Biblical Hebron

September 25, 2020

Hebron is mentioned more than sixty times in the Bible, the first of which is in Genesis 13:18: “Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.” Remains have been excavated at Hebron which pre-date the patriarch Abraham.

Hebron Excavations Sign. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Tel-Hebron consists of approximately twelve acres. It is located about twenty miles south of Jerusalem. Excavations have uncovered a stretch of wall that is dated to the Early Bronze Age, as seen at left in photo here. The well-preserved staircase is made of natural stone slabs, well worn by the city’s ancient inhabitants. Scholars suggest the path likely led to one of Hebron’s city gates. At right is an additional wall constructed at a later date than that on your left.

Hebron Walls and staircase. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Another important discovery at Hebron is that of an 8th century BC four room house. Some scholars date the house to the time of Judah’s King Hezekiah (r. 715-686).

Four-room house at Hebron. 8th century BC. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Yet another interesting discovery was several l’melech (“belonging to the king”) seals from pottery urns, which are also dated to Hezekiah’s reign.

Info Sign describing the LMLK (belonging to the king) stamps discovered at Hebron. ©Leon Mauldin.

Jeffery Chadwick notes that Hebron

seems to have settled into the role of regional center. This is demonstrated by the phenomenon of l’melekh handles. The term means “(belonging) to the king” or “property of the king.” The four-letter Hebrew designation (LMLK) was stamped into the wet clay of the handle of a certain type of storage jar at the end of the eighth century B.C.E. The jars were probably produced during the reign of King Hezekiah in preparation for the attack on Judah by Sennacherib’s Assyrian army, which occurred in 701 B.C.E.

L’melekh handles display either a two-winged sun disk or a four-winged scarab, but, more importantly for our purposes, they also include the name of one of four cities of Judah. One of these four cities was Hebron. (BAR 31:5, Sept/Oct 2005).

From Tel-Hebron one can see the Cave of Machpelah which Abraham purchased as a burial site. Herod the Great built the edifice which now covers the cave.

Cave of Machpelah as seen from Tel-Hebron. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I have previous posts on Hebron including here, here and here

Click on photos for larger view.


Caleb Inherits Hebron

May 17, 2011

The book of Joshua details the fulfillment of the Land Promise God made to Israel (Josh. 21:43,45). The book consists of twenty-four chapters, and divides exactly in half regarding subject matter. The first twelve chapters record the conquest of Canaan, and the last twelve record the division of the land to each of the tribes of Israel.

Josh 14-15 deal with the inheritance of Judah. It is within that context that the inheritance of Caleb is discussed. Caleb and Joshua were the only two of the 603,550 men of war who were faithful to the Lord and stood their ground at Kadesh-Barnea (Num. 13). All of those men died in the wilderness because of their refusal to take possession of the land (Num. 14ff), except Joshua and Caleb. That was the period of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of Sinai.

That period passed. At the point where Josh. 14 takes up is 45+ years later; now Caleb is age 85 (v.10). Israel had control of the land, but there was still much to be conquered and possessed.

Sheep in street in Hebron. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The biblical text of Josh. 14:6-13 records Caleb’s inheritance request as well as the background and context of that request:

And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9 And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance (ESV).


  1. Caleb’s character. Characterized by wholehearted devotion to God (Josh. 14:8,9,14).
  2. Forty-five years earlier during the crisis at Kadesh-Barnea (Num. 13-14), Caleb discerned what was right and was faithful to it. He did not swerve from this principle.
  3. He was basing his request on the promise of God (v.9).
  4. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons is to notice what Caleb was asking for. There were still giants in the land (Anakim, v.12). There were still fortified cities. Caleb was not asking that land already conquered be given to him. He was asking for the opportunity to fight, to seek to defeat and drive out the Canaanite inhabitants, that the territory of Hebron would thus be his inheritance. At age 85, Caleb was not asking for an easy inheritance, but one full of danger. Yet he looked upon it as an opportunity.
  5. His source of strength in battle was the Lord. His victory was predicated upon the Lord’s being with him (v.12).

Our photo here shows a view of modern Hebron as we look out from the cave of Machpelah.

Hebron as seen from cave of Machpelah. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The chapter concludes,

Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war (Josh. 14:14-15, ESV).

Remember to click on images for larger view.

%d bloggers like this: