Tomb (גָּדַישׁ, a tumulus, Job 21:32; elsewhere "stack" or "shock" of corn; τάφος, μνῆμα, or , μνημεῖον, usually "sepulcher" ). The most conspicuous objects in Palestine to this day are its tombs, called, according to the person commemorated, or the purpose of commemoration, keber, or mazar, or wely. One does not find this to be the case throughout Europe, where tombs are not usually conspicuous; but in Egypt and Syria they meet the eye in all directions, and are, with a few exceptions, Mohammedan erections. In Egypt, the tombs of its ancient kings, and the more modern tombs of the Mamelukes, are very remarkable and interesting. In the Sinaitic desert there are some interesting graveyards, dotted with unhewn stones and adorned with the retem, or broom; and one of these places of sepulture is known as Turbbet-es-Yahuid, the graves of the Jews. There is only one conspicuous monument in it, Kuber Nebi Harmin, the "tomb of the prophet Aaron," on Mount Hor. But soon after entering Palestine you find tombs in all directions. At Hebron you have the tomb of Abraham and the patriarchs in the well-known cave of Machpelah, marked or rather concealed by a Moslem mosque. On one of the eastern hills, seen from the heights above Hebron, you have the tomb of Lot; farther on, the tomb of Rachel; and, then, as you approach Jerusalem, the tomb of David, outside the modern city, and the tomb of Samuel, on a height above Gibeon, some seven miles to the north-west, greets your eye. As you traverse the land you meet with these monuments in all positions-the tomb of Jonah near Sidon, and even the tomb of Abel a little farther north!
Besides these conspicuous objects, there are others less visible, but quite as remarkable. At Hebron there is the Jewish burying-ground covered with large slabs, and. curious tombs cut in the rock, with loculi on all sides, which are probably patriarchal, or at least Jewish. Around Jerusalem there. are numerous tombs, many of them remarkable for their beauty, their size, their peculiar structure. SEE JERUSALEM. Almost all of these are Jewish, and give us a good idea of "how the manner of the Jews was to bury." Whoever could afford it chose the rock, not the earth, for the covering of his body, and preferred to have his body deposited on a clean rocky shelf, not let down into and covered over with the soil. Hence our ideas of burial are not the same as those of the Jews. According to us, there is always the letting down into the earth; according to them, there is the taking possession of some stony chamber for the last sleep. Hence the expression "buried with him by baptism into death" would not to a Hebrew suggest immersion, as it seems to do to us, and to the early Christian the symbol of baptismal burial would be associated with the Lord's own tomb.
The first mention of a eber, or burying-place, in Scripture is in Ge 23:4, where Abraham asks the sons of Heth for the "possession of a keber," receiving for answer, "In the choice of our kebers bury thy dead." After this there is frequent mention of these sepulchers, and some of them are specially singled out for notice. Yet Machpelah was the most memorable; and we know not if ever a tomb was more touchingly and poetically described than by Jacob on his death-bed in Egypt, when, looking back on the land from which he was an exile, the land of his fathers sepulchers, he points as with his finger to the well-known patriarchal burying place-" There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah" (Ge 49:31). We have also Kibroth-hataavah, the graves of lust, in the wilderness (Nu 11:34); the tomb of Joash in Ophrah, where Gideon was buried (Jg 8:32); the tomb of Manoah between Zorah and Eshtaol, where Samson was buried (Jg 16:31); the tomb of Zeruiah (or her husband) in Bethlehem, where Asahel was buried (2 Samuel 2, 32); the tomb of Abner in Hebron (2Sa 3:32; 2Sa 4:12); the tomb in Giloh of Ahithophel's father, where his suicide son was buried; the paternal and maternal tomb in Gilead, in which Barzillai sought burial (2Sa 19:37); the tomb of Kish in Zelah, where the bones of Saul and Jonathan were deposited (2Sa 21:14); the tomb of the old prophet in Bethel (1 Kings 13,-30); the tomb of Elisha, probably near Jericho (2Ki 13:21); the tombs of" the children of the people," in the valley of the Kedron (23, 6); the tombs in "the Mount," near Bethel (ver. 16); the tomb or tombs of David (Ne 3:16); the tombs of the kings (2Ch 21:20). The Newest references to "tombs" are chiefly in connection with the Lord's burial. His tomb is called sometimes τάφος (Mt 27:61), sometimes μνῆμα (Lu 23:53), and sometimes μνημεῖον (Joh 19:41).
At this day the tombs of Syria are either like our own, underground, as at Hebron, Tiberias, and the valley of Jehoshaphat; or in artificial excavations in the rock, as in the ridge south of Jerusalem (Aceldama), the tombs of the prophets on Olivet, the tombs of the kings and judges north and north-west of the city; or entirely above ground, as the tomb of Rachel, of Absalom, of Samuel, and of Joseph.
All (in Jewish ages) who could bear the cost seem to have chosen the rocky excavation for sepulture, as in the case of Joseph of Arimathsea. This is evident from such a passage as Isa 22:16, addressed to Shebna the treasurer," What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulcher here, as he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high, that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" It is supposed by Lowth, Scott, Alexander, etc., that Shebna was a foreigner, and that the questions what and whom refer to this, implying that he had no right to such an honor. It was, perhaps, peculiarly a national privilege, so that, as no Gentile could inherit the land, none could obtain such a place for a tomb as he could call his own. The question then would be, "What connection hast thou with Israel that thou assumest one of Israel's special privileges?" Possibly, however, he was only a person of low origin from a distant part of the country, and of ungodly principles, who vainly thought to establish for himself a name and a place in Jerusalem.
The large tombs, such as those of the kings and judges, have no inscriptions; but the flat stones in the valley of Jehoshaphat have their epitaphs, some of considerable length in Hebrew, with the title ציון at the top, that word meaning originally a cippus or pillar (2Ki 23:17; Eze 39:15), and in Talmudical Hebrew denoting a sign or mark (Levi, Linguta Sacra, vol. 5, s.v.; Carpzov, Notes on Goodwin, p. 645). 'This last writer tells us that the use of such a mark was specially to warn off passers-by lest they should contract uncleanness by touching the grave. For this end, also, the tombs were whitewashed every year on the 15th of Adar (Lamy, Apparatus Biblicus, I, 14). SEE SEPULCHRE.