From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

By Avigdor Shinan; Yair Zakovitch et al. | Go to book overview

8
Where Were Rachel and Jacob Buried?

Jacob and his beloved Rachel died separately and were buried apart. Though the book of Genesis tries to present clear details concerning the burial sites of both, we find that a more complicated story awaits, since different cities (and different tribes) claimed the distinction as the final resting place of the third Patriarch and his adored wife.

We’ll begin with the tale of Rachel’s burial. The book of Genesis tells us that Rachel died in childbirth with her second son, Benjamin, at the end of the family’s journey from Haran to the Land of Canaan: “They set out from Bethel; but when they were still some distance short of Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor…. Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Ephrath — now Bethleḥem. Over her grave Jacob set up a pillar; it is the pillar at Rachel’s grave to this day” (35:16–20). Jacob’s last words to Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn, agree with this version of Rachel’s death and burial: “When I was returning from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, while I was journeying in the land of Canaan, when still some distance short of Ephrath; and I buried her there on the road to Ephrath now Bethleḥem” (48:7).

The tradition about Rachel’s burial in the territory of Judah near Bethleḥem, the city of David’s birth, however, is not the only account of her burial. A very different tale is told in the book of Samuel, where we find an alternative account that locates Rachel’s burial in the territory of her second son, Benjamin. When the prophet Samuel anoints Saul (who was from the tribe of Benjamin) as the first king of Israel, he informs Saul of a series of signs that will occur on Saul’s return, signs that will signify that Saul is God’s chosen one. The first of these is that

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