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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Burial. The Hebrews did not burn, but buried their dead, usually in caves and artificial tombs. Genesis 25:9; Genesis 35:29. To be deprived of burial was thought one of the greatest marks of dishonor. Ecclesiastes 6:3; Jeremiah 22:18-19. It was denied to none, seldom even to enemies. Deuteronomy 21:23; 1 Kings 11:15. Good men made it a part of their piety to inter the dead. Unburied corpses polluted their land if the dead were exposed to view. 2 Samuel 21:14. The touch of a dead body, or of anything that had touched a dead body, was esteemed a defilement, and required a ceremonial cleansing. Numbers 19:11-22. Only three cases of burning the bodies of the dead occur in Scripture: the family of Achan, after they were stoned. Joshua 7:24-25, the mangled remains of Saul and his sons, 1 Samuel 31:12, and perhaps the victims of some plague, Amos 6:10. The nearest relatives usually closed the eyes of the dying, gave them the parting kiss, and then began the wailing for the dead. Genesis 46:4; Genesis 50:1. The loud and shrill lamentations referred to in Mark 5:38, John 11:19, were by hired mourners, see also Jeremiah 9:17-18; Amos 5:16, who praised the deceased, Acts 9:39, and by doleful cries and frantic gestures, aided at times by melancholy tones of music, Matthew 9:23, strove to express the deepest grief, Ezekiel 24:17-18. Immediately after death the body was washed, and laid out in a convenient room, Acts 9:37-39, and sometimes anointed, Matthew 26:12. It was wrapped in many folds of linen, with spices, and the head bound about with a napkin, as the body of Jesus was, Matthew 27:59; sometimes each limb and finger wrapped separately, John 11:44, as the mummies of Egypt are found to have been. But among the Jews the body was not embalmed, and the burial took place very soon, on account both of the heat of the climate and of the ceremonial uncleanness incurred. Rarely did 24 hours elapse between death and burial, Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10 : and in Jerusalem now burial, as a general rule, is not delayed more than three or four hours. The body was wrapped in the garments worn when living, or linen cloths thrown over it, and it was placed upon a bier—a board borne by men—to be conveyed to the tomb. 2 Samuel 3:31; Luke 7:14. Sometimes a more costly bier or bed was used, 2 Chronicles 16:14; and the bodies of kings and some others may have been laid in stone sarcophagi Genesis 50:26; 2 Kings 13:21. The tomb was usually without the city, and spices and aromatic woods were often burned at the burial. 2 Chronicles 16:14 A banquet sometimes followed the funeral, Jeremiah 16:7-8; and the bereaved friends were wont to go to the grave from time to time, to weep, John 11:31; a custom observed even at this day.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Burial'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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