Hebron sits 40 kilometers south of Jerusalem, which is to the south of the hills of Judea. In Scripture, Hebron is also known as Kiriath Arba (Gen. 23:2) or Mare (Gen. 23:19). According to archaeological records, Hebron is a historical city of over 5000 years, built seven years earlier than the Egyptian city of Zoan (Num. 13:22). Due to its rich soil and an abundant supply of water suitable for agriculture, many have called Hebron home since generations ago.
One remarkable piece of ancient ruins found in Hebron is Machpelah, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah were buried (Gen. 23:17-20, 25:9, 49:31, 50:7-13). Because Abraham is the forefather of both Jews and Arabs, both Judaism and Islam regard Hebron as a sacred place. It is no wonder that Hebron has been a contested city over time.
During the Roman Empire, Edomite Herod came to power as the client king of Judea (governing all Palestine in 37-4 B.C.; mentioned in Matthew 2). To pay respect to the Jews’ religion and tradition, Herod had landmark architecture erected in ancient Hebron’s Machpelah as well as near the Oak of Mamre.
From 6th century Byzantine Empire to 7th century Arab caliphate, there were churches and mosques built in Hebron. Today, on top of Machpelah, the Ibrahimi Mosque even displays the burial items of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.
Fast forward to contemporary Hebron, the city lies in the west region of Palestinian governance. During the Third Arab-Iraeli War (a.k.a. the Six-Day War) in 1967, Israel took over Hebron. Later in 1979, a wave of Jews took residence in the city center. Today, there are about 160,000 Palestinians and 700 Jews living in Hebron. In 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognized the old city of Hebron as a World Heritage Site.
According to biblical records, when Saul died after battle (1010 B.C.), David settled in the towns of Hebron by God’s command and was anointed as king of Judah by the people (2 Sam. 2:1-4). But why Hebron? Besides its geographical advantage for military purposes, the people of the towns of Hebron were also of David’s tribe, whom he had interacted with earlier before he became king (1 Sam. 30:26, 31).
In addition, Hebron is located in Judah’s valley in between the mountains that range up to 900 meters, making it a prime place for the nation’s economic and military development. Geographically, Hebron is still quite some distance away from territory of Saul and of neighboring Philistines and Amorites. Before occupying Jerusalem, David reigned as king of Judah for seven years and six months (2 Sam. 5:3-5).
Later when David ruled over the United Monarchy as king (1010-970 B.C.), his son Absalom schemed to overthrow him in Hebron (2 Sam. 15:7-12). After the death of Solomon in 930 B.C., the United Monarch split into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12:17-20). It was in Judah where Rehoboam fortified towns within the region, including Hebron (2 Chronicles 11:5-10). And when the exiled returned from Babylon, some of them settled down in Hebron (Nehemiah 11:25).
For more background and visuals on Hebron, please refer to SOW’s complete study sets on the books of Joshua and 1 Samuel.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.
John H.Walton, Victor H.Matthews and Mark W.Chavalas.《舊約聖經背景註釋》。李永明、徐成德和黃楓皓譯。校園書房出版社。 2006.7。
John H.Walton.《舊約背景與年代表》（修訂及擴大版）。梁潔瓊譯。華神出版社。 1998 。
白雲曉。 《聖經地名詞典》。北京中央編譯出版社。 2001.12。
馬自毅。 《聖經地理》。上海學林出版社。 2005.7。
梁天樞。 《簡明聖經史地圖解》。上海人民出版社。 2006.11。
Holy Light Bible Geography：http://biblegeography.holylight.org.tw/