From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

MACHPELAH. The name of a locality in which, according to the Priestly narrative of the Hexateuch, were situated a field and a cave purchased by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, to serve as a burial-place for himself and his family (  Genesis 23:17-18 ). Here Sarah was buried by her husband; and subsequently Abraham himself, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were laid to rest in the same spot (  Genesis 49:31 ). The appellation ‘Machpelah,’ which seems in strictness to designate the site comprehensively, is also applied to the actual field and the cave within it, which are respectively called ‘the field of Machpelah’ (  Genesis 23:19;   Genesis 49:30;   Genesis 50:18 ) and the ‘cave of Machpelah’ (  Genesis 23:9;   Genesis 25:9 ). The place is described as being ‘before Mamre’ (  Genesis 25:9 ), ‘before’ usually meaning ‘east of’ (see   Genesis 25:18 ,   Joshua 13:3 ,   1 Kings 11:7 ), just as ‘behind’ signifies ‘west of’ (  Numbers 3:23 ). Mamre, in   Genesis 23:19 , is identified with Hebron, which is the modern el-Khalil (‘the Friend,’ i.e . Abraham, cf.   Isaiah 41:3 ,   James 2:23 ), a town built on the sides of a narrow valley, the main portion of it lying on the face of the E. slope. The traditional site of the cave of Machpelah is on the E. hill, so that it would appear that ancient Hebron was built to the west of the modern city, on the W. hill, and that it has subsequently extended into the valley and climbed the opposite declivity.

Above the supposed site of the cave there is now a rectangular enclosure called the Haram , measuring 181 ft. by 93 ft. internally (the longer axis running from N.W. to S.E.), and surrounded by massive walls 40 ft. high, which are conjectured to date from the time of Herod the Great, though some authorities incline to assign them to a still earlier period. At the S.E. end of the quadrangle is a mosque, once a Christian church, 70 ft. by 93 ft., parts of which are attributed to the 12th century. Within the mosque are cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebekah; in a porch on the N.W. side are those of Abraham and Sarah; whilst at the opposite end of the enclosure are those of Jacob and Leah. The Haram has been but rarely entered by Christians in modern times. King Edward vii. was admitted to it, when Prince of Wales, in 1862; and the present Prince of Wales, with his brother, visited it in 1882. The cave, which is reputed to be the real resting-place of the patriarchs and their wives, is below the floor of the mosque, and is thought to be double, in accordance with a tradition which perhaps is derived from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] rendering of Machpelah as ‘the double cave.’ The entrances to it, of which there are said to be three, are in the flagged flooring of the building. It is doubtful whether any Christian has been allowed to enter it in modern times.

G. W. Wade.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Machpelah ( Mak-Pç'Lah ), Double Cave. A field in Hebron containing the cave which Abraham bought of Ephron the Hittite as a burial-place for his family. A full account of the negotiations, carried on after the oriental forms still prevalent, is given in  Genesis 23:1-20. That cave became the burial-place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah.  Genesis 23:19;  Genesis 25:9;  Genesis 49:29-32;  Genesis 50:12-13. The name does not occur except in the book of Genesis. The cave Machpelah is one of the Bible sites which are positively known. It was situated on the western slope of a hill in Hebron, the town lying for the most part to the south and west. Within an enclosure is a mosque, which was probably erected in the time of Justinian as a Christian church. Visitors are rigidly excluded, but by a special firman of the sultan the Prince of Wales was admitted in 1862, and others have since entered it. Of the cave itself there is no trustworthy account. Captain Warren was told that it had not been entered for 600 years. The Moslems have a superstition that whoever attempts to enter it will be struck dead, and their fanaticism causes them to prohibit any one from making the attempt. It is thought to be possible that the embalmed body of Jacob may still be preserved in the cave, as Egyptian mummies have been found of as early a date.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [3]

 Genesis 23 Genesis 23:19 25:9 49:31 50:13

On the floor of the mosque are erected six large cenotaphs as monuments to the dead who are buried in the cave beneath. Between the cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebekah there is a circular opening in the floor into the cavern below, the cave of Machpelah. Here it may be that the body of Jacob, which was embalmed in Egypt, is still preserved (much older embalmed bodies have recently been found in the cave of Deir el-Bahari in Egypt, see Pharaoh ), though those of the others there buried may have long ago mouldered into dust. The interior of the mosque was visited by the Prince of Wales in 1862 by a special favour of the Mohammedan authorities. An interesting account of this visit is given in Dean Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church. It was also visited in 1866 by the Marquis of Bute, and in 1869 by the late Emperor (Frederick) of Germany, then the Crown Prince of Prussia. In 1881 it was visited by the two sons of the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Sir C. Wilson and others. (See Palestine Quarterly Statement, October 1882).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

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.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

Both a field and a cave which Abraham bought of the children of Heth for a burying place. It was near Hebron; Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were buried there.  Genesis 23:9,17,19;  Genesis 25:9;  Genesis 49:30,31;  Genesis 50:13 . The manner in which the purchase was accomplished is exactly the way bargains are to this day arranged in the East by the Bedouins. See HEBRON.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Machpe'lah. (Double, or A Portion). See Hebron .

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 Genesis 23:19 Genesis 25:9 Genesis 49:29 Genesis 50:13

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

The cave that Abraham bought for a burying place,  Genesis 23:9. The word means double.

See Burial.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

mak - pē´la ( המּכפּלה , ha - makhpēlāh , "the Machpelah"; τὸ διπλοῦν , diploún , "the double"): The name of a piece of ground and of a cave purchased by Abraham as a place of sepulcher. The word is supposed to mean "double" and refers to the condition of the cave. It is translated "double cave" ( τὸ διπλοῦν σπήλαιον , diploún spḗlaion ) in the Septuagint in   Genesis 23:17 . The name is applied to the ground in  Genesis 23:19;  Genesis 49:30;  Genesis 50:13 , and to the cave in  Genesis 23:9;  Genesis 25:9 . In  Genesis 23:17 we have the phrase "the field of Ephron, which was in (the) Machpelah."

The cave belonged to Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, from whom Abraham purchased it for 400 shekels of silver ( Genesis 23:8-16 ). It is described as "before," i.e. "to the East of" Mamre ( Genesis 23:17 ) which ( Genesis 23:19 ) is described as the same as Hebron (see, too,  Genesis 25:9;  Genesis 49:30;  Genesis 50:13 ). Here were buried Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. (Compare however the curious variant tradition in  Acts 7:16 , "Shechem" instead of "Hebron.")

Josephus ( Bj , IV, ix, 7) speaks of the monuments ( mnēmeı́a ) of Abraham and his posterity which "are shown to this very time in that small city (i.e. in Hebron); the fabric of which monuments are of the most excellent marble and wrought after the most excellent manner"; and in another place he writes of Isaac being buried by his sons with his wife in Hebron where they had a monument belonging to them from their forefathers ( Ant. , I, xxii, 1). The references of early Christian writers to the site of the tombs of the patriarchs only very doubtfully apply to the present buildings and may possibly refer to Rāmet el - Khalı̄l (see Mamre ). Thus the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333 AD) mentions a square enclosure built of stones of great beauty in which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried with their wives. Antonius Martyr (circa 600) and Arculf (698) also mention this monument. Mukaddasi speaks (circa 985) of the strong fortress around the tombs of the patriarchs built of great squared stones, the work of Jinns, i.e. of supernatural beings. From this onward the references are surely to the present site, and it is difficult to believe, if, as good authorities maintain, the great buttressed square wall enclosing the site is work at least as early as Herod, that the earlier references can be to any other site. It is certain that the existing buildings are very largely those which the Crusaders occupied; there are many full references to this place in medieval Moslem writers.

