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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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HEBRON . A very ancient city in Palestine, 20 miles S.S.W. from Jerusalem. It is in a basin on one of the highest points of the Judæan ridge, being about 3040 ft. above sea-level. A note of its antiquity is given in Numbers 13:22 , which states that it was ‘seven years older than Zoan in Egypt.’ Its original name seems to have been Kiriath-arba ( i.e. probably Tetrapolis , or ‘Four Cities’), and it was a stronghold of the Anakim. In the time of Abraham, however (whose history is much bound up with this place), we read of Hittites here. From Ephron the Hittite he purchased the cave of Machpelah for the burial of Sarah his wife ( Genesis 23:1-20 ). This allusion has given rise to much controversy. At the time of the entry of the Israelites it was held by three chieftains of great stature, Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai ( Numbers 13:22 ). On the partition of the country it was allotted to the tribe of Judah, or rather to the Calebites ( Joshua 14:12; Joshua 15:14 ), who captured it for the Israelite immigrants. The city itself was allotted to the Kohathite Levites, and it was set apart as a city of refuge ( Joshua 20:7 ). Here David reigned seven and a half years over Judah ( 2 Samuel 5:5 ), till his capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites fixed there the capital of the country. It was here also that the rebellious Absalom established himself as king ( 2 Samuel 15:7 ff.). It was fortified by Rehoboam ( 2 Chronicles 11:10 ). After the Captivity it was for a time in the hands of the Edomites (though from Nehemiah 11:25 it would appear to have been temporarily colonized by the returned Jews), but was re-captured by Judas Maccabæus ( 1Ma 5:65 ). In the war under Vespasian it was burned. In 1167 it became the see of a Latin bishop; in 1187 it was captured for the Muslims by Saladin.

The modern town contains about 10,000 inhabitants. Its chief manufactures are glassware and leather water-skins. In the centre is the Haram or mosque, formerly a Crusaders’ church, built over the reputed cave of Machpelah. The modern name is Khalîl er-Rahmân , ‘the friend of the Merciful’ the Muslim title of Abraham. ‘Abraham’s oak’ is shown near the city, but this is as apocryphal as the ascription of a cistern called ‘Sarah’s bath.’ There is a remarkable stone-built enclosure near by called Râmat el-Khalîl; it has been attempted to show this to be Samuel’s Ramah; probably, however, it is nothing more Important than a Muslim khan , built out of earlier materials.

R. A. S. Macalister.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hebron'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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