We just recently celebrated easter which of course celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Many people from around the world usually (when it is not a pandemic) visit two locations that people believe are tombs that Joseph of Arimathea owned and allowed Jesus to be buried in, one being in the middle of the Old City at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the other at the Garden Tomb. These two tombs are of course empty, but there are other famous biblical tombs in Israel that are often visited.
Here are some of the most famous biblical tombs in the Holy Land:
Cave of the Patriarchs
One of the most famous biblical tombs in the holy land is the Cave of Patriarchs which claims to be the final resting place of Abraham. It is considered by Jews to only be beaten in importance by the Temple Mount itself. Muslims also hold it in high reverence. The belief is held that Abraham purchased this burial plot and not only is he buried here, but also his wife Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are all thought to be buried in these caves.
The Bible details the purchase of land from Ephron the Hittite and the subsequent burials in the area throughout the book of Genesis, beginning with Sarah in Chapter 23. In excavations of the area, evidence from as early as the First Temple period were found, showing that the area was likely a place of pilgrimage since at least that long ago. Herod built a structure over it that is now the only surviving Herodian structure left mostly in tact.
The Cave of the Patriarchs is located in Hebron which is located in the West Bank.
Tomb of Rachel
Although Leah and Jacob were buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs, Jacob’s other wife, Rachel was not. Rachel was instead buried near Bethlehem as described in Genesis 35:19-20. This site is considered the third holiest site in all of Judaism and among the most famous biblical tombs in Israel.
This site is sometimes disputed as there is thought the actual location of it is in the north of the country in Benjamite territory. Excavations have shown that this tomb was not built over any caves (where ancient Israelites were buried) but instead one was nearby. This tomb is first mentioned in the 4th century.
King David’s Tomb
The Old City of Jerusalem is known to be home to the traditional tomb of Jesus, but his tomb is not the only of the famous biblical tombs in Israel, even if there is little to no evidence of the tomb being authentic. King David’s Tomb is located in the Old City on Mt. Zion. This location is venerated by many and contested by many as it wasn’t identified until the 9th century, well over 2000 years after King David’s life. The sarcophagus there, which has been there since the Crusaders placed it, is likely empty, (and not miraculously!). King David, according to the Bible, was actually buried in the City of David. His tomb has not been identified in the area, but there are new discoveries every day!
One important thing to know about this “tomb” is that while the Jews could not get to the Western Wall during the the Jordanian annexation of the Old City, Jews used this building as an alternate location, not only for it’s connection to King David, but also because from the rooftop, you can get a great view of the Temple Mount. They would pray there so they could at least see the Western Wall.
Next time you are in Israel, which we hope will be very soon, consider adding on one of the many tombs available to visit in Israel. While they are not all authentic, they do give a very rich depth of the importance of events and people of the Old Testament to Modern Israel as much as they were then!