Todd Bolen’s thoughts on Rachel’s Tomb

Todd Bolen of made an interesting comment in response to my post on Rachel’s Tomb, which wouldn’t show up in the comments box. Todd has an excellent knowledge of the Land of Israel and his comments are always worth reading. Here is his comment:

Thank you for your research on this challenging issue. Porter’s explanation is certainly a creative way of handling the problem. I’ve written up an explanation which is a bit more traditional in having support from numerous scholars in the last hundred years. I will post that later today at I want to suggest here a few potential weaknesses in this proposed solution:
The texts locate Migdal Eder in relation to Jerusalem, not to Bethlehem. As far as I can tell, in the Sheqalim text, Migdal Eder could be any direction from Jerusalem, not near Bethlehem as you write. Micah 4:8 clearly places it near Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. In that case, Rachel’s tomb cannot be at the traditional location, because Rachel was buried north of Migdal Eder.
There is no evidence that tribal borders moved. As you say, Kiriath-jearim was located on the Judah-Benjamin border. Jerusalem was also on the north side of the border. That the borders would have expanded significantly at Judah’s expense in the period *before Saul became king* seems unlikely given Benjamin’s weakness and major population decrease (Judg 20-21). In any case, the shift proposed here is 5 miles, an enormous alteration for which we would expect to see some other evidence. The only evidence for it is the location of Rachel’s tomb, and I think there’s a much easier solution to handle this piece of data.
The first map does not correctly reflect the border description of Benjamin which runs through the Hinnom Valley *north to Mei Nephtoah* and west to Kiriath-jearim. The Mei Nephtoah point is very inconvenient for Porter’s theory, but it should not be ignored.
Thanks again for this post and your insights. As always, I benefit from your wisdom and experience.

Todd explained his own position on the location of Rachel’s Tomb in his latest post.

As I mentioned in my post, certainty eludes us as to the location of Rachel’s Tomb, as there are too many unknowns. I only put up Porter’s ideas for curiosity’s sake, as I know the difficulty of the connection with Benjamin’s border in the account of Samuel.
I remember visiting Qubur Bani Isra’il a long time ago, but didn’t know then what to make of these massive stone monuments, one of which has a small chamber built into it. My initial impression was of that of tank barriers, but I soon realised that they may be archaeological structures. Some visitors in the 19th century even called them  megalithic monuments. They were apparently also known as Kabiir el Amalikeh, the Tombs of the Amalekites. It would be interesting to excavate them.

However, as you say in your post: “The best evidence for answering this question is the oldest evidence.” In this case, it is the record of Rachel’s delivery of Benjamin and her subsequent death and burial in Genesis 35, where Ephrath is mentioned twice (vs. 16 and 19) and connected with Bethlehem in vs.19. It is highly unlikely to say the least, that two place names, at the same time, both referred to the much lesser known sites of the same name, as you suggest, and not to the places which are of such major significance in the Bible record. Although Bethlehem is assigned firmly to Judah in passages such as Judges 17.8 and Ruth 1.2, one could not expect the same in the book of Genesis, before the tribal portions had been allocated.

So, despite the problems thrown up by poorly understood later passages, one would expect the tomb of Rachel to have been located close to the entrance to Bethlehem. Its exact location remains one of those unresolved questions of Biblical geography.

25 thoughts on “Todd Bolen’s thoughts on Rachel’s Tomb”

  1. One more post and I promise I’ll leave you alone~ Edersheim states that the Migdal Eder was not located in the barren sheep fields beyond Bethlehem (I assume he means the sheep fields east of Bethlehem in the Beit Sahur area) but that the Migdal Eder was located closer to the village on the road to Jerusalem. That would place it north of Bethlehem wouldn’t it? Also, he mentions a khan near Bethlehem. Can you shed any light on that? And finally, Edersheim also states that the Jerusalem Talmud spoke of Messiah being born “in the royal castle of Bethlehem,” which is why I questioned if the Migdal Eder could have been the watchtower that remained of the ruins of the royal castle but I can’t find any information on a royal castle at Bethlehem although there appears to be one halfway between Bethlehem and Jerusalem that dates from the time of Hezekiah. Can you shed any light on any of this?

  2. You mustn’t confuse the two. I don’t think that Migdal Eder was the same place as where Jesus was born. The shepherds “came with haste”, which means they had to cover a certain distance.
    Jesus was born in an inn. Cities in the past, at least those the size of Bethlehem, had only one inn. In Jeremiah 41.17, we read about the “habitation” of Chimham, or Geruth-Chimham. This may indicate that they stayed in an inn that was in or near to Bethlehem. Chimham stayed with David ( 2 Sam. 19,38-40) and he may have given him a piece of land of his own inheritance to build an inn so that he could make a living. That would mean, of course, that Jesus was born in his own inheritance!

  3. The “inn” in Luke was not a Khan, or “all receptive, or “Elijah’s Room” etc. The two other places in the Scriptures it is called a “Large Upper Room”, is where the Last Supper took place. Technically, A place to unload the packs off Caravan animals, unburden them, WATER them and give them rest and feed for the night. For Bethlehem, This is where the WELL was located that David desired to drink from. His Mighty men broke through the Philistinian camp and drew water from this well. This water was poured out in sacrifice and dedication to the Lord in the Cave of Adullam where the Christ was born. The “inn” is the Rest Stop, or City Park. A place to stretch out and recline. Yeshua was born outside the walls of Bethlehem. “out of you”. The Savior was not born at or in the Flock Tower, but a cave very near the Tomb of Rachel (Who also did not give birth inside the town – but a little distance from it. Mary and Joseph did not find lodging in Bethlehem. Jesus (Yeshua) born in a Sanctified cave where Benjamin had also been born. On the Plains of Tekoa (Same geographical topography) not up on the ridge. One can argue about boundary lines of Judah and Benjamin but in reality, they are very mixed. Bethlehem was Judah, but Benjamin and the cave only a few miles distant, should have been Benjamin’s. Mary was a Cohen, an Aaronic daughter of a Priest, and as such, she wore a linen Kittel. The “swaddling bands” were most likely made from her “Breeches” – underwear, that protected her “modesty”. Both Genealogies in the NT present us with Joseph’s Davidic line. NT says he lawfully adopted Yeshua. (Luke 3:23) “City” of David is literally the “Citadel, Fortress, Stronghold” of David which is: 1. Jerusalem, 2. Bethlehem, 3. The Cave of Adullam. Micah 1:15

  4. Thank you for your posting.
    If in deed there is a Bethlehem located near Ramah, does this pose a problem with the sacrificial lambs being raised elsewhere? Also, I have heard that Rachel’s Tomb was also called a manger. Can this be verified?

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