According to the accounts of those who came here with these princely visitors, the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and Leah are in separate apartments lined with marble and approached through silver gates. The place of honor, in the centre, is occupied by the tomb of Isaac. Between the tombs of Abraham and Isaac is a circular opening; and it appears probable that the structures which are seen are merely modern cenotaphs, the actual sepulchres being in a subterranean cavern at a still lower depth. The floor of the enclosure is covered to some depth with pieces of paper, which represent the accumulations of centuries. They are written petitions to Abraham, which pious Moslems have dropped through an aperture above.
Abraham' S Oak - Hebron.
The Banishment Of Hagar.
"Is this the real cave of Machpelah?" we inquired. "Can this be the actual tomb which Abraham acquired forty centuries ago, with all the formality and care revealed in the description given of that bargain in the Book of Genesis?" It seems at first incredible; but there are many arguments in favor of its genuineness. In the first place, a tomb like this, cut from the solid rock, would (if not purposely destroyed) endure as long as the surrounding hills. Again, since Abraham was a distinguished man, and a powerful leader at the time of his death, it was at once revered as an especially sacred burial-place, the sanctity of which increased as time went by. Neither Jews nor Christians, Arabs nor Crusaders, have ever shown the slightest disposition to disturb the graves of those illustrious dead. In fact, the evidence is so remarkably complete that few, if any, are disposed to question it. Undoubtedly, the time will come when the exclusion practiced by the Moslems will be overruled, and this extraordinary relic of antiquity will be thrown open to Christian eyes and thoroughly explored. Hut even now, the fact that Hebron holds the cavern of Machpelah, in which four thousand years ago were buried the great patriarchs of the Hebrew race, gives to this region of Judaea a unique importance and undying fame.
Cave Of Machpelah.
Our visit to Hebron naturally recalled to us that lovely painting in the Dresden Gallery, portraying Hagar driven from the house of Abraham, and going forth with her child Ishmael to live and die in exile. How little did the patriarch think, when he reluctantly consented to that sad expulsion, that the descendants of the outcast Hagar would for a thousand years exclude the offspring of her rival Sarah from all access to his tomb! Yet so it is. The rock-hewn sepulchres of Abraham and Isaac have been for centuries protected by the sons of Ishmael.
Filled with the memories awakened by the patriarchs' graves, on our return to Jerusalem we visited one of its most impressive features. It is an ancient wall, consisting largely of huge blocks of stone, which once formed part of the old Hebrew temple. This to the Jews is by far the most sacred portion of the city. What matters it to them that Christian sects wrangle or worship round the Holy Sepulchre, or that Mohammedans kneel in prayer within the Mosque of Omar? They know that these colossal fragments of the time of Solomon antedate by a thousand years even the oldest of all such memorials. Here, every Friday, century after century, the wretched exiles from Mount Zion have come to kiss or bathe with tears these relics of their former glory. Now they are free to do so; but in past ages they have paid enormous sums to their oppressors for this miserable privilege.
Woman And Child - Hebron.
It is a most pathetic instance of a nation's grief. No one who has a particle of sympathy with human sorrow can gaze upon that sight without emotion. For, while some read aloud from the Old Testament words which describe the splendor of the Hebrew monarchy, others moan and sob, and beat their trembling hands against the wall. Their grief is evidently genuine, for I saw tears on many a cheek, especially when such plaintive passages from Holy Writ as these were read: "How hath the Lord cast down from heaven to earth the beauty of Israel! How is the gold become dim and the most fine gold changed! Our holy and our beautiful house, wherein our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire. We are become a scorn and a derision to our neighbors. Oh, Lord! behold, we are Thy people. Remember not our iniquity forever. Oh! let Thy tender mercies speedily redeem us! We are brought very low."