The Ḥaram at Hebron, which present-day tradition, Christian, Jewish and Moslem, recognizes as built over the cave of Machpelah, is one of the most jealousy guarded sanctuaries in the world. Only on rare occasions and through the exercise of much political pressure have a few honored Christians been allowed to visit the spot. The late King Edward 7 in 1862 and the present King George V, in 1882, with certain distinguished scholars in their parties, made visits which have been chiefly important through the writings of their companions - S tanley in 1862 and Wilson and Conder in 1882. One of the latest to be accorded the privilege was C.W. Fairbanks, late vice-president of the United States of America. What such visitors have been permitted to see has not been of any great antiquity nor has it thrown any certain fight on the question of the genuineness of the site.

The space containing the traditional tombs is a great quadrangle 197 ft. in length (Northwest to Southeast) and 111 ft. in breadth (Northeast to Southwest). It is enclosed by a massive wall of great blocks of limestone, very hard and akin to marble. The walls which are between 8,9 ft thick are of solid masonry throughout. At the height of 15 ft. from the ground, at indeed the level of the floor within, the wall is set back about 10 inches at intervals, so as to leave pilasters 3 ft. 9 inches wide, with space between each of 7 ft. all round. On the longer sides there are 16 and on the shorter sides 8 such pilasters, and there are also buttresses 9 ft. wide on each face at each angle. This pilastered wall runs up for 25 ft., giving the total average height from the ground of 40 ft. The whole character of the masonry is so similar to the wall of the Jerusalem Ḥaram near the "wailing place" that Conder and Warren considered that it must belong to that period and be Herodian work.

The southern end of the great enclosure is occupied by a church - probably a building entirely of the crusading period - with a nave and two aisles. The rest is a courtyard open to the air. The cenotaphs of Isaac and Rebecca are within the church; those of Abraham and Sarah occupy octagonal chapels in the double porch before the church doors; those of Jacob and Leah are placed in chambers near the north end of the Ḥaram . The six monuments are placed at equal distances along the length of the enclosure, and it is probable that their positions there have no relation to the sarcophagi which are described as existing in the cave itself.

It is over this cave that the chief mystery hangs. It is not known whether it has been entered by any man at present alive, Moslem or otherwise. While the cave was in the hands of the Crusaders, pilgrims and others were allowed to visit this spot. Thus Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, writing in 1163 AD, says that "if a Jew comes, who gives an additional fee to the keeper of the cave, an iron door is opened, which dates from the times of our forefathers who rest in peace, and with a burning candle in his hand the visitor descends into a first cave which is empty, traverses a second in the same state and at last reaches a third which contains six sepulchres - those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, one opposite the other.... A lamp burns in the cave and upon the sepulchre continually, both night and day." The account reminds us of the condition of many Christian tomb-shrines in Palestine today.

It would appear from the description of modern observers that all entrance to the cave is now closed; the only known approaches are never now opened and can only be reached by breaking up the flags of the flooring. Through one of the openings - which had a stone over it pierced by a circular hole 1 ft. in diameter - near the northern wall of the old church, Conder was able by lowering a lantern to see into a chamber some 15 ft. under the church. He estimated it to be some 12 ft. square; it had plastered walls, and in the wall toward the Southeast there was a door which appeared like the entrance to a rock-cut tomb. On the outside of the Ḥaram wall, close to the steps of the southern entrance gateway is a hole in the lowest course of masonry, which may possibly communicate with the western cave. Into this the Jews of Hebron are accustomed to thrust many written prayers and vows to the patriarchs.

The evidence, historical and archaeological seems to show that the cave occupies only the south end of the great quadrilateral enclosure under part only of the area covered by the church. See Hebron .

Pef , III., 333-46; Pefs , 1882,197; 1897,53; 1912,145-150; Hdb , III., article "Machpelah," by Warren; Stanley, Sp and Lectures on the Jewish Church  ; "Pal under the Moslems," Pef  ; Pilgrim Text Soc. publications.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

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

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Machpe´lah (twofold, double), the name of the plot of ground containing the cave which Abraham bought of Ephron the Hittite for a family sepulcher [HEBRON].