The Cave of Machpelah

There is no better example of the significance of the number 8 and its linkage with the 50, the 500 and the next world than in the story of the Cave of Machpelah {1} (Genesis 23).

The Cave of Machpelah was purchased by Abraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah of whom it is said died as a result of shock of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by her husband Abraham (See hyperlink the sacrifice of Isaac). The cave was purchased for 400 shekels from Ephron the Hittite of the family of Chet.

Genesis 23:1-2: And Sarah was an hundred and twenty seven years old; these were the years of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba.

Genesis 23:8-9: And he (Abraham) stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, even the Children of Chet, and communed with them saying, if it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; and entreat for me to Ephron (the Hittite), the son of Zohar, that he may give me the Cave of Machpelah

Genesis 23:14-15: And Ephron answered saying unto him, My Lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver.

The death of Sarah and the process of purchase of the mausoleum in Genesis 23 are given in great detail. In all other passages concerning the death of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs and even the death of Moses and of Aaron the description of their death is short and quick … and he died, … and he was buried. Nowhere in the Bible is such detail given to the purchase of the tomb as in the case of the Cave of Machpelah: the question is why?

Let us look at the chapter more carefully.

The word Machpelah, מכפלה spelt mem-caph-peh-lamed-heh, מכis derived from the word caphul, כפל spelt caph-peh-lamed, meaning double. Hence ‘The Cave of Machpelah’ means The Cave of the doubling. The doubling is a forecast of the events to come, whereby afterwards Abraham is buried together with Sarah, Isaac with Rebekah and Jacob with Leah. Ancient lore adds to this list, and says that Adam and Eve is also buried in the Cave, hence making the total 8 persons or 4 couples are buried in the mausoleum.

The land and the Cave was purchased from the Children of the Hittites or Beni Cheth בני-חת and more specifically from Ephron the Hittite or in Hebrew Ephron Ha Chethi.

Ephron the Hittite: Ephron עפרון is spelt ayin-peh-resh-vav-nun. The first three letters are the root of the word apharעפר which can mean both ‘dust’ and ‘ashes’. And the word Hittite or Chethi actually means 8. (Cheth, spelt chet-taf חת is actually the full spelling of the letter chet ח and has the value of 8. So ‘Ephron the Hittite’ therefore means ‘dust of the eight’. This suggests that somehow it was foreseen that eight persons would be buried there.

As we saw in (See hyperlink the eight, circumcision, Asher and Messiah) the number 8 is related to the circumcision on the eighth day and is in order to prepare the child (and the generations afterwards) to pass through this world in order to enter the next world.

‘Dust of the eight’ and the word apharעפר (dust) is related to the phrase: from dust you were made and to dust you shall return, (Genesis 3:19) and the fact that And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground {2} and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul: (Genesis 2:7). Such it is that when we die are bodies undergo the process of reversal and through decomposition we become dust once again.

The term aphar can also mean ‘ashes’ which is also significant since ash is the finite form of which all substance is made. It is the common denominator of everything. When a substance is burnt, only ash remains {3} (see hyperlink the end of time).

Aphar עפר spelt ayin-peh-resh has a value of 70-80-200=350. The significance of 350 is half of 700 the spiritual Sabbath and is discussed in (See hyperlink singularity and duality) and (See hyperlink horned animals).

The name Ephron, is spelt in two ways in the Bible: with the vav as in Genesis 23: 8-17 i.e. ayin-peh-resh-vav (hook)-nun, and without the vav. When Ephron is spelt without the vav as in Genesis 25:9 it is has a value of 400 (ayin-peh-resh-nun = 70-80-200-50 =400). Four hundred, as we know, is the value of the last letter taf ת in the alphabet and highest spiritual level a human can achieve on this earthly plane. Moreover, as indicated above, the full spelling of the letter chet, ח is chet-taf חת and has a numerical sequence of 8-400 showing the relationship between 8 and 400. Similarly we find that Abraham pays 400 shekels of silver to purchase the Cave of Machpelah. Shekel, spelt shin-kof-lamed, (300-100-30) has a value of 430, which is the same value as that for the word for ‘bodily soul’ nefesh in Hebrew spelt nun-peh-shin (50-80-300=430). So it is that the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah for 400 shekel is to release the bodily souls of the personages in the cave so that they may reach the highest level of spiritual consciousness.

In the former spelling where the vav is included, the vav is a hook (See hyperlink table of numerical value) linking the first three letters of the word -aphar, (dust/ash) to the nun = 50 (i.e the 50). So through the vav, which symbolises a hook, the dust/ashes of the deceased are brought to ‘50’ renewal or rebirth (See hyperlink Fifty: The return, renewal, Jubilee). Thus it can be said that the dust of Sarah (and the other patriarchs and their wives who are buried in the Cave of Machpelah) goes through the process of death and rebirth.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah was far beyond the simple process of finding the burial place for the beloved wife of Abraham. Rather it was with the ultimate intention that it would be the burying place for the three patriarchs and their wives in order that the soul (in this instance the soul of Sarah) could reach the highest level of spiritual development (400), and that upon death, the bodily soul (430) passed through the eighth day on its way to next world, the 500.

Moreover, whilst the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah was a pre-meditated act to realise the burial of the patriarchs and the matriarchs in the Promised Land, it took place several hundred years before God’s covenant was realised as a result of the Exodus from Egypt.


{1}The Cave of Machpelah is a cave in the town of Hebron in the West Bank of Israel. It is a subject of much controversy, partly because it is located in the West Bank, but mainly because it is the place of burial of the three patriarchs (and their wives) of Judaism and of Islam and therefore a place of prayer for both.

{2}This is not so far-fetched from a scientific perspective. There is strong evidence that first amino acids were formed as a result of the catalytic effect of the large surface area of clay particles at the interface of land and water facilitating a reaction between the gases of carbon monoxide, ammonia and water vapour in the primordial atmosphere providing the essential elements for amino acid formation.

(3}It is for this reason that in Hinduism the worshippers of the god Shiva place ash on their foreheads each morning in recognition of what we are – no more than ‘ash’.


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