Genesis 48 records the death of Rachel:

But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). -Genesis 48:7 (NKJV)

Since Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife it seems strange to me that she was just buried beside the road and not placed in a tomb.

  • 3
    @JamesShewey Ossuaries are late second temple practice influenced by Greek culture. Pre-exilic practice was family burial mounds for the poor and family burial vaults hewn in the bedrock for the wealthy. The family aspect is paramount as seen from David's re-burial of Saul and Jonathan in their family vaults, even though they had already been properly buried by the elders of Yabesh Jil'ad in the Gil'ad. Even w/o the edit, the OP is answerable from internal OT sources. Ref. faculty.biu.ac.il/~testsm/qburamis.html, lib.cet.ac.il/pages/item.asp?item=14254
    – user17080
    Apr 24 '17 at 6:01

The word used is buried (qbr), but we should not assume that refers to only modern-style graves and not tombs. For example, in Genesis 23, Abraham offers to buy land to gbr Sarah (23:4). The people he is haggling with use the words sepulcher and bury together (23:6). He then entombs her in a cave on the field (23:19). Abraham was also entombed there upon his death (25:9, 10) using the same word in question.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (Genesis 23:4)

Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. (Genesis 23:6)

And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 23:19)

And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife. (Genesis 25:9, 10)

The word does also mean to simply bury without a tomb, as seen in Genesis 35:8 when Rebekah's nurse dies.

But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth. (Genesis 35:8)

The word allows for entombed, and Jacob's raising of a pillar (35:20) there shows that even if it is a below-ground grave, he marked the place where his beloved lay.

KJV used. Emphasis added to all verses above. Bold shows the use of qbr. Italics show qbr being used in reference to an above-ground tomb or sepulchre.


Rachel died after giving birth to Benjamin:

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.” 18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni;a but his father called him Benjamin.b 19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.
-Genesis 35:16-20 (NKJV)

a Literally Son of My Sorrow
b Literally Son of the Right Hand

and the circumstances, whatever they were, apparently did not allow for Jacob to carry her body to the cave where he later buried Leah:

29 Then he [Jacob] charged them [his sons] and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
-Genesis 49:29-33 (NKJV)

John Gill supposes that since Jacob “had his flocks and herds with him, which could move but slowly;” that this played a part in not allowing him to bring her to Machpelah.

However, note that Rachel's tomb was significant enough to serve as a marker centuries later when Samuel tells Saul to look for two men by her tomb:

1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his [Saul's] head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance? 2 When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah....”
-1 Samuel 10:1-2 (NKJV)


Rachel was a type all that is worldly and therefore was buried by the wayside Leah was outwardly unattractive but inwardly she was more righteous than Rachel and therefore was interred in the cave at macpelah.

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site operates. An interesting claim, but do you have some references to support it? Unsupported claims don't make convincing arguments.
    – enegue
    Jul 17 '17 at 0:23

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