John 11:38

John 11:38

Jesus therefore groaning in himself
Not only through grief, just coming up to the grave, where his dear friend lay, but through an holy anger and indignation at the malice and wickedness of the Jews;

cometh to the grave
of Lazarus,

it was a cave;
either a natural one, such as were in rocks and mountains, of which sort there were many in Judea, and near Jerusalem being a rocky and mountainous country, of which Josephus


F24 makes mention; where thieves and robbers sheltered themselves, and could not easily be come at and where persons in danger fled to for safety, and hid themselves; and the reason why such places were chose to bury in, was because here the bodies were safe from beasts of prey: or this was an artificial cave made out of a rock, in form of one, as was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea; and it was the common custom of the Jews to make caves and bury in; yea, they were obliged to it by their traditions: thus says Maimonides F25,

``he that sells a place to his friend to make in it a grave or that receives from his friend a place to make in it a grave, (hrem hvwe) , "must make a cave", and open in it eight graves, three on one side and three on another, and two over against the entrance "into the cave": the measure of "the cave" is four cubits by six, and every grave is four cubits long, and six hands broad, and seven high; and there is a space between every grave, on the sides a cubit and a half, and between the two in the middle two cubits.''

And elsewhere F26 he observes, that

``they dig (twrem) , "caves" in the earth, and make a grave in the side "of the cave", and bury him (the dead) in it.''

And such caves for burying the dead, were at and near the Mount of Olives; and near the same must be this cave where Lazarus was buried; for Bethany was not far from thence: so in the Cippi Hebraici we read F1, that at the bottom of the Mount (of Olives) is a very great "cave", said to be Haggai the prophet's; and in it are many caves.--And near it is the grave of Zachariah the prophet, in a "cave" shut up; and frequent mention is made there of caves in which persons were buried; (See Gill on Matthew 23:29); perhaps the custom of burying in them might take its rise from the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham, their father, bought for a buryingplace for his dead. The sepulchre of Lazarus is pretended F2 to be shown to travellers to this day, over which is built a chapel of marble, very decent, and comely, and stands close by a church built in honour of Martha and Mary, the two sisters of Lazarus, in the place where their house stood; but certain it is, that the grave of Lazarus was out of the town:

and a stone lay upon it.
Our version is not so accurate, nor so agreeable to the form of graves with the Jews, nor to this of Lazarus's; their graves were not as ours, dug in the earth and open above, so as to have a stone laid over them, for they often were, as this, caves in rocks, either natural, or hewn out of them by art; and there was a door at the side of them, by which there was an entrance into them; and at this door a stone was laid it would be better rendered here, and "a stone was laid to it"; not "upon it", for it had no opening above, but to it, at the side of it; and accordingly the Syriac and Persic versions read, "a stone was laid at the door of it"; and the Arabic version, "and there was a great stone at the door of it", as was at the door of Christ's sepulchre. In the Jewish sepulchres there was (rux) , "a court" F3 which was before the entrance into the cave; this was four square; it was six cubits long, and six broad; and here the bearers put down the corpse, and from hence it was carried into the cave, at which there was an entrance, sometimes called (hremh yp) , "the mouth of the cave" {d}; and sometimes, (rbqh xtp) , "the door of the grave" F5; of its form, measure, and place, there is no express mention in the Jewish writings: it is thought to be about a cubit's breadth, and was on the side of the cave; so that at it, it might be looked into; and at the mouth of the cave was a stone put to stop it up, which was called (llwg) , from its being rolled there; though that with which the mouth of the cave was shut up, was not always a stone, nor made of stone; Maimonides F6 says, it was made of stone, or wood, or the like matter; and so in the Misna F7 it is said,

``(rbql llwg) , "the covering for a grave", (or that with which it is stopped up,) if it be made of a piece of timber, whether it stands, or whether it inclines to the side, does not defile, but over against the door only;''

(See Gill on Matthew 27:60).

F24 Antiqu. l. 14. c. 15. sect. 5.
F25 Hilchot Mecira, c. 21. sect. 6.
F26 Hilchot Ebel, c. 4. sect. 4.
F1 P. 27, 29. Ed. Hottinger.
F2 ltinerar. Bunting. p. 364.
F3 Misn. Bava Bathra, c. 6. sect. 8.
F4 Misn. ib.
F5 Maimon. R. Samson, & Bartenora in Misn. Ohalot, c. 15. sect. 8.
F6 In Misn. Ohalot, c. 2. sect. 4.
F7 Ib c. 15, sect. 8.