Mcphelah [Burial place of wife of Ibrahim (P)] & Mamre

by vazir, Thursday, November 07, 2013, 17:11 (2027 days ago) @ vazir

Macphelah & Mamre

The Book of Genesis, in its mention of Ibraheem’s wife Sarah, talks about a cave by the name of “Macphelah”, which served as a burial site. Here are the words of the Patriarch himself, as related by the Bible:

so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you."
(Genesis 23:9).

To summarize the story, is appears that Ibraheem (P) bought a small patch of prairie land and a nearby cave somewhere in the desolate wilderness of Ḥabrān, from a man named Ephron son of Zohar. (The Arabic rendering of the name is ‘Afrūn bin Ṣawḥar). As was the ancient Yemeni tradition, the Patriarch buried his wife in this cave, which the Bible calls “Macphelah”.

It is worth noting that the name, in the Aramaic text, appears as (המכפלה), which is more accurately transliterated as: “ha-Mkflh”, where “ha” is the pronoun article “the”.

His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. (Genesis 25:9 & Genesis 25:10).

The name “Mamre” appears in other passages of the OT, where it is described as a secluded mountainous place with many oak trees (The oaks of Mamre). Another interesting note is the term “Hittite” in the above passage. This is but another relic of the false Masoretic rendering of the Aramaic scripture. The original text speaks of Ephron, the owner of the cave, as being a “ḥt”. The Masorite priests rendered “ḥt” as “Ḥittite” - one of the peoples living in Iraq and the Levant - without so much as a second thought. Our view is that he was a Ḥūthi; i.e. a member of the Bani Hūth, an ancient Yemeni tribe that needs no introduction. (Remember that the old Yemeni dialects did not pronounce the “th” sound, and rendered it as “t” instead).

Did the old and forgotten Arabian sources mention al-Mqflh and Mamre?

Here are a few memorable verses by the poet al-Murār al-Faq‘aṣi, singing a eulogy for his dead brother, who was buried in a place called al-Qufūl, and cursing the circumstances that led him to stand at the site:

ألا قاتلَ الله الأحاديث و المِنى و طيرا جرت بين السعافاتِ و الحبرى
و قاتلَ تثريب العيافة بعدما زجرتُ فما أغنى اعتيافي و لا زجرى
و ما للقفول بعد بدرٍ بشاشة و لا الحي يأتيهم و لا أوبة السفر

What is truly shocking about the above verses is that the poet mentions a place called al-Ḥabra (in the first line), where his brother was killed, then he speaks of the burial site of al-Qufūl (in the third line).

Another Yemeni poet, al-Nābighah al-Dhubiāni, also mentions al-Qufūl in one of his dirges:

إن القُفولَ إلى حيّ و إن بَعُدوا و أمسوا و دونهم ثهلان فالنيرُ

Yet another Arab poet, al-Aḥwaṣ al-Anṣāri, described crying at the burial site of al-Qufūl, as he looked upon the tombs of the deceased and fallen:

فمن بكَ بالقفول قريرَ عَينٍ فما أمسيتُ يعجبني القفولُ

The name al-Qufūl is actually the plural form of al-Quflah, indicating that there was more than one burial cave at the site. (Compare al-Quflah of Arabian poetry to ha-mqflh in the Bible).

Apparently, the ancient Arabian traditions knew of a desolate, mountainous place called Ḥabrān-Ḥabra, the very site of the burial caves known as al-Qufūl. These locations had absolutely no relation to Palestine in any way, shape or form, and only Allah knows who is buried in the city of al-Khaleel, in the alleged “Tomb of Abraham”.

What about the Biblical “Mamre”? Is there any mention of it in the Arabian sources?

Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you”. Then Abram moved his tents, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron. And he built there an altar to the Lord.[Genesis 13:17 - 18].

The Old Testament also tells of another greater and far more important event that took place at the oaks of Mamre:

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. And he lifted up his eyes and behold! He saw three men standing near him. And when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent-door, and bowed himself to the earth, And said: “My Lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, pass not away, I pray you, from your servant. Let now a little water be fetched, that you may wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. I will get a morsel of bread so you can refresh your heart. After that you may go your way, now that you have come to your servant." They said: "Very well, do as you have said.” … And Abraham ran to the herd, and brought a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter and milk and the young ox which he had made ready and put it before them, waiting by them under the tree while they took food. And when they had eaten, they said to him: “Where is Sara thy wife?” He answered: “There she is, in the tent”. He (one of them) said: "I will certainly return to you when the season comes round. Behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Sarah laughed within herself, saying, "After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" And the Lord said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh, saying ‘Shall I certainly bear a child, who am old?’” [Genesis 18: 1-13]

