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( hbrwn, chebrón ) An ancient royal city of Chanaan, famous in biblical history, especially at the time of the patriarchs and under David. the four patriarchs buried in the cave of Machpelah : Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom must be added, according to various opinions, either Adam, Caleb, Esau, or Joseph. On the death of Sara, his wife, the patriarch bought from Ephron the Hethite the cave of Machpelah to serve as a burying place for his family ( Genesis 23 ); Abraham himself was buried there ( Genesis 25:9 ), as were also Isaac ( Genesis -29 ) and Jacob ( Genesis ).During the Middle Ages it was an episcopal see — at present it is only a titular one — and was situated in Palestine Prima, with Cæsarea as metropolitan. According to de Saulcy (Voyage en Terre Sainte, I, 152) the name means "the town of the four quarters"; while it suits the modern town, this is not at all true of the ancient one. Hebron thus became the second homeland of Abraham, and the centre of attraction during the wanderings of the patriarchs.In spite of Mohammedan fanaticism, which since the fourteenth century had forbidden a non-Mussulman to enter the hallowed place (Isaac Chelo, 1334, "Les chemins de Jérusalem, in Carmoly, "Itinéraires", 243), the schismatic Greeks, after the departure of the Latins, retained for a time a residing bishop in Hebron.Lequien (III, 641-642) mentions one of these bishops, Joannikios, whose name appears with that of Christodoulos of Gaza in the Acts of the Council of Jerusalem in 1672 ( Mansi, XXXIV B, 1771) under the title of Ioannikíou toû theophilestátou ’archiepiskópou toû ‘agíon spelaíon (Joannikios, most holy Archbishop of the holy Cave).
Abner, the leader of Saul's army, came to Hebron to see David, was well received by him, but was afterwards killed by Joab.When Absalom revolted against his father, who had then become King of Jerusalem, it was Hebron he made his headquarters ( 2 Samuel 15:7-11 ). But we do not know at what epoch a basilica was first built over the cave of Machpelah.The town was fortified by Roboam ( 2 Chronicles ). It is certain that the Crusaders took the town in 1100, and that the sanctuary became the church of Saint Abraham, also called the church of the Holy Cave (Sancta Caverna or Spelunca, ’ágion spelaîon ).As a residential see, Hebron enjoyed a very brief existence.However it survived the triumph of Saladin in 1187, and the march of the Kharesmian hordes in 1244.