Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology

 

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"THEN ABRAHAM BREATHED HIS LAST AND DIED IN A GOOD OLD AGE,
AN OLD MAN AND FULL OF YEARS, AND WAS GATHERED TO HIS PEOPLE. 
AND HIS SONS ISAAC AND ISHMAEL BURIED HIM IN THE CAVE OF
MACHPELAH WHICH IS BEFORE MAMRE, [THAT IS HEBRON] IN THE FIELD
OF EPHRON THE SON OF ZOHAR, THE HITTITE, THE FIELD WHICH
ABRAHAM PURCHASED FROM THE SONS OF HETH "
GENESIS 25: 8-9                
              
                        

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's pay our respects to Father Abraham in Hebron

It had been a long tumultuous journey from Ur, the place of his birth, a glistening capital city of culture, temples and riches with perhaps as many as 100,000 residents located in modern-day Iraq to his final resting place in a cave in Hebron in the land of Canaan.
During the course of his life he had waited many years for his beloved wife Sarah to conceive.  Then he offered their only son as a sacrifice at Mount Moriah. He quarreled with his neighbors over water, rescued his nephew Lot who had been taken hostage beyond Damascus, deceived the Pharaoh of Egypt by presenting Sarah as his sister and demonstrated his mastery of Middle-Eastern bargaining to secure the cave of the Machpelah, the field it was in and all the trees in the field as his titled possession in the land of Canaan.

Outside extension of the Cave of the Machpelah where Abraham is buried

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Outside extension of the Cave of the Machpelah where Abraham is buried

Along the way he emerged as a man of profound faith and forefather of the descendents of Ishmael and Isaac.  As the Lord promised, "I will make your descendents as the dust of the earth, so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you."  (Genesis 13:16-17)
A great place to reflect on Abraham's curriculum vitae is by his chosen burial spot in Hebron, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the Cave of the Machpelah.  There are so many possibilities to discuss and ponder.  Among them: Did Abraham regret possibly foreshortening Sarah's lifespan by taking Isaac on that nerve-wracking journey to Mount Moriah?  Did he regret passing Sarah off as his sister to Pharaoh?  What was the tone of the conversation between Isaac and Ishmael as they met at their father's burial for the first time since Ishmael had been banished?

Herod the Great enclosed the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

2000 years ago Herod the Great enclosed the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Last week was my first visit to Hebron since 1999.  In the 1980s I visited the Cave of the Machpelah nearly every week, gazing at the 2000-year-old Herodion superstructure enclosing the burial cave, admiring the Muslim artwork in the mosque featuring the tomb monuments of Isaac and Rebekah and trying to imagine the intrepid 12-year-old Michal surreptitiously being lowered by ropes down below into
the burial corridor in 1968.
Map showing Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem

Adapted from Biblemapper

Map showing Hebron 31 km (19 miles) south of Jerusalem

When I excitedly took out my notes from my guide course forty years ago and from my first years of guiding to prepare, I found I remembered every single detail!  Proof of the extraordinary impression the site engraved in my memory.
The outer Herodion enclosure is nearly an exact miniature of the Herodion Temple Mount reduced in scale to 12%.  But what's amazing is that it is preserved to its original height.  Imagine seeing a religious building from the time of Jesus to its original height – intact!

This Herodion

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

This Herodion building is preserved to its original height -- from 2000 years ago!

Outside it's fun to read the description of the circuitous negotiation between Abraham and Ephron documented in Genesis 23.  We can consider the ridiculously high price Abraham agreed to pay for the property just because he wanted/needed the deed of title, even though he was "entitled."  (See the promise in Genesis 13.)

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah and Leah are buried in the Cave of the Machpelah

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Sign designates "Tomb of Our Forefather Abraham"

Here in the Cave of the Machpelah in Hebron Abraham buried his beloved wife Sarah.  When he passed, his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave which he had purchased publicly from Ephron the Hittite. 
Two generations later, Jacob blessed his twelve sons and told them, "I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place.  There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife and there I buried Leah."
(Genesis 49:29-32)
Come to Hebron with me for an awesome visit to an authentic biblical site which is only rarely included on your standard itinerary.  The reason is that occasionally there are rocks thrown at the bus at one or two spots along the road to Hebron.  Indeed – my bus got two rocks with one window broken from the outside, but there were no injuries.  So I can say that this visit is not for the faint of heart  However, if Abraham's faith journey relates to your own spiritual journey, then I promise the visit will be remarkable and memorable.

Copyright March 2018 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Gila Yudkin, a Connecticut-born Yankee living in King David's court, has been guiding nearly as long as David reigned over Israel, first from Hebron and then from Jerusalem.  Her favorite sites are the authentic ones where her insights illuminate
the biblical text.  She loves showing new discoveries at the old dusty somewhat-forgotten and under-visited sites.  Her tours are a mix of archeology, geography, Bible and fun.

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Abraham bought the Cave of the Machpelah as a burial spot for his wife Sarah for 400 shekels of silver.  David bought the Temple Mount for a mere fifty shekels of silver. For an explanation about who "owns" possession of the Temple Mount today, see
"Ask Gila about Excavations on the Temple Mount."
 

Tour the Temple Mount with Gila's MP3 audio tour in the company of Abraham and Isaac, David and Solomon, Jesus and the disciples, the angel Gabriel and Mohammed.  Meet many other luminaries, both real and legendary.

Gila's Temple Mount tour is now also available as a written 24-page PDF with a Temple Mount plan, guidelines for passing the security check and ten recommended reads on the Temple Mount from Gila's bookshelves.

In addition to Hebron and Mount Moriah, the site most closely associated with Abraham is the well at Beersheba.  In the ancient days the city well was the equivalent of a "singles' bar," the only place a young woman could meet a man not of her family.  For more, read "Let's meet at the well of Beersheba."
 
More Biblical Archeology:
 

Let's see where the Priestly Benediction was found

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Priestly benediction   

Armageddon

Herod's Tomb

 

Let's saunter through Solomon's Stables at Megiddo

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Let's follow Abraham all the way to DAN

Solomon's Stables / Megiddo

Joshua / Hazor

Abraham at Dan


GILA YUDKIN • TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A • JERUSALEM • ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin