From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Smith's Bible Dictionary [1]

Tomb. From the burial of Sarah, in the cave of Machpelah,  Genesis 23:19, to the funeral rites prepared for Dorcas,  Acts 9:37, there is no mention of any sarcophagus, or even coffin, in any Jewish burial. Still less were the rites of the Jews, like those of the Pelasgi or Etruscans. They were marked with the same simplicity, that characterized all their religious observances. This simplicity of rite led to what may be called the distinguishing characteristic of Jewish sepulchres - the deep Loculus - which, so far as is now known, is universal in all purely Jewish rock-cut tombs, but hardly known elsewhere.

Its form will be understood by referring to the following diagram, representing the forms of Jewish sepulture. In the apartment marked A, there are twelve such Loculi about two feet in width by three feet high. On the ground floor, these generally open on the level of the door; when in the upper story, as at C, on a ledge or platform, on which the body might be laid to be anointed, and on which the stones might rest, which closed the outer end of each Loculus .

The shallow Loculus is shown in chamber B, but was apparently only used, when sarcophagi were employed, and, therefore, so far as we know, only during the Graeco-Roman period, when foreign customs came to be adopted. The shallow Loculus would have been singularly inappropriate, and inconvenient, where an unembalmed body was laid out to decay, as there would, evidently , be no means of shutting it off from the rest of the catacomb.

The deep Loculus , on the other hand, was strictly conformable with Jewish customs, and could easily be closed by a stone fitted to the end, and luted, into the groove which usually exists there. This fact is especially interesting as it affords a key to much that is, otherwise, hard to be understood in certain passages in the New Testament; Thus in  John 11:39 Jesus says, "Take Ye Away The Stone," and,  John 11:40, "they took away the stone" without difficulty, apparently. And in  John 20:1, the same expression is used "the stone is taken away."

There is one catacomb - that known as the "tomb of the kings" - which is closed by a stone rolled across its entrance; but it is the only one, and the immense amount of contrivance, and fitting which it has required, is sufficient proof that such an arrangement was not applied, to any other of the numerous rock tombs, around Jerusalem, nor could the traces of it have been obliterated, had if anywhere existed. Although, therefore, the Jews were singularly free from the pomps, and vanities, of funereal magnificence, they were at all stages of their independent existence , an eminently burying people.

Tombs of the patriarchs. - One of the most striking events, in the life of Abraham, is the purchase of the field of Ephron, the Hittite at Hebron, in which was the cave of Machpelah, in order that he might therein, bury Sarah his wife, and that it might be a sepulchre, for himself and his children. There, he and his immediate descendants were laid 3700 years ago, and there they are believed to rest now, under the great mosque of Hebron; but no one, in modern times, has seen their remains, or been allowed to enter into the cave, where they rest. From the time when Abraham established the burying-place of his family at Hebron, till the time when David fixed that of his family in the city which bore his name, the Jewish rulers had no fixed, or favorite, place of sepulture. Each was buried on his own property, or where he died, without much caring for either the sanctity, or convenience chosen.

Tomb of the kings. - Of the twenty-two kings of Judah, who reigned at Jerusalem, from 1048 to 590 B.C., eleven, or exactly one half, were buried in one hypogeum, in the "city of David." Of all these, it is merely said that, they were buried in "the sepulchres of their fathers," or "of the kings," in the city of David, except of two - Asa and Hezekiah. Two more of these kings - Jehoram and Joash - were buried also in the city of David, "but not in the sepulchres of the kings."

The passage in  Nehemiah 3:18 and in  Ezekiel 43:7;  Ezekiel 43:9. Together with the reiterated assertion of the books of Kings and Chronicles that these sepulchres were situated in the city of David, leaves no doubt that they were on Zion, or the Eastern Hill, and in the immediate proximity of the Temple.

Up to the present time, we have not been able to identify one single sepulchral excavation about Jerusalem that can be said, with certainty, to belong to a period anterior to that of the Maccabees, or more correctly, to have been used for burial before the time of the Romans. The only important hypogeum, which is wholly Jewish in its arrangement, and may, consequently, belong to an earlier or to any epoch, is that known as the tombs of the prophets, in the western flank of the Mount of Olives. It has every appearance of having originally been a natural cavern improved by art, and with an external gallery, some 140 feet in extent, into which twenty-seven deep, or Jewish, Loculi , open.

Graeco-Roman tombs. - Besides the tombs above enumerated, there are around Jerusalem, in the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, and on the plateau to the north, a number of remarkable rock-cut sepulchres, with more or less architectural decoration, sufficient to enable us to ascertain that they are all of nearly the same age, and to assert with very tolerable confidence, that the epoch to which they belong, must be between the introduction of Roman influence, and the destruction of the city by Titus, A.D. 70. In the village of Siloam, there is a monolithic cell of singularly Egyptian aspect, which Deuteronomy Saulcy assumes to be a chapel of Solomon's Egyptian wife. It is probably of very much more modern date, and is more Assyrian, than Egyptian, in character.

