually no pillar (but Jacob set one over Rachel, Ge 35:20) or mound, no inscription or painting. The coffining and embalming of Joseph as a naturalized Egyptian, and the embalming of Jacob his father in Egypt, are exceptional cases. So also the burning of Saul, when his body was hastily rescued from the Philistines. The body was usually washed, anointed, wrapped in linen, and borne without pageant or prayers to the grave. "Great burnings" of perfumes accompanied the sepulture of kings (Mr 14:8; 16:1; Joh 19:39, etc.; 2Ch 16:14; Jer 34:5). The Jewish rock tombs are of three classes:

(1) Kokim tombs, which have parallel tunnels running in, three or four side by side, from the walls of a rectangular chamber; the bodies lay with their feet toward the chamber, and stone pillows for the heads at the further end; the entrance door is in the face of the cliff; this is the most ancient form of tomb, for the kokim are found sometimes in part destroyed to enlarge the tomb on a different system.

(2) Loculus tombs; these often have decorated facades, within the chamber has an arched recess with rock-cut sarcophagus or loculus beneath, the body lying parallel to the side of the chamber; the rolling stone is found with the loculus, hardly ever with the koka tomb; our Lord's sepulchre was therefore a loculus.

(3) Sunken tombs are not of Jewish origin. The so-called sepulchres of Joseph and Nicodemus are unmistakably Jewish kokim, rock-hewn.

The present chamber in the church of the Holy Sepulchre was formed when the church was built, by cutting away a portion of the original tomb chamber so as to leave a sort of cave, and the floor was leveled at the same time. The side of the kok was cut away, and a canopy of rock left over its bed. In course of time, by pilgrims carrying off relics of rock the kok became entirely isolated, the canopy disappeared, and the tomb assumed its present form (Major Wilson). The angel at the head and the angel at the foot could only have been in a loculus, not a koka tomb. The Mishna (Baba Bathra, 2:9) says, "corpses and sepulchres are separated from the city 50 cubits." The fact that the locuhs tomb was formed out of an original koka tomb, whereas our Lord's loculus tomb was a "new" one "wherein was man never yet laid" (Joh 19:41), seems to be fatal to the claim of the so-called Holy Sepulchre, independently of the argument of its having been probably inside the walls.

The loculi or recesses are about two feet wide by three high. A stone closes the outer end of each loculus. The shallow loculi were used only in the Greek-Roman period, when sarcophagi were introduced, and for embalmed bodies. The deep loculus lengthwise from the cave best suited the unembalmed body, for it whilst the body was decomposing could most easily be shut off with a small stone from the rest of the catacomb (compare Joh 11:38-40, "take away the stone," and "they took away the stone".) This, and the stone rolled away from out' Lord's tomb (Mr 16:3-4, "the stone was rolled away ... very great"), was that at the mouth of the cave, not as Smith's Dictionary supposes from the small mouth of the loculus inside. The stone, like a cheese or millstone, (generally three feet wide,) rolled right and left of the door (generally two feet wide) in a groove, so that it could be moved to one side when the tomb was opened and rolled back over the mouth in shutting the tomb. (See BURIAL.)

The slope was down toward the cave mouth, so that it would roll down there by its own weight; but to roll it aside was to roll it upward and created the difficulty to the women; it is noticeable also that the earthquake would not roll it up, nor if rolled up would it remain so. Such is the case in the "tombs of the kings," so-called. The tomb of Helena, queen of Adiabene, is the only dated example of the loculus tomb with stone closed mouth; it was made in the first century (Josephus 20:4, section 3). The language of John can only apply to the mouth of the cave, not that of the loculus.

It was a cave and a stone lay upon it; so Mr 16:3-4, "who shall roll us away the stone ('very great') from the door of the sepulchre?" The rock-cut tombs are few, not 1,000 in or near Jerusalem, so that the majority had to be content with graves dug in the earth. Shebna "hewed out a sepulchre on high," namely, in the rocks, for himself and his family. Isaiah (Isa 22:16) at the very spot accosts him, "what hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" (See SHEBNA.) His un-Hebrew name implies he was an alien, probably brought to court by Hezekiah's ungodly predecessor Ahaz. A stately tomb ill became such an upstart, who seems to have been of the ungodly faction who set at nought Isaiah's warnings (Isaiah 28-33).

Some of the kings were buried close to the temple; Eze 43:7-9 is thought to refer to this (Smith's Bible Dictionary); rather "kings" mean the idols who had been their lords, but now that Jehovah is their Lord (Isa 26:13) the idols, once their "kings," seem but "carcasses," so these are associated with the "high places." This is confirmed by Le 26:30; Jer 16:18; 2Ki 21:5; 23:6. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah, have lain in the cave of Machpelah in the field so solemnly bought from Ephron the Hittite at Hebron, about 3,700 years (Ge 23:4, etc., Ge 50:26); but none is allowed to enter. A round hole in the mosque admits light, and air to the cave below. There is a like opening into the tomb under the Dome of the Rock, if tomb it be. A Muslim kubr now crowns the hill overlooking Petra, and is called Aaron's tomb; but whether this hill be Mount Hor or the tomb Aaron's is most doubtful.

Joshua was buried in his inheritance in Timnath Serah (Jos 24:30); Samuel in his own house at Ramah (1Sa 25:1); Joab in his house in the wilderness (1Ki 2:34), i.e. in a loculus closed with a stone, so as to prevent effluvia, in the garden or court attached to the dwelling. Tombs of the kings. (See TIMNATH SERAH.) Of the 22 who reigned at Jerusalem from 1048 to 590 B.C., eleven (David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Ahaziah, Amaziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah; also the good priest Jehoiada) were buried in one common subterranean receptacle in "the city of David." Warren (Palestine Exploration) supposes David, having hewn stones from the quarries called the cotton grotto (probably the same spot as "the royal caverns"), for the building of the temple, converted the subterranean recesses so made into his sepulchre. It seems (Josephus Ant. 16:7, section 1) Herod attempted to plunder David's tomb, but being strangely interrupted built a white stone monument in atonement at the mouth of the tomb.

To this monument Titus advanced from Scopus, i.e. from the N.E. of the city (Josephus B.J., 5:3., section 2; 5:7, section 3; 5:13, section 3). According to this, David's tomb would be outside the N. wall of Jerusalem to the E. Asa was buried "in his own sepulchres which he had made for himself (a new chamber attached to the older sepulchre) in the city of David, and was laid in the bed (a loculus) filled with spices," etc. (2Ch 16:14). Hezekiah was buried "in the chiefest (highest) of the sepulchres of the sons of David" (2Ch 32:33), i.e. they excavated for him a chamber higher than the others. These instances prove the importance attached to an honourable burial among the Israelites. The rock-cut sepulchre under the wall of the present church of the Holy Sepulchre may be the site of the burial of the idolatrous kings. The site of the tomb of the kings was in (i.e. near, at, Bethlehem) the city of David (Ne 3:16).

The phrases "house," "city," "in," need some explanation. Jehoram is said to have been "buried with his fathers in the city of David" (2Ki 8:24), yet "not in the sepulchres of the kings" (2Ch 21:20); Josephus (Ant. 9:5, section 3) says "they neither buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers, nor vouchsafed him any honours, but buried him as a pri

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