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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

CAVE ( מִעָרָה, חֹד, σπήλαιον).—Caves, both natural and artificial, abound in Palestine; the soft chalky soil of Syria readily lends itself to both. Caves were used in Palestine for a variety of purposes; originally as dwelling-places* [Note: Recent excavations in Palestine have thrown considerable light on Troglodyte dwellings, see PEFSt, 1903, pp. 20–23.] (cf. the ‘Horites’ or ‘cave-dwellers,’  Genesis 14:6;  Genesis 36:20 ff.,  Deuteronomy 2:22, see also  Genesis 19:30). In the Haurân there must have been many of these; sometimes regular underground towns, such as the ancient Edrei, existed:† [Note: Wetzstein, Reisebericht über Hauran und die Trachonen, p. 44 ff.] even at the present day there may be seen in Gilead ( Wâdy Ezrak ), a village, named Anab, of Troglodyte dwellers; in this village there are about a hundred families.‡ [Note: Nowack, Hebräische Archäalogie, i. 136.] Caves were used, further, as places of refuge ( Judges 6:2,  1 Samuel 13:8;  1 Samuel 14:11,  1 Kings 18:4,  Hebrews 11:38,  Revelation 6:15), as hiding-places for robbers ( Jeremiah 7:11, cf.  Matthew 21:13,  Mark 11:17,  Luke 19:46), as stables,§ [Note: Conder, Tent Work in Palestine, p. 145.] as cisterns,|| [Note: | PEFSt, 1903, p. 315.] as folds for flocks,¶ [Note: Jewish Encycl. iii. 634.] and, above all, as burying-places ( Genesis 23:19;  Genesis 49:29,  John 11:38); the accounts of the burial caves discovered in the lower strata of the site of ancient Gezer are of the highest interest.** [Note: * See PEFSt, 1902, pp. 347–356; 1903, pp. 14–20; 1904, pp. 18–20, 113, 114.]

It is, however, in reference to the place of birth and the place of burial of Christ that the chief interest in caves centres here. Justin Martyr ( Dial. circa (about) Tryph . lxxviii.), in recounting the story of the birth of Christ, says that it took place in a cave (ἐν σπηλαίῳ τινι) near the village of Bethlehem.†† [Note: † Cf. also Tobler, Bethlehem in Palästina, pp. 145–159; Palmer, ‘Das jetzige Bethlehem’ in ZDPV xvii. p. 89 ff.] That cave stables, both ancient and modern, are to be found in Palestine, admits of no doubt. Conder‡‡ [Note: ‡ Op. cit. p. 145.] says that there are ‘innumerable instances of stables cut in rock, resembling the Bethlehem grotto. Such stables I have planned and measured at Tekoa, ’Aziz, and other places south of Bethlehem, and the mangers existing in them leave no doubt as to their use and character.’ It seems, therefore, not unreasonable to accept the ancient tradition that Christ was born in a cave. See art. Bethlehem.

Rock-hewn tombs, or caves for burial, were of four distinct kinds: (1) tombs which were cut down into the rock, in the same way in which graves are dug at the present time in European countries; the body was let down into these; (2) tombs cut into the face of the rock, into which the bodies were pushed; (3) tombs, somewhat like the last class, excepting that within, against the wall, there was a kind of step, about two feet high, upon which the body was laid; (4) tombs which were little more than a shelf cut into the rock, just long enough and high enough to hold the body. The first three of these classes varied very much in size; in the case of the first, the top, which was level with the ground, was covered with a stone slab; the others were closed by means of a stone slab which could be pushed aside ( Matthew 27:60), or else a small door was fixed at the entrance. Tombs were not infrequently furnished with an antechamber, from which one entered into an inner space, the tomb proper, through a low doorway. As a rule, a raised shelf ran round the burial-chamber, and upon this the body was laid; that part on which the head rested was slightly higher.* [Note: Nowack, Heb. Arch. i. 191; Benzinger, Heb. Arch. pp. 225–227; Latham, The Risen Master, pp. 32 ff., 87, 88, and see the two illustrations at the commencement of the work.] See Burial, Tomb.

The data to be gathered from the Gospels are not numerous; see  Matthew 27:60,  Mark 15:46,  Luke 23:53,  John 11:38;  John 20:1-12.

Literature.—Guthe in ZDP V [Note: DPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.] , ‘Zur Topographie der Grabeskirche in Jerusalem,’ xiv. 35–40; Schick in ZDP V [Note: DPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.] , ‘Neu aufgedeckte Graber,’ xvi. 202–205, where a very interesting plate is given; T. Tobler, Bethlehem in Palatstina , pp. 124–227, S. Gallen, 1849; Badeker, Palestine and Syria 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. cxi ff., Leipzig, 1898; the references, given above, in PEFS t [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] . See also W. R Smith, R S [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 197 f., and the ‘Index of Subjects’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, Extra Volume.

