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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #81 - 07/11
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What happened in the cave?

The cave in the Hebrew Bible and in the Jewish literature is an important place, where nations were created, kings and rabbis were saved or killed, and where the fathers are buried. As a Biblical Hebrew teacher, every year I am taking my students to the nature, and we are reading from The Scriptures in one of the caves in the area of Jerusalem.
 

the cave

The first cave that appears in the Old Testament is in Genesis 19. Lot was after the death of his wife, who looked at the destruction of Sodom and became a pillar of salt. According to what is written in Genesis 19:30-38 the cave is a place of seduction, as written:
 

"וַיַּעַל לוֹט מִצּוֹעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב בָּהָר, וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו עִמּוֹ, כִּי יָרֵא, לָשֶׁבֶת בְּצוֹעַר; וַיֵּשֶׁב, בַּמְּעָרָה--הוּא, וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיווַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל-הַצְּעִירָה, אָבִינוּ זָקֵן; וְאִישׁ אֵין בָּאָרֶץ לָבוֹא עָלֵינוּ, כְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל-הָאָרֶץלְכָה נַשְׁקֶה אֶת-אָבִינוּ יַיִן, וְנִשְׁכְּבָה עִמּוֹ; וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ, זָרַע.  וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ אֶת-אֲבִיהֶן יַיִן, בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא; וַתָּבֹא הַבְּכִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-אָבִיהָ, וְלֹא-יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָהּ וּבְקוּמָהּוַיְהִי, מִמָּחֳרָת, וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל-הַצְּעִירָה, הֵן-שָׁכַבְתִּי אֶמֶשׁ אֶת-אָבִי; נַשְׁקֶנּוּ יַיִן גַּם-הַלַּיְלָה, וּבֹאִי שִׁכְבִי עִמּוֹ, וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ, זָרַע.  וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ גַּם בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא, אֶת-אֲבִיהֶן--יָיִן; וַתָּקָם הַצְּעִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב עִמּוֹ, וְלֹא-יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָהּ וּבְקֻמָהּ.  וַתַּהֲרֶיןָ שְׁתֵּי בְנוֹת-לוֹט, מֵאֲבִיהֶןוַתֵּלֶד הַבְּכִירָה בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ מוֹאָבהוּא אֲבִי-מוֹאָב, עַד-הַיּוֹםוְהַצְּעִירָה גַם-הִוא יָלְדָה בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן-עַמִּיהוּא אֲבִי בְנֵי-עַמּוֹן, עַד-הַיּוֹם"

Lot and his girls

"And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day."

The next cave that we meet is a place to remember and respect our great fathers and mothers as we can see, for example, in Genesis 25:9-

"וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ יִצְחָק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל, בָּנָיו, אֶל-מְעָרַת, הַמַּכְפֵּלָהאֶל-שְׂדֵה עֶפְרֹן בֶּן-צֹחַר, הַחִתִּי, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי מַמְרֵא"

"And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;"

In Joshua 10 we meet the cave as the place of death when 5 kings are captured and after a while killed by the hands of Joshua and his soldiers. The next story could have been also a place of death when Saul chased David and when he entered the cave in order to "wash his legs" (this is a euphemism). David had the choice between killing Saul or keeping him alive and he chose the second option as we can read in 1 Samuel 24:6-7-

David ans Saul in the cave

"וַיֹּאמֶר לַאֲנָשָׁיו חָלִילָה לִּי מֵיְהוָה, אִם-אֶעֱשֶׂה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לַאדֹנִי לִמְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה--לִשְׁלֹחַ יָדִי, בּוֹ:  כִּי-מְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה, הוּאוַיְשַׁסַּע דָּוִד אֶת-אֲנָשָׁיו בַּדְּבָרִים, וְלֹא נְתָנָם לָקוּם אֶל-שָׁאוּל; וְשָׁאוּל קָם מֵהַמְּעָרָה, וַיֵּלֶךְ בַּדָּרֶךְ"
 

"And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way."

The cave was also the place where prophets hid from the hand of Jezebel, and the place where Elijah came to understand what is the power of G-d and what is the correct way to believe in G-d.  If one day, there is going to be a cave with the Internet nearby in the promised land, I hope to be one of the teachers who will give students the opportunity to enjoy and learn Biblical Hebrew.
 

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

 

Hebrew

Transcription

Translation

מְעָרָה

mə'ārāh

Cave

פִּתּוּי

pittûy

Temptation

בָּרַח

bārach

Escaped

קֶבֶר

qeber

Tomb

קָבַר

bar

Buried

מָוֶת

māwet

Death

מֵת

mēt

Dead 

 
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