by Kimberly Troup
Hebron, Shechem, Jerusalem… What do these three cities in Israel have in common? If you read most newspaper articles, they list them as being in the “Occupied West Bank”. However, if you read your Bible you find detailed accounts of real estate transactions, money changing hands, when Jewish patriarchs BOUGHT these three cities. The Bible provides us with concrete evidence that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews, something any Bible believer can trust. And yet these three cities are at the very heart of the area where the world says Jews have no right to live.
Hebron – Genesis 23 So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying,“I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, “My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.” And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants. So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.
Genesis 23 tells us the story of Sarah’s death and Abraham’s actions in order to bury her. He meets with the city council and asks to buy land to bury his wife. They respond and offer to give him the land, rather than sell it to him. Abraham insists that he will pay for the land so he can give Sarah a proper burial. Finally, the Hittites name an outrageous price, 400 shekels of silver. Abraham counts out the money before the council and pays Ephron, the man who owns the land. The chapter ends with the statement that this land, the Cave of Machpelah, the trees, and the fields that surround the cave are all deeded to Abraham. His first purchase of land in the Promised Land.
Today, you can go to Hebron and visit the Cave of Machpelah. The cave itself is no longer accessible but on top of the cave is the oldest standing building in the world that is still used daily, built by King Herod more than 2,000 years ago. I’ve been to Hebron many times and it is an amazing place. As you walk into the synagogue housed in that building it is with a sense of awe. Here in this very place, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah are all buried. Here is the very heart of an entire chapter of the Bible, and you can see it come to life right under your feet.
In 1993 most of the city of Hebron was transferred to the Palestinian Authority in the Land for Peace travesty. Only the oldest part of the city remains in Israeli hands, where the Cave of Machpelah is located and where the ancient Jewish community lived for hundreds of years well into the 20th century, today, there is only a small Jewish presence in Hebron, and though they are surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors, the community is thriving and growing. The Jews who live in Hebron are there because they have a deep faith in God and they believe the Bible is true. They are continuing an ancient tradition of Jewish life in this city since the time of Abraham. Even during the exile from the land, there has almost always been a tiny remnant in the Land and in this city. Because of their title deed spelled out in an entire chapter in Genesis, Jews never willingly left Hebron.
The city of Hebron, the cave of Machpelah and the adjacent modern-day community of Kiryat Arba are all on the itinerary for my upcoming tour to Israel March 16-23, 2018. I want to invite you to come and go with me, so you too can see the ancient city of Hebron filled with vibrant Jewish life today. The Bible comes to life in a whole new way as you walk through the city of Hebron and pray in the Cave of Machpelah.
Director, US Office