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Bible Dictionaries

Smith's Bible Dictionary

Embalming

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Embalming. The process by which dead bