In Biblical times graves were either in a cut-out rock tomb or a cave for the RICH, or in the ground for the POOR. If one was especially wealthy, they would buy a huge cave to serve as a “family cemetery.” The most well-known example of this is the “Cave of Machpelah.” Abraham’s wife Sarah had died and he asked the inhabitants of the country he was sojourning in, “Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight” (Genesis 23:4). He went on to request that it be the “Cave of Machpelah” in verse 9 and they were happy to grant him his wish. In verses 17-19 we read, “So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it…were deeded to Abraham as a possession….and after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah.” Later, Abraham himself was buried there (Genesis 25:9), along with Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and last of all, Jacob (see Genesis 49:29-31 and 49:33-50:13).

Most people could not afford cut-out tombs or caves and thus special fields were assigned to them for burial. In 2nd Kings 23:6 we read of “the graves of the common people” and in Jeremiah 26:23 we read of the prophet Urijah being killed by Jehoiakim the king who then “cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.”

Another well-known “cemetery” is mentioned in Matthew 27. After Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver he was filled with remorse and brought the money back to the chief priests and elders and threw it down before them (verses 3-5). In verses 6-8 we read, “But the chief priests took the silver pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.’ And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, TO BURY STRANGERS IN. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.”

The most “famous tomb” in all of Scripture is found in Matthew 27:57-60: “Now when the evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and LAID IT IN HIS NEW TOMB WHICH HE HAD HEWN OUT OF THE ROCK, and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” This very expensive tomb had been purchased by Joseph for himself, but in love for His Savior and King he buried Jesus in it. This was actually a fulfillment of a prophecy uttered hundreds of years before that in Isaiah 53:9a, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death…” (NASB). Those who had Jesus crucified had determined He would be buried in a cheap grave that was reserved for vile criminals, yet God saw to it that His beloved Son would be buried in Joseph’s tomb “because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (53:9b). His enemies, who thought He was guilty of blasphemy, were bent on giving him the most DISHONORABLE BURIAL, but God the Father determined that He would have an HONORABLE BURIAL in keeping with His moral beauty and sinless perfection. What a privilege and a blessing it was for Joseph to be used of God in this way. Surely he will be blessed richly in eternity for his devotion to the Savior in giving up his expensive cut-out tomb.  (371.5)  (DO)