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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary


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The process of embalming dead bodies among the Egyptians was as follows: The embalmers, who were looked upon as sacred officers, drew the brains through the nostrils with a hooked piece of iron, and filled the skull with astringent drugs; they drew all the entrails, except the heart and kidneys, through a hole cut in the left side, washed them in palm-wine, and replaced them, filling the cavity with astringent and preservative drugs. The body was anointed repeatedly with oil of cedar, myrrh, cinnamon, etc., about thirty days, and was then put into nitre for about forty days; by which process it was preserved from decay, retaining at the same time a lifelike appearance. When Moses says that forty days of his continuing in the salt of nitre, not including the thirty days spent in the previous ceremonies; so that, in the whole they mourned seventy days for him in Egypt, Genesis 50:2,3 .

The body was afterwards taken out of the salt, washed, wrapped up in long linen bandages, dipped in myrrh, and closed with gum. It was then restored to the relatives, who inclosed it in a coffin, and kept it in their houses, or deposited it in a tomb. Thus the body of Joseph was preserved, to be conveyed into the land of promise after nearly two centuries, Genesis 50:26 . Great numbers of mummies are still found in Egypt, in the subterraneous vaults where they were deposited two or three thousand years ago.

The common people of that country were embalmed by means of bitumen, a cheap material and easily managed. With this the corpse and its envelopes were smeared, with more or less care and diligence. Sepulchres have been opened in which thousands of bodies had been deposited in rows, one on another, without coffins, preserved in this manner.

The usual embalming of the Jews was less elaborate and effectual. It consisted mainly in wrapping the body in many folds of linen, with a profusion of aromatic spices-myrrh, aloes, etc. Thus the body of the Savior was embalmed entire by Joseph and Nicodemus, while, ignorant of this, the two Mary's and their friends were prepared to render him a similar honor when the Jewish Sabbath was past, John 19:38 - 40 . The practice, even in this form, does not appear to have been prevalent among the Jews. See BURIAL .

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Embalming'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. 1859.

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