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [2]

The first notice of a cave occurs in the history of Lot ( Genesis 19:30 ).

The next we read of is the cave of Machpelah (q.v.), which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth ( Genesis 25:9,10 ). It was the burying-place of Sarah and of Abraham himself, also of Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob ( Genesis 49:31;  50:13 ).

The cave of Makkedah, into which the five Amorite kings retired after their defeat by ( Joshua 10:16,27 ).

The cave of Adullam (q.v.), an immense natural cavern, where David hid himself from Saul ( 1 Samuel 22:1,2 ).

The cave of Engedi (q.v.), now called 'Ain Jidy, i.e., the "Fountain of the Kid", where David cut off the skirt of Saul's robe (24:4). Here he also found a shelter for himself and his followers to the number of 600 (23:29; 24:1). "On all sides the country is full of caverns which might serve as lurking-places for David and his men, as they do for outlaws at the present day."

The cave in which Obadiah hid the prophets ( 1 Kings 18:4 ) was probably in the north, but it cannot be identified.

The cave of Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:9 ), and the "cleft" of Moses on Horeb ( Exodus 33:22 ), cannot be determined.

In the time of Gideon the Israelites took refuge from the Midianites in dens and caves, such as abounded in the mountain regions of Manasseh ( Judges 6:2 ).

Caves were frequently used as dwelling-places ( Numbers 24:21;  Song of Solomon 2:14;  Jeremiah 49:16;  Obadiah 1:3 ). "The excavations at Deir Dubban, on the south side of the wady leading to Santa Hanneh, are probably the dwellings of the Horites," the ancient inhabitants of Idumea Proper. The pits or cavities in rocks were also sometimes used as prisons ( Isaiah 24:22;  51:14;  Zechariah 9:11 ). Those which had niches in their sides were occupied as burying-places ( Ezekiel 32:23;  John 11:38 ).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Ὀπή (Strong'S #3692 — Noun Feminine — ope — op-ay' )

perhaps from ops, "sight," denotes "a hole, an opening," such as a fissure in a rock,  Hebrews 11:38 . In  James 3:11 , the RV has "opening," of the orifice of a fountain (AV, "place"). See Place.

2: Σπήλαιον (Strong'S #4693 — Noun Neuter — spelaion — spay'-lah-yon )

"a grotto, cavern, den" (Lat., spelunca), "cave,"  John 11:38 , is said of the grave of Lazarus; in the RV in  Hebrews 11:38;  Revelation 6:15 (AV, "dens"); in the Lord's rebuke concerning the defilement of the Temple,   Matthew 21:13;  Mark 11:17;  Luke 19:46 , "den" is used.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

CAVE . The soft limestone hills of Palestine abound in caves, natural and artificial; and these must have attracted attention from a very early period. The aboriginal race of Horites were cave-dwellers, and the excavation at Gezer has revealed remains of a probably analogous race in W. Palestine. Lot (  Genesis 19:30 ) and David (  1 Samuel 22:1 etc.) dwelt for a time in caves; and their use as places of hiding and refuge is illustrated by many passages, e.g. ,   Joshua 10:16 ,   Judges 6:2 ,   1 Kings 18:4 etc. Caves were also used, at all periods in the history of Palestine, for sepulture, as in the case of Machpelah (  Genesis 23:1-20 ). Probably the most remarkable series of caves yet discovered in Palestine are the great labyrinths tunnelled in the bills round Beit Jibrin  ; one of these, in Tell Sandahannah , contains sixty chambers, united by doors and passages, and groups containing fourteen or fifteen chambers are quite common in the same hill. Another artificial cave near Beit Jibrin contains a hall 80 ft. high and 400 ft. long; it has now fallen in. Other groups of caves, only less extensive, occur in various parts of Palestine on both sides of the Jordan. Little or nothing is known about the history of these great excavations; no definite information about their origin has yet been yielded by them, so far as they have been scientifically explored.

R. A. S. Macalister.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

The geological structure of Judea is highly favorable to the formation of caves; and the whole region abounds with subterranean caverns of various dimensions, often giving rise to small rivulets. These were used as dwellings, places of refuge, and tombs. It was in a cave that Lot resided after the destruction of Sodom,  Genesis 19:30 . Petra, in Idumea, was a city of caves,  Numbers 24:21 Song of   Song of Solomon 2:14   Jeremiah 49:16   Obadiah 1:3 . In the vicinity of Hebron, the poor still live in caves while pasturing their flocks. Natural cavities were sometimes enlarged, and artificial ones made for refuge and defense,  Judges 6:2   1 Samuel 13:6   Isaiah 2:19   Jeremiah 41:9 . The caves of Machpelah, of Adullam, of Engedi, of Carmel and of Arbela, still exist. See Sepulchre .

