THE tombs are among the most interesting monuments of Jerusalem. The temple has not left one stone upon another; the palaces of Solomon and Herod have alike crumbled to dust; the Jerusalem of the prophets and apostles "became heaps" centuries ago; but the tombs remain almost as perfect as when the princes of Israel were laid there in glory.  Indeed, the graves of Jerusalem are said to be more numerous than its houses.

The tombs of Palestine are very different from those of our country. Here we are familiar with the grassy mounds and marble monuments which fill the cemeteries, and which pass away almost as quickly as man himself. But in Jerusalem the tombs are rock-hewn caves, appearing in cliff and glen and mountainside, as lasting as the rock itself.

Wherever the face of a crag or a projecting rock affords space for excavation, there is sure to be a sepulchre, Some of these tombs are small grottoes, with only one or two receptacles for bodies; others are of great extent, containing chambers, galleries, and passages, almost without number.

Some of them have several stories, into which you descend by holes or rude steps. The doors are low and narrow, so as to be shut by a single slab, which is sometimes round and sometimes square or oblong. This slab was called golal, which means "a thing rolled," from the fact that it was rolled back from the opening in a groove made for it. The stone being heavy and the groove generally inclining upward, considerable strength was required to move it. This explains the anxious inquiry of the women at Christ's sepulchre, "Who shall roll us away the stone?"

The tombs are most numerous in the valley of Jehosaphat, or Kidron, east of the city, and in the valley of Hinnom, south of the city.  The rocky sides of these valleys are literally honeycombed with sepulchres. A very good representation of some of them is given in the accompanying picture.

Mr. Porter says: "On one occasion, after a long visit to Zion, I walked down through the terraced corn-fields on its southern declivity into the deep glen of Hinnom. The sun was low in the west, and the ravine, with its rugged cliffs and dusky olive groves, was thrown into deep shadow. Not a human being was there, and no sound from the city broke in upon the silence. The high rocks along the whole southern side are filled with tombs, whose dark mouths made the place still more gloomy. Already the jackals had left their lairs, and numbers of them ran out and in of the sepulchres, prowling among the rocks and through the olive trees. As I wandered on down Hinnom toward the Kidron, I observed that the tombs became more and more numerous, until at length, at the junction of the valleys, every available spot in the surrounding cliffs and rocks was excavated. They are mostly plain chambers or groups of chambers opening into each other, hewn in the soft lime-stone, without any attempt at ornament, save, here and there, a molding around the door."

The same traveler speaks also of a visit to the little village of Silwin (Siloam), in the valley of Jehosaphat. This is a town of tombs, though the living have expelled the dead, taking possession of their homes. The inhabitants have a bad name, and are known to be lawless vagabonds. Mr. Porter says: "It is a strange, wild place.  On every side I heard children's prattle issuing from the gloomy chambers of ancient sepulchres.  Looking into one, I saw an infant cradled in an old sarcophagus [stone-coffin].  The larger tombs, where the ashes of Israel's nobles once reposed, were now filled with sheep and goats."

A mile or so north of Jerusalem is a very interesting sepulchre, called the "Tombs of the Judges."

There are other tombs cut in the rocks around, but these are striking from the beauty of the entrance way and the extent of the chambers within.  Here, as in the other tombs, are openings, or shelves, called loculi in the rocky sides of the sepulchre, in which the bodies of the dead were placed.  They are usually dug straight into the rock, and open at the end instead of the side, the feet facing the chamber. The opening was then closed with a slab of stone, and sealed.  In some cases the shelf for the body was cut lengthwise, the side opening toward the chamber.  Such, it is thought, was the tomb of our Lord. There are more than sixty of these loculi, or sleeping places for the dead, in this one sepulchre.  Though their name, "Tombs of the Judges," has no authority, it is evident that they were made for persons of rank and wealth.

A half-mile nearer the city is a sepulchral cave of still greater interest, though less extensive than the one just described.  It has long been known as the "Tombs of the Kings," and was supposed to be the resting place of the Jewish monarchs. There is, however, now much doubt among scholars as to this being true.  This is the finest tomb about Jerusalem, and though plain on the outside, the inner court and chambers are beautifully ornamented with carved work.  Nearer still to the city is another interesting sepulchre, the socalled "Tombs of the Prophets," containing loculi, for about thirty bodies.

There are so many interesting things to be told about these tombs of Jerusalem that there seems no place to stop. It seems strange that of all the structures of eighteen centuries ago the homes of the dead should alone remain.  It is a fit symbol of the death and burial of the pride, the glory, and the riches of that people who drew on themselves the just anger of God, killing his Son, and crying, "His blood be on us and on our children."



"Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,

How shall you flee away and be at rest?

The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,

Mankind their country,—Israel but the grave!"





E. B. G.