|Machpelah - |
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 (Genesis 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.