Rachel's Tomb

RACHEL’s TOMB. According to Genesis 35:19, 20 Jacob set up a pillar over Rachel’s grave, a landmark still existing at the time of Samuel (1 Sam 10:2). E. P. Eddrupp noted: “As Rachel is the first related instance of death in childbearing, so this pillar over her grave is the first recorded example of the setting-up of a sepulchral monument” (A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by W. Smith, II [1863], 989).

Many scholars think that the Bible presents two divergent traditions with regard to the site of the grave. S. H. Hooke argued that (a) according to Genesis 35:16; 1 Samuel 10:2 and Jeremiah 31:15, Ephrath, the stated site (Gen 35:19), lay on the N border of Benjamin, c. ten m. N of Jerusalem; but (b) according to Genesis 35:19 and 48:7 it was near Bethlehem, presumably S of Jerusalem (HBDrev., 830). Moreover, the traditional site is one m. N of Bethlehem and four m. S of Jerusalem. S. V. Fawcett added that Matthew’s quotation of Jeremiah 31:15 with reference to the slaughter of the infants around Bethlehem (Matt 2:16-18) would indicate that he accepted the traditional view (IDB, IV, 5). Regarding the identification of Ephrath with Bethlehem as a late, erroneous gloss both of these men rejected the traditional site and preferred an unidentified Ephrah in the N of Benjamin.

Josephus and the Talmudists agree in placing her tomb near Bethlehem. Origen, Eusebius and Jerome accepted this site. Later the pilgrims described it as a pyramid formed of twelve stones. The Crusaders rebuilt it, erecting a building twenty-three ft. square formed by four columns bound by pointed arches twelve ft. wide and twenty-one ft. high, the whole crowned by a cupola. In 1788 the arches were walled up giving it the appearance of a weli. In 1841 Sir Moses Montefiore obtained for the Jews the key of Qubbet Rahil, and added a poor square vestibule with a mihrab for Moslems (E. Hoade, Guide to the Holy Land [reprinted 1969], 347).


In addition to commentaries on Genesis and Samuel see E. Hoade, Guide to the Holy Land (reprinted 1969), 346, 347.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Mr. Nathan Strauss, of New York City, has purchased the land surrounding Rachel’s grave for the purpose of erecting a Jewish university in the Holy Land.