King James Dictionary [6]

CAVE, n. A hollow place in the earth a subterraneous cavern a den. This may be natural or artificial. The primitive inhabitants of the earth, in many countries, lived in caves and the present inhabitants of some parts of the earth, especially in the high northern latitudes, occupy caves, particularly in winter.

Lot dwelt in a cave, he and his daughters.  Genesis 19 .

Caves were also used for the burial of the dead.

Abraham buried Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelab.  Genesis 23 .

Bacon applies the word to the ear, the cave of the ear but this application is unusual.

CAVE, To make hollow.

CAVE, To dwell in a cave.

To cave in, to fall in and leave a hollow, as earth on the side of a well or pit. When in digging into the earth, the side is excavated by a falling of a quantity of earth, it is said to cave in.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Cave. The most remarkable caves noticed in Scripture are, that in which Lot dwelt after the destruction of Sodom,  Genesis 19:30; the cave of Machpelah,  Genesis 23:17; cave of Makkedah,  Joshua 10:10; cave of Adullam,  1 Samuel 22:1; cave of Engedi,  1 Samuel 24:3; Obadiah's cave,  1 Kings 18:4; Elijah's cave in Horeb,  1 Kings 19:9; and, the rock sepulchres of Lazarus and of our Lord.  Matthew 27:60;  John 11:38. Caves were used for temporary dwelling-places and for tombs.

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): (v. i.) To fall in or down; as, the sand bank caved. Hence (Slang), to retreat from a position; to give way; to yield in a disputed matter.

(2): (v. i.) To dwell in a cave.

(3): (n.) To make hollow; to scoop out.

(4): (n.) A hollow place in the earth, either natural or artificial; a subterraneous cavity; a cavern; a den.

(5): (n.) A coalition or group of seceders from a political party, as from the Liberal party in England in 1866. See Adullam, Cave of, in the Dictionary of Noted Names in Fiction.

(6): (n.) Any hollow place, or part; a cavity.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [9]

 1 Samuel 22:1 (c) It is a type of the hiding place of GOD's people when they are persecuted, oppressed, and distressed. They flee to the "secret place of the Most High."

ps57 (Title). (c) This indicates that when GOD's people are in the most difficult positions and in distressing situations, they may still sing and express their faith in the living GOD. See ps142 (Title).

 Isaiah 2:19 (a) This is not a figure but will actually take place when the great men of the earth seek to hide from GOD. (See  Revelation 6:15).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

kāv ( מערה , me‛ārāh (compare Arabic maghārah ), חור , ḥōr ( Job 30:6 the King James Version), מחלּות , mehīllōth ( Isaiah 2:19 ); ὀπή , opḗ ( Hebrews 11:38 ), σπήλαιον , spḗlaion ( John 11:38 ); ḥōr , more often rendered "hole," is akin to Arabic khaur , "gulf" or "inlet," but is also related to me‛ārāh (compare also Arabic ghaur "low-land," especially of the Jordan valley and Dead Sea). Meḥillōth (root, ḥālal , "to pierce" (compare Arabic khall , "to pierce")) occurs only in  Isaiah 2:19 , where the King James Version has "caves" and translates me‛ārōth in the same verse by "holes." In the Revised Version (British and American) these words are very properly changed about. Spēlaion is a common Greek word for "cave"; opē means rather "hole"): In Palestine as in other limestone countries, caves are of frequent occurrence, and not a few of large size are known. Water from the rain and snow, seeping down through cracks, enlarges the passages through which it goes by dissolving away the substance of the rock. Just as upon the surface of the land the trickling streams unite to form brooks and rivers, so many subterranean streams may come together in a spacious channel, and may issue upon the surface as a bold spring. The cave of the Dog River near Beirût and that of 'Afḳa (perhaps Aphek ( Joshua 13:4 )) in Lebanon are excellent examples of this. Not infrequently after forming a cave the stream of water may find some lower outlet by a different route, leaving its former course dry. In some cases the hinder part of the roof of the cave may fall in, leaving the front part standing as a natural bridge. Numerous shallow caves, especially in the faces of cliffs, are formed not by seeping water, but by atmospheric erosion, a portion of a relatively soft stratum of rock being hollowed out, while harder strata above and below it are but little worn away. Many of the hermits' caves originated in this way and were artificially enlarged and walled up at the mouth. The principal caves mentioned in the Bible are those of Machpelah , Makkedah and Adullam (which see). See Den .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cave'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.