“Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.”
Genesis 25:8-10, NIV
There are so many strange names and places in the Bible it’s easy to just keep reading without digging into the details. But the details contain evidence for the historicity of the Scriptures, even if we don’t appreciate them. Just because we’re dealing with “long ago and far away” doesn’t mean we’re reading fairy tales.
For all their pratfalls and controversies, archaeology and history have a lot to offer in terms of making sense of obscure names and places. Take the “cave of Machpelah near Mamre” in Genesis 25 for instance. It turns out that this cave is a well-known place, also known as the “Cave of the Patriarchs.” The cave is memorialized in Judaism underneath the only fully surviving Herodian structure from the first century. According to the biblical accounts in Genesis, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah—the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people—were all buried in this cave. We are also told in Genesis 23 that Abraham paid Ephron the Hittite 400 Shekels of silver for the cave, the field, and all the trees in the field. Pretty detailed information. Continue reading