There are numerous natural caves among the limestone rocks of
Syria, many of which have been artificially enlarged for various
The first notice of a cave occurs in the history of Lot (Gen.
The next we read of is the cave of Machpelah (q.v.), which
Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth (Gen. 25:9, 10). It was
the burying-place of Sarah and of Abraham himself, also of
Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob (Gen. 49:31; 50:13).
The cave of Makkedah, into which the five Amorite kings
retired after their defeat by Joshua (10:16, 27).
The cave of Adullam (q.v.), an immense natural cavern, where
David hid himself from Saul (1 Sam. 22:1, 2).
The cave of Engedi (q.v.), now called 'Ain Jidy, i.e., the
"Fountain of the Kid", where David cut off the skirt of Saul's
robe (24:4). Here he also found a shelter for himself and his
followers to the number of 600 (23:29; 24:1). "On all sides the
country is full of caverns which might serve as lurking-places
for David and his men, as they do for outlaws at the present
The cave in which Obadiah hid the prophets (1 Kings 18:4) was
probably in the north, but it cannot be identified.
The cave of Elijah (1 Kings 19:9), and the "cleft" of Moses on
Horeb (Ex. 33:22), cannot be determined.
In the time of Gideon the Israelites took refuge from the
Midianites in dens and caves, such as abounded in the mountain
regions of Manasseh (Judg. 6:2).
Caves were frequently used as dwelling-places (Num. 24:21;
Cant. 2:14; Jer. 49:16; Obad. 1:3). "The excavations at Deir
Dubban, on the south side of the wady leading to Santa Hanneh,
are probably the dwellings of the Horites," the ancient
inhabitants of Idumea Proper. The pits or cavities in rocks were
also sometimes used as prisons (Isa. 24:22; 51:14; Zech. 9:11).
Those which had niches in their sides were occupied as
burying-places (Ezek. 32:23; John 11:38).