What is the significance of the cave of Machpelah?Question: "What is the significance of the cave of Machpelah?"
Answer: The cave of Machpelah, also called the Cave of the Patriarchs, is located near the ancient city of Hebron in Israel. The cave of Machpelah is the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. While in Canaan, Abraham purchased a burial place for his wife, Sarah, after her death. The field he bought had belonged to a Hittite named Ephron. “So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded to Abraham as his property” (Genesis 23:17–18). Later, Abraham’s sons buried him in the same spot (Genesis 25:9–10), and Jacob and Esau buried Isaac in the cave of Machpelah, per his instructions. And, in Egypt, Jacob gave his sons a solemn command to bury him in Canaan on the family property: “Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29–32).
Today, the cave of Machpelah is inaccessible, but the area over the cave is the site of a large mosque called the Ibrahimi Mosque or, alternately, the Sanctuary of Abraham. The place is sacred to Muslims and Jews, and both groups have separate, limited access to the building.
For Christians today, there is no major significance to the cave of Machpelah other than historical interest. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and their wives are not at Machpelah but in heaven in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah to whom they looked forward with faith and anticipation. God is “not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27). The fact that all the patriarchs of Israel desired to be buried in Canaan shows their faith in God’s promise to give the land of Canaan to their family. Their faith, rather than their tomb, is the most fitting monument for Christians.
Recommended Resource: Genesis - NIV Application Commentary by John Walton
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Questions about Genesis
What is the significance of the cave of Machpelah?