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Abraham & Hebron: Archaeology Backs Up the Bible

Abraham & Hebron: Archaeology Backs Up the Bible July 24, 2021

This is one of a series of articles examining if the cities and other places named in the Bible in conjunction with Abraham (c. 1813- c. 1638 BC): are able to be verified by archaeology to have existed during the time of Abraham. This was certainly true with regard to Hebron.

Genesis 13:18 (RSV) So Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the LORD. (cf. “oaks of Mamre”: 14:13; 18:1; “Mamre”: 23:17; 25:9; 49:30; 50:13)

Genesis 23:2 And Sarah died at Kir’iath-ar’ba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; . . . (cf. “Kir’iath-ar’ba”: Joshua 15:13, 54; 20:7; 21:11; Judges 1:10)

Genesis 23:19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Mach-pe’lah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. (cf. “cave” of “Mach-pe’lah”: 23:9, 17; 25:9; 49:30; 50:13)

Genesis 35:27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kir’iath-ar’ba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.

Joshua 14:15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kir’iath-ar’ba; this Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim . . .

Wikipedia (“Hebron”) informs us:

Archaeological excavations reveal traces of strong fortifications dated to the Early Bronze Age, covering some 24–30 dunams centered around Tel Rumeida. The city flourished in the 17th–18th centuries BCE before being destroyed by fire, and was resettled in the late Middle Bronze Age. This older Hebron was originally a Canaanite royal city. Abrahamic legend associates the city with the Hittites. . . .

The story of Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs [burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah] from the Hittites constitutes a seminal element in what was to become the Jewish attachment to the land in that it signified the first “real estate” of Israel long before the conquest under Joshua. In settling here, Abraham is described as making his first covenant, an alliance with two local Amorite clans who became his ba’alei brit or masters of the covenant.

SOURCES

Negev, Avraham; Gibson, S., eds. (2001). Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-14-311489-5, p. 225.

Na’aman, Nadav (2005). Canaan in the 2nd Millennium BCE. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-575-06113-9, p. 180.

Wikimedia’s article on the archaeological site in the city of Hebron (“Tel Rumeida”) adds:

cuneiform economic text, with 4 personal names and a list of animals, unearthed at the site and dated 17-16 century BCE indicates Tel Rumeida/Hebron was composed of a multicultural pastoral society of Hurrians and Amorites, run by an independent administrative system with its palace scribes perhaps under kingly rule.

SOURCES

Jericke, Detlef (January 2003). Abraham in Mamre: Historische und exegetische Studien zur Region von Hebron und zu Genesis 11, 27–19,38. BRILL 2003. ISBN 9004129391, pp. 21-22.

Yonathan Mizrachi, ‘Tel Rumeida Hebron’s Archaeological Park,’Emek Shaveh November 2014.

Richard S. Hess, Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey, Baker Academic, 2007, p.136.

Hebron is also the site of the tomb of Jesse (David’s father) and Ruth. Archaeologist David Ben-Shlomo of Ariel University, in his article, “The Ancient City of Hebron” (Torah.com) describes city walls from Abraham’s time and before:

Already in the Early Bronze Age III (ca. 2600–2200 BCE), the city was fortified with a massive twenty-foot thick city wall, which was exposed by Emanuel Eisenberg underneath the even more massive Middle Bronze Age city.

Philipp Hammond was the first archaeologist to excavate Hebron, during the 1960’s. In the southern part of the tell, Hammond exposed portions of the cyclopean city wall, which he dated to the Middle Bronze Age. Avi Ofer followed during the 1980’s, and Emanuel Eisenberg in 1999 exposed another segment of the same city wall on the northern side of the tell and, using pottery and scarabs from the related floors, securely dated it to the Middle Bronze Age II (1750–1550 BCE). [see a photo of this wall in the article]

The Middle Bronze Age wall exposed on the south side is nearly 200 feet of continuous wall. Several other MB sites in the central hills were fortified by similarly sized walls, as Jerusalem-the City of David, Shechem and Shiloh. The wall stood about 15 feet high in places, nearly 12 feet thick, but was probably originally at least double in height. This massive city wall, built of huge rocks (up to six feet in size), would have been visible from afar to passersby.

SOURCES

Philip C. Hammond, “Hebron,” Revue Biblique 75 (1968): 253–258.

Emanuel Eisenberg. “The Fortifications of Hebron in the Bronze Age (Jerusalem 2011),”Eretz Israel 30:14–32 [Hebrew].

See another article on further Bronze Age excavations in Hebron in 1999. A 2018 article on the city (including a video) noted the discovery that same year of stairs from the time of Abraham (recently opened to the public):

Dr. Emmanual Eisenberg of the Israel Antiquities Authority led the dig in Tel Hevron, known is Arabic as Tel Rumeida. . . . In what is today’s Admot Yishai neighborhood, near the Tomb of Jesse and Ruth is a flight of stairs, over 4,000 years old, leading from the valley below into the ancient city of Hebron.  Also discovered nearby was a 4,500 year old wall from the Early Bronze Era.

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Photo creditLarge stones at the base of the Abrahamic period gate complex in Hebron [public domain / Watch Jerusalem]

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Summary: Archaeology substantiates the biblical data concerning Abraham & Hebron. This (like many similar examples I have been examining) is NOT an example of a “biblical anachronism”.

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Tags: Abraham, Abraham & Hebron, Hebron, ancient Hebrews, ancient Israel, ancient Israelites, ancient Jews, archaeology & the Bible, Bible & History, biblical accuracy, biblical anachronisms, biblical archaeology, Bronze Age Canaan, Canaan, Genesis, Hebrews, Holy Bible, infallibility, Tel Rumeida

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