‘The same is Hebron in the land of Canaan’, Gen. 23. 19
The modern city of Hebron sits in the West Bank territories and is divided into two sectors, one controlled by the Palestinian Authority and one by Israel. It is seen as a place of economic significance because of its fruit, pottery, and glassblowing, and is centred around the traditional cave of Machpelah. It is unlikely to be the place associated with most of the biblical narrative.
Formerly known as Kirjatharba, Gen. 23. 2, Hebron is a place of deep historical significance to the children of Israel. It was in Hebron that Abram dwelt by the oaks of Mamre and built one of his many altars, 13. 18. It was from here that he went and rescued Lot, 14. 13-16. It was also the place where three men stood by him in the tent door, 18. 1. Close to the final resting place of Sarah, 23. 2, 19, it was also the place where Isaac and Jacob spent much of their lives, 35. 27; 37. 14.
As the children of Israel returned to the land after their sojourn in Egypt, Hebron was associated with the exploits of Caleb, who drove out the sons of Anak, Josh. 14. 13; 15. 13, and later it became the place where David was anointed king over Israel, 2 Sam. 5. 3, and from where he reigned until he had captured Jerusalem. Sadly, it became the place from which Absalom’s revolt against his father was planned and executed with the help of Ahithophel, 15. 7, 10, 12, and, as such, little is said of Hebron thereafter. It is in the return under Nehemiah that it reappears under its former name and as a place where ‘some of the children of Judah dwelt’, 11. 25.
This once great centre of Jewish life and seat of Israel’s greatest king illustrates the truth that it is the people that make the place, and, particularly, the Lord’s presence amongst His people that gives it distinction.