International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kav ([me`arah] (compare Arabic magharah), chor (Job 30:6 the King James Version), mechilloth (Isaiah 2:19); ope (Hebrews 11:38), spelaion (John 11:38); chor, more often rendered "hole," is akin to Arabic khaur, "gulf" or "inlet," but is also related to me`arah (compare also Arabic ghaur "low-land," especially of the Jordan valley and Dead Sea). Mechilloth (root, chalal, "to pierce" (compare Arabic khall, "to pierce")) occurs only in Isaiah 2:19, where the King James Version has "caves" and translates me`aroth in the same verse by "holes." In the Revised Version (British and American) these words are very properly changed about. Spelaion is a common Greek word for "cave"; ope means rather "hole"): In Palestine as in other limestone countries, caves are of frequent occurrence, and not a few of large size are known. Water from the rain and snow, seeping down through cracks, enlarges the passages through which it goes by dissolving away the substance of the rock. Just as upon the surface of the land the trickling streams unite to form brooks and rivers, so many subterranean streams may come together in a spacious channel, and may issue upon the surface as a bold spring. The cave of the Dog River near Beirut and that of 'Afqa (perhaps Aphek (Joshua 13:4)) in Lebanon are excellent examples of this. Not infrequently after forming a cave the stream of water may find some lower outlet by a different route, leaving its former course dry. In some cases the hinder part of the roof of the cave may fall in, leaving the front part standing as a natural bridge. Numerous shallow caves, especially in the faces of cliffs, are formed not by seeping water, but by atmospheric erosion, a portion of a relatively soft stratum of rock being hollowed out, while harder strata above and below it are but little worn away. Many of the hermits' caves originated in this way and were artificially enlarged and walled up at the mouth. The principal caves mentioned in the Bible are those of MACHPELAH, MAKKEDAH and ADULLAM (which see).