(hee' brahn) Place name and personal name meaning “association” or “league.” A major city in the hill country of Judah about nineteen miles south of Jerusalem and fifteen miles west of the Dead Sea. The region is over 3,000 feet above sea level. The surrounding area has an abundant water supply, and its rich soil is excellent for agriculture. According to archaeological research the site has been occupied almost continuously since about 3300 B.C.
After his separation from Lot, Abraham moved to Hebron. At that time the area was known as Mamre and was associated with the Amorites (Genesis 13:18;
Genesis 23:19). Abraham apparently remained at Mamre until after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When Sarah died, the place was called Kirjath-arba; and the population was predominantly Hittite (Genesis 23:2;
Judges 1:10). From them Abraham purchased a field with a burial plot inside a nearby cave. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah were buried there (Genesis 23:19;
Four centuries later, when Moses sent the twelve spies into Canaan, the tribe of Anak lived in Hebron. According to
Numbers 13:22 Hebron was “built” seven years prior to Zoan, the Egyptian city of Tanis. Archaeological evidence suggests that the reference was to Tanis' establishment as the Hyksos capital around 1725 B.C. and not its beginning. Indeed both cities already were inhabited long before 2000 B.C. Therefore, the date may indicate that it was rebuilt by the Hyksos at that time, or it may specify when Hebron became a Canaanite city. After the Israelite conquest of Canaan, Hebron was given to Caleb (Joshua 14:9-13). It also became a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7). Later, Samson put the gates of Gaza on a hill outside of Hebron (Judges 16:3).
After the death of Saul, David settled in the city (2 Samuel 2:3) and made it his capital during the seven years he ruled only Judah (1 Kings 2:11). His son, Absalom, launched an abortive revolt against David from Hebron (2 Samuel 15:10). Between 922 and 915 B.C. Rehoboam fortified the city as a part of Judah's defense network (2 Chronicles 11:5-10). According to inscriptions found on pottery fragments, royal pottery was made in the city between 800 and 700 B.C.
When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the Edomites captured Hebron. It was not recaptured until Judas Maccabeus sacked the city in 164 B.C. Although Herod the Great erected pretentious structures there, no mention of the city is made in the New Testament. The city was raided by both Jewish revolutionaries and Roman legions in A.D. 68 during the Jewish Revolt.
Hebron is still an important city today. Except for during the Crusades, the Muslims have ruled the city since A.D. 635. It is venerated by the Arabs because of the tombs of the patriarchs.
Two individuals in the Old Testament also were named Hebron. The first was a Levite (Exodus 6:18;
1 Chronicles 6:2,1 Chronicles 6:18;
1 Chronicles 23:12). The second is listed in the Calebite genealogy (1 Chronicles 2:42-43). See City of Refuge; Machpelah; Mamre.