This same story is repeated in the Qur’an, albeit in slightly different details, without mentioning any names:

Has the narrative of the noble guests of Ibraheem come to you (O Muḥammad)? * When they entered upon him, they said: “Peace”. He said: “Peace to a people unknown” * Then, he went to his family and brought a fat calf * He offered it to them, he said: “Do you not eat?” * He then became fearful of them. They said: “Do not fear” and they gave him good news of a knowledgeable son. * His wife then approached in amazement. She slapped her face, and said: “A barren old woman!” * They said: “It was such that your Rabb has said. He is the Wise, the Knowledgeable” * He said: “What is your undertaking, O messengers?” * They said: “We have been sent to a deviant people” * “To send down upon them stones of clay” (51:24-33)

Unlike in the OT version of the story, the “messengers” mentioned in the Qur'anic account were strange-looking folk who were behaving in a rather strange manner. They did not eat the food that was offered to them, as is clear from the passage. In the ancient Arabian traditions, it was considered offensive behavior on the part of a guest to refuse food offered by his host.

Elsewhere in the Qur’an, we find another passage that adds more depth to the story:

And Our messengers came to Ibraheem with good tidings, they said: "Peace". He said: "Peace," and he made no delay in bringing a roasted calf. * But when he saw that their hands did not go towards it, he mistrusted them, and he began to have fear of them. They said: "Have no fear, we have been sent to the people of Lūt * And his wife was standing, so she laughed when We gave her the good news of Isḥāq, and after Isḥāq, Ya‘qūb * She said: "O my! Shall I give birth when I am an old woman, and here is my husband an old man? This is indeed a strange thing!" * They said: "Do you wonder at the decree of Allah? The mercy of Allah and blessings are upon you, O people of the Sanctuary. He is Praiseworthy, Glorious. (11:69-73).

Again, we see evidence that the guests of Ibraheem (P) were indeed odd-looking people who were not behaving according to custom. They reassured their host that they were simply passing by, and were on their way to wreak destruction upon the nearby town of Lut.

Despite the Qur’an not mentioning any place names, we find, in ancient Arabian poetry, the same name that was given by the Old Testament to the place where these events happened. Yemeni warrior-poet ‘Amr bin-Ma‘d Yakreb (more famous by the name Karb al-Zubaydi) said:

و يومَ ممرَ قد حَمِيَت لقائحي و ضَبني عن أبناء جُعفٍ و مازنِ

He is remembering past events of a great battle that took place between the tribes of Hamadān and Zubayd (the poet’s own tribe), in which their foes, the warriors of Hamadān, took refuge in a place called “Mamr”. The day of that battle was called “Yawmu Mamr” (The Day of Mamr). In fact, it was customary for the ancient Arabs to name every tribal battle as “Day of -” (followed by the name of the location where the battle took place). Incidentally, the verse mentions the Arabian clans of Ju‘f and Māzen.

Another Yemeni poet, known simply as Dhul-Rimmah, also sings of the same legendary tree grove - the warrior’s solace of Mamr. Readers of Arabic will note how outstanding the description is. This is simply poetry from the soul:

كأني و رحلي فوق أحقّب لاحه من الصيف شل المُخلفاتِ الرواجع
ممرَ أمرت مَتنهُ أسديّة يمانيّة حَلَت جنوب المضاجع
دعاها من الأصلابِ أصلاب شُنطُبِ أخاديدُ عهدٍ مُستحيل المواقع
كسا الأرض بُهمى غضة حبشيّة نؤاسا و بقعان الظهور الأقارع

Here is what a third poet, Ka‘b bin Zuhair, says of this legendary tree grove:

فكأ ني كّسوتُ ذّلك رّحلي أّّّّّّّو ممرَ اّل سراة جّأباً ذّريرا

The above verse describes “Mamr of the Sarāt”, a grove of oak trees somewhere in the green and fertile highlands of Arabia, the site of the ancient Sanctuary, the heart of the old trade routes, and the true land of the Prophets.

The existence of these locations, within the same geographical domain, in both the old Arabian sources and the Book of Joshua cannot be due to coincidence or linguistic similarities. It is simply not possible for pure happenstance to produce that number of matches.

Source: ARABIA: The Untold Story, Book 2: Road of the Patriarch, Page # 91- 95.

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