This week, the Torah portion is Genesis 23-25:18, called Hayyei Sarah (meaning “the life of Sarah”). It’s been a busy week so I don’t anticipate that this will be a very long post, but I’ve decided to write a bit about the city of Hebron.
Hebron was also known by a couple of other names: Mamre and Kirjath Arba (Genesis 35:27). In my view, it was the closest thing that Abraham had to a home in Canaan, dwelling in tents all his life as he did like a stranger. Many significant events of his life took place at Hebron, beginning with the building of an altar in Genesis 13:18 after God promised to give him the land. Hebron was also Abraham’s base when he went to rescue Lot (14:13); he was staying there when the Lord appeared to tell him that Isaac would be born within a year (18:1); and Sarah died there (23:2).
Hayyei Sarah relates that when this happened, Abraham bought the field of Machpelah facing Hebron, and the cave that was at the edge of the field, for a burial ground. He was interred there when he died too, and Scripture tells us that Isaac and Jacob spent quite a bit of their lives in the area (35:27; 37:14). In fact, all the patriarchs and their wives, except Rachel, were buried at the cave of Machpelah (49:30; 50:13).
Thus Hebron was special to Abraham (as well as Isaac and Jacob). And the fact he chose a burial ground facing that location, to me, indicates that he wanted to remember God’s promises to him and his household in death, as well as in life. … One can imagine the old sojourner making plans to wait out the ages to come, as it were, in an attitude of perpetual expectancy – with his body forever facing the place where some of his greatest personal/spiritual milestones lay. I think this was his final statement of faith, and a wonderful demonstration of his belief in God, because when the resurrection comes, Hebron will be the first thing Abraham looks on when he rises with his family – and all the things he hoped for, all the things that were promised to him there, will have come to pass in that day; all the terms of his covenant will have been completely fulfilled to the glory and praise of God.
Centuries later, Hebron continued to possess significance in the time of Israel. When Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, they went to Hebron and cut the famous cluster of grapes there in the valley of Eshcol (Numbers 13:22-23). And when it was time for the nation to enter the land, the city was given to Caleb the faithful as an inheritance after he drove out the 3 sons of Anak (Joshua 14:6-14; Joshua 15:13-14). Thus it became one of the cities of Judah, and was also set apart for the Kohathite Levites (Joshua 21:8-12), as well as being designated a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7).
Additionally, David received friendship from the people of Hebron while he was still a fugitive (1 Samuel 30:26-31), and after the death of Saul, he was directed by God to go there and make his home (2 Samuel 2:1). There he was anointed king, first by the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), then all the elders of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3), bearing 6 sons (2 Samuel 3:2-5) and reigning from the city for 7.5 years, until he captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (2 Samuel 5:5-9).
Now in a previous post, I shared the following map:
And as I pointed out before, you can see that Hebron is located in the West Bank, one of the supposed occupied territories of Israel. But clearly, being the place where the altars and tombs of the patriarchs are located, the West Bank actually comprises the heartland of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Not only that, it’s an integral part of the history of Israel from the earliest days of her inception, and served as the seat for her greatest king at the beginning of his reign – which means that the Hebrew people have multiple geographical, historical landmarks witnessing their claim on the land and their ancient ties to it. … So that region, again, rightly belongs to the nation of Israel.
Unfortunately, due to lack of time, I’m afraid that’s all I can manage to write this week. But I want to include a few resources here for those who’re interested to learn more about Hebron:
A History of Hebron – taken from the Encyclopedia Judaica; very factual in its presentation and goes even to modern times
Hebron – 4000 Years & 40: The Story of the City of the Patriarchs – a PDF book that, by contrast, presents a very specifically Zionist/Jewish perspective; also goes to modern times and full of interesting information
Did Hebron Disappear? – a survey of the archaeological case for the city’s existence in the time of Joshua’s conquest, which a number of archaeologists dispute
Ancient Bible Cities – broad and general information on the life and design of ancient cities in Bible times
The next portion is about Jacob and Esau… I find it to be quite interesting, and hope to be able to write something a little more substantial. See you all then~