The principal remaining architectural sepulchres may be divided into three groups:

First, those existing in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and known popularly as the tombs of Zechariah of St. James and of Absalom.

Second, those known as the tombs of the Judges, and the so-called Jewish tomb about a mile north of the city.

Third, that known as the tomb of the kings, about half a mile north of the Damascus Gate. Of the three first-named tombs, the most southern is known as that of Zechariah; a popular name which there is not even a shadow of tradition to justify.

Tombs of the judges. - The hypogeum known as the tombs of the judges is one of the most remarkable of the catacombs around Jerusalem, containing about sixty deep Loculi , arranged in three stories; the upper stories with ledges in front, to give convenient access, and to support the stones that close them; the lower flush with the ground; the whole, consequently, so essentially Jewish that it might be of any age if it were not for its distance from the town and its architectural character.

Tombs of Herod. - The last of the great groups enumerated above, is that known as the tomb of the kings - Kebur Es Sulton - or the Royal Caverns, so called because of their magnificence and also because, that name is applied to them by Josephus. They are twice again mentioned under the title of the "monuments of Herod." There seems no reason for doubting that all the architectural tombs of Jerusalem, belong to the age of the Romans.

Tomb of Helena of Adiabene. - There was one other very famous tomb at Jerusalem, which cannot he passed over in silence, though not one vestige of it exists - the supposed tomb of Helena. We are told that, "she , with her brother, was buried in the pyramids, which she had ordered to be constructed, at a distance of three stadia from Jerusalem." Joseph. Ant. Xx. 4,3. This is confirmed by Pelusanias. Viii. 16. The tomb was situated outside the third wall, near a gate between the tower Psephinus, and the Royal Caverns. B.J. V 22 and v. 4,2. The people still cling to their ancient cemeteries, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, with a tenacity singularly characteristic of the east. See Burial; Sepulchres .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Μνημεῖον (Strong'S #3419 — Noun Neuter — mnemeion — mnay-mi'-on )

is almost invariably rendered "tomb" or "tombs" in the RV, never "grave," sometimes "sepulchre;" in the AV, "tomb" in  Matthew 8:28;  27:60;  Mark 5:2;  6:29 . See GRAVE No. 1, Sepulchre

2: Μνῆμα (Strong'S #3418 — Noun Neuter — mnema — mnay'-mah )

rendered "tombs" in  Mark 5:3,5;  Luke 8:27 : see Grave , No. 2, SEPULCHRE.

3: Τάφος (Strong'S #5028 — Noun Masculine — taphos — taf'-os )

akin to thapto, "to bury," is translated "tombs" in  Matthew 23:29; elsewhere "sepulchre." See Sepulchre.

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( v. t.) To place in a tomb; to bury; to inter; to entomb.

(2): ( n.) A monument erected to inclose the body and preserve the name and memory of the dead.

(3): ( n.) A pit in which the dead body of a human being is deposited; a grave; a sepulcher.

(4): ( n.) A house or vault, formed wholly or partly in the earth, with walls and a roof, for the reception of the dead.

King James Dictionary [4]

TOMB, n. toom. L. tumulus, a heap or hillock tumeo, to swell.

1. A grave a pit in which the dead body of a human being is deposited.

As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.

2. A house or vault formed wholly or partly in the earth, with walls and a roof for the reception of the dead. 3. A monument erected to preserve the memory of the dead.

TOMB, To bury to inter. See Entomb.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

See Sepulchre .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

See Funeral .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [7]

See Sepulchre.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

( גָּדַישׁ , a Tumulus,  Job 21:32; elsewhere "stack" or "shock" of corn; Τάφος , Μνῆμα , or , Μνημεῖον , usually "sepulcher" ). The most conspicuous objects in Palestine to this day are its Tombs, called, according to the person commemorated, or the purpose of commemoration, Keber, or Mazar, or Wely. One does not find this to be the case throughout Europe, where tombs are not usually conspicuous; but in Egypt and Syria they meet the eye in all directions, and are, with a few exceptions, Mohammedan erections. In Egypt, the tombs of its ancient kings, and the more modern tombs of the Mamelukes, are very remarkable and interesting. In the Sinaitic desert there are some interesting graveyards, dotted with unhewn stones and adorned with the retem, or broom; and one of these places of sepulture is known as Turbbet-es-Yahuid, the graves of the Jews. There is only one conspicuous monument in it, Kuber Nebi Harmin, the "tomb of the prophet Aaron," on Mount Hor. But soon after entering Palestine you find tombs in all directions. At Hebron you have the tomb of Abraham and the patriarchs in the well-known cave of Machpelah, marked or rather concealed by a Moslem mosque. On one of the eastern hills, seen from the heights above Hebron, you have the tomb of Lot; farther on, the tomb of Rachel; and, then, as you approach Jerusalem, the tomb of David, outside the modern city, and the tomb of Samuel, on a height above Gibeon, some seven miles to the north-west, greets your eye. As you traverse the land you meet with these monuments in all positions-the tomb of Jonah near Sidon, and even the tomb of Abel a little farther north!

Besides these conspicuous objects, there are others less visible, but quite as remarkable. At Hebron there is the Jewish burying-ground covered with large slabs, and. curious tombs cut in the rock, with loculi on all sides, which are probably patriarchal, or at least Jewish. Around Jerusalem there. are numerous tombs, many of them remarkable for their beauty, their size, their peculiar structure. (See Jerusalem).

Almost all of these are Jewish, and give us a good idea of "how the manner of the Jews was to bury." Whoever could afford it chose the Rock, Not the Earth, for the covering of his body, and preferred to have his body deposited on a clean rocky shelf, not let down into and covered over with the soil. Hence our ideas of burial are not the same as those of the Jews. According to us, there is always the letting down into the earth; according to them, there is the taking possession of some stony chamber for the last sleep. Hence the expression "Buried with him by baptism into death" would not to a Hebrew suggest immersion, as it seems to do to us, and to the early Christian the symbol of baptismal burial would be associated with the Lord's own tomb.

The first mention of a eber, or burying-place, in Scripture is in  Genesis 23:4, where Abraham asks the sons of Heth for the "possession of a keber," receiving for answer, "In the choice of our kebers bury thy dead." After this there is frequent mention of these sepulchers, and some of them are specially singled out for notice. Yet Machpelah was the most memorable; and we know not if ever a tomb was more touchingly and poetically described than by Jacob on his death-bed in Egypt, when, looking back on the land from which he was an exile, the land of his fathers sepulchers, he points as with his finger to the well-known patriarchal burying place-" There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah" ( Genesis 49:31). We have also Kibroth-hataavah, the graves of lust, in the wilderness ( Numbers 11:34); the tomb of Joash in Ophrah, where Gideon was buried ( Judges 8:32); the tomb of Manoah between Zorah and Eshtaol, where Samson was buried ( Judges 16:31); the tomb of Zeruiah (or her husband) in Bethlehem, where Asahel was buried (2 Samuel 2, 32); the tomb of Abner in Hebron ( 2 Samuel 3:32;  2 Samuel 4:12); the tomb in Giloh of Ahithophel's father, where his suicide son was buried; the paternal and maternal tomb in Gilead, in which Barzillai sought burial ( 2 Samuel 19:37); the tomb of Kish in Zelah, where the bones of Saul and Jonathan were deposited ( 2 Samuel 21:14); the tomb of the old prophet in Bethel (1 Kings 13,-30); the tomb of Elisha, probably near Jericho ( 2 Kings 13:21); the tombs of" the children of the people," in the valley of the Kedron (23, 6); the tombs in "the Mount," near Bethel ( 2 Kings 13:16); the tomb or tombs of David ( Nehemiah 3:16); the tombs of the kings ( 2 Chronicles 21:20). The Newest references to "tombs" are chiefly in connection with the Lord's burial. His tomb is called sometimes Τάφος ( Matthew 27:61), sometimes Μνῆμα ( Luke 23:53), and sometimes Μνημεῖον ( John 19:41).

At this day the tombs of Syria are either like our own, underground, as at Hebron, Tiberias, and the valley of Jehoshaphat; or in artificial excavations in the rock, as in the ridge south of Jerusalem (Aceldama), the tombs of the prophets on Olivet, the tombs of the kings and judges north and north-west of the city; or entirely above ground, as the tomb of Rachel, of Absalom, of Samuel, and of Joseph.

All (in Jewish ages) who could bear the cost seem to have chosen the rocky excavation for sepulture, as in the case of Joseph of Arimathsea. This is evident from such a passage as  Isaiah 22:16, addressed to Shebna the treasurer," What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulcher here, as he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high, that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" It is supposed by Lowth, Scott, Alexander, etc., that Shebna was a foreigner, and that the questions what and whom refer to this, implying that he had no right to such an honor. It was, perhaps, peculiarly a national privilege, so that, as no Gentile could inherit the land, none could obtain such a place for a tomb as he could call his own. The question then would be, "What connection hast thou with Israel that thou assumest one of Israel's special privileges?" Possibly, however, he was only a person of low origin from a distant part of the country, and of ungodly principles, who vainly thought to establish for himself a name and a place in Jerusalem.

The large tombs, such as those of the kings and judges, have no inscriptions; but the flat stones in the valley of Jehoshaphat have their epitaphs, some of considerable length in Hebrew, with the title ציון at the top, that word meaning originally a cippus or pillar ( 2 Kings 23:17;  Ezekiel 39:15), and in Talmudical Hebrew denoting a sign or mark (Levi, Linguta Sacra, vol. 5, s.v.; Carpzov, Notes on Goodwin, p. 645). This last writer tells us that the use of such a mark was specially to warn off passers-by lest they should contract uncleanness by touching the grave. For this end, also, the tombs were whitewashed every year on the 15th of Adar (Lamy, Apparatus Biblicus, I, 14). (See Sepulchre).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]