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Genesis 35:19 seems to say she died and was buried near Bethlehem, in Judah. This has strong tradition even to this day with a "tomb" there.

So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), (ESV)

However, 1 Samuel 10:2 seems to say she was buried in Benjamin land, possibly Ramah (Jer 31 may have connected this).

When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah ...

How can we understand this?

Is Genesis 35 only meaning to say on the road to Ephrath, which could mean they were near Ramah or some other place in Benjamin still? (I understand the land was not divided between the tribes till later, but I'm using the references given in 1 Samuel)

Or, as I have read some speculate, Judah put the location in their land for prestige?

Or maybe 1 Samuel is just plain wrong? (Samuel was from Ramah too).

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  • Wow! I think we've got an 'inerrancy' question here....?
    – Tau
    Feb 5 '16 at 4:02
  • @Tau It could be. Or maybe textual criticism? Or maybe simply a language/translation issue? Actually I'm not sure where you were going with that. :) Is this form of question alright? Thought I'd seen similar ones allowed before. Honestly just not sure how to read your tone.
    – Joshua
    Feb 5 '16 at 4:09
  • It may be any one the things you've mentioned; and it may be an 'anomaly'; just as in where was Abraham buried: (Sychem or Mamre)? The Truth was that she was buried "in the land"; the 'where' becomes a point of academic concern, which some who cite "inerrancy" get tangled in various nuances-and those who oppose "inspiration" use passages like these to discredit "inspiration". The Bible is a book of Truth, and it contains the words of Life. It is not a book of history, although historical facts are contained within it. That's where I'm coming from.
    – Tau
    Feb 5 '16 at 13:37
  • @Tau I see. While I do hold to inerrancy personally, it is a bit more subtle than that. It's my opinion that in this case the truth is somewhere between. However, this question is not a "Truth" question or a historic fact question. It is asking for how it can and has been interpreted. There's actually quite a bit going on here with Jeremiah referencing Samuel and Matthew quoting him but in connection to Bethlehem.
    – Joshua
    Feb 5 '16 at 14:46
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And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.
-- Genesis 35:16 (KJV)

When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?
-- 1 Samuel 10:2 (KJV)

The word given as "border" in 1 Samuel 10:2 is, gə-ḇūl (Strong's H1366), whose principle meaning is "boundary/limit of a field or region".

Jerusalem is within the land of Benjamin, and Bethlehem is around 7km south of Jerusalem, in the land of Judah. Genesis 35:16 and 1 Kings 10:2 provide a fairly reasonable location for the border line between Benjamin and Judah - south of Jerusalem, a little way from Bethlehem.

The only issue here is a definition of "a little way". I would suggest that "a little way" puts the border closer to Bethlehem than to Jerusalem - maybe 3km from Bethlehem. Zelzah appears to be the last town on the Benjamin side of the border. So, if Judah is claiming the site of Rachel's tomb as its own, then the tomb must be very near Zelzah, but on the Bethlehem side of the border line.

Additional

The phrase rendered in 1 Samuel 10:2 (KJV) as "in the border of" is more precisely biḡ-ḇūl, and could have just as well been given as, "by the border of", since the Hebrew prefix "bi" means in/by/with.

Now, "by the border of Benjamin" suggests that the one specifying the location is not in Benjamin. Had he been in Benjamin he would surely have given the location as "by the border of Judah". (Compare Numbers 33:44)

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  • Very nice, what I kind of suspected. So Ramah is out entirely as an option? Or at least not connected in a way relevant to the scope of this question? One rational I read, that would agree with you, said that it was still close enough that her cries would be heard in Ramah, not in Ramah, in Jer 31.
    – Joshua
    Feb 15 '16 at 11:59

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