The chalky limestone prevalent in Syria and Palestine abounds in caves, clefts, and fissures, which are so frequently alluded to in Scripture under a variety of names. From hor, "a cavern," the Horites take their name, who originally occupied mount Seir, and were driven thence by the Edomites. Henc,e also comes the name Beth-horon, "the house of caverns," and HORONAIM, "the two caverns;" and HAURAN, "the land of caverns" (Ezekiel 47:16; Ezekiel 47:18). The caverns were the resort of the people in times of danger: (Judges 6:2) when Midian oppressed them, (1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 14:11) when the Philistines oppressed them. Michmash, the scene of Jonathan's enterprise, implies the same. Still the shepherds dwell in caves during summer to be nearer their flocks and fields; at Gadara the dwellings are almost all caves.
For particular caves (See ENGEDI, (See ADULLAM, (See MACHPELAH, (See MAKKEDAH. Lot dwelt in a cave such as are still to be seen near the Dead Sea, after Sodom's overthrow (Genesis 19:30). Obadiah hid the Lord's prophets by fifties in a cave (1 Kings 18:4), Elijah at Horeb was in a cave when the Lord revealed Himself (1 Kings 19:9). The custom of fleeing to caves in time of earthquakes illustrates Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21. They were also the resort of marauders (See BETHARBEL) and the final refuges of the Jewish leaders in their war with the Romans. Josephus relates his own hiding in the caves of Jotapata.
Rock caverns abound along the shore of the sea of Tiberias, and were often used as tombs, the bodies being laid in excavated shelves at the sides. Here accordingly the demoniac had his dwelling continually (Mark 5:3; Mark 5:5). The cave of Machpelah, Abraham's burying place, Aaron's tomb on mount Hor, Joseph's, and Rachel's are with strong probability identified. The rock tombs near Jerusalem are assigned to kings and prophets with less certainty. Owing to the abundance of grottoes in the valley of Jehoshaphat, tradition assigns to them the sites of such unlikely events to occur in them as the birth of the Virgin, the annunciation, the salutation, the Baptist's and our Lord's birth, the agony, Peter's denial, the composition of the Apostles' Creed, and the transfiguration.