The Importance of Gravestones
Genesis 35:19 – 20 says, “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
Rachel, the daughter of Laban was the one for whom Jacob worked for a total of fourteen years. (Genesis 29:15-30). The Bible says Jacob loved Rachel so much that his first seven years of labor to Laban (the first down payment for Rachel to her father) “seemed like only a few days… because of his love for her.” Here in Genesis 35:19-20 we see Jacob being a true mourner. He placed a pillar, a gravestone as marker over the burial place of the woman he loved. Biblically, Jacob is known for setting up stones of remembrance for life changing events in his life. (Genesis 28:18; 31:45-47; 35:14) Here in Genesis Jacob sets a stone of remembrance over the grave of Rachel so that she may be remembered long after her death. (Matthew Henry Commentary) According to Scripture, Rachel’s burial place is clearly remembered up to the time of Samuel. (1 Samuel 10:2; The Pulpit Commentary; The Expositors Bible Commentary) A brief allusion to Rachel’s grave site is also found in Genesis 48:7 and the prophet Jeremiah alluded to Rachel’s burial site. (The Expositors Bible Commentary)
There are writings of antiquity which indicate that Rachel’s grave was well marked so her life and legacy might be remembered. There are writings in the fourth century placing Rachel’s grave within the Turkish Chapel Kubbet Rachil (Robison, Vol. 1 page 322; Tristrain, “Land of Israel” page 404; Thomson “Land and Book” page 664; Stanley, “Sinai and Palestine” page 149) This chapel was placed about a half hour’s journey from Bethlehem. (The Pulpit Commentary) There are websites that have information about Rachel’s Tomb that show pictures and have written history indicating that her stone of remembrance has impacted lives, even to this day. (www.lifeintheholyland.com www.scared-destinations.com) Please find the truth in this study. We are in God’s will if we take time to set up a stone of remembrance for the deceased. It is under His Sovereign control what becomes of it.
Matthew Henry writes, “It may be good for us to keep this in mind [the placing of Rachel’s Stone] so others may be encouraged to set up memorials.” It is important to put in place markers, gravestones, headstones, tombstones or statues of remembrance so others may remember the life and work of those who paid the way before us. Nacie Carson wrote, “A gravestone is a maker used to delineate the location of a burial site for an individual, family or group.” Most people alive today can expect to be remembered through the ages by cemetery headstones personalized to include their names, dates of birth and death, special designs, and other relevant information. Even people whose bodies have been cremated (a tradition whose popularity is increasing dramatically) are often memorialized with cemetery headstones installed in their family cemetery plots. This is in keeping with the advice of many psychologists who say that, even if a person’s ashes are scattered at sea, having a specific, special place in which to memorialize a loved one is an important part of any family’s grieving. Besides their obvious emotional value, cemetery headstones are also valuable to historians who often need to document people’s lives for decades, or even centuries, after death has occurred.
Headstones are typically used as the memorial of any person who has passed away to serve as “Stones of Remembrance” of their life. Only the Lord knows how someone’s grave stone will affect a person’s life. There is a truth in what Jacob did for his wife that is worth grasping. We certainly must honor those who loved us by showing the act of sacrificial love by setting up a “Stone of Remembrance.”