738. Tombs for Dwellings

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Tombs hewn out of the rock were sometimes made hiding-places for criminals, dwellings for poor people, and abodes for the insane. By reading the description of these tombs contained in the note on Isaiah 22:1616What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock? (Isaiah 22:16) (#501), it can be seen that they might readily be converted into places of shelter by persons whose tastes were not fastidious, or whose necessities compelled them to seek a refuge. Isaiah describes the idolatrous Hebrews of his time as a people who “remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments” (Isa. 65:44Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; (Isaiah 65:4)). This is supposed to have been done from the superstitious notion, which they had learned from the heathen, that the dreams which they would have in such desolate to places would be a revelation of future events.
At the present day travelers in Palestine sometimes find a temporary asylum for the night in the old tombs, which are no longer used for burial purposes. Buckingham, who visited a number of tombs in the very region where the incident referred to in the text took place, found a carpenter’s shop in an old sepulcher. He went into another which was used as a dwelling. “The tomb was about eight feet in height on the inside, as there was a descent of a steep step from the stone threshold to the floor. Its size was about twelve paces square; but, as no light was received into it except by the door, we could not see whether there was an inner chamber as in some of the others. A perfect sarcophagus still remained within, and this was now used by the family as a chest for corn and other provisions, so that this violated sepulcher of the dead had thus become a secure, a cool, and a convenient retreat to the living of a different race” (Travels in Palestine, p. 440).