Hebron: The Tomb of the Patriarchs

Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron

Second only to Jerusalem in importance, the city of Hebron is where three generations of the founding fathers of the Jewish nation are buried, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Christianity and Islam also consider Hebron significant and we find the remains of many synagogues, churches and mosques that have been built in Hebron to commemorate the lives of the Patriarchs who are key figures to all three religions.

Abraham’s tomb, located in the Cave of Machpelah that Abraham originally purchased from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place for his wife Sarah (Genesis 23:9), can still be visited today, and it is a popular pilgrimage spot for people of faith worldwide. During the 1st century BC, King Herod the Great erected a fortified wall around the original Tomb of the Patriarchs (which still stands today), and subsequently Christian churches, a Mosque and a Synagogue were built on the site to commemorate Father Abraham, his legacy, and his great Faith. The site is shared today by Jews and Muslims, side by side, depicting a most profound peaceful coexistence with mutual respect for each community’s faith traditions.

Abraham died in 1,815 BC and was buried in the Machpelah Cave. Future generations of Abraham’s family who were also buried there include his son Isaac, his daughter-in-law Rebekah, his grandson Jacob and Jacob’s wife Leah (Genesis 23:1-20, 25:9, 49:29-32 & 50:12-13).

A point of interest for every person of faith is that following the conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites in 1,406 BC, the Anakite city of Kiriath Arba (which was later named Hebron – Joshua 14:15) was named as one of the six “cities of refuge” in Israel. These were six safe zones where those who had killed someone accidentally (note that biblical justice made a clear distinction between what the law calls today “manslaughter” and “first degree intentional murder”) could take refuge according to Joshua 20:1-7. In time, Hebron became King David’s capital during the first phase of his kingdom reign, until he captured Jerusalem in 1,004 BC (2 Samuel 2:1-4 & 5:6-10) and moved the focal point of the national life to Zion.

And while not on every pilgrim’s travel plan, Hebron nevertheless is an inspirational and beautiful place to visit while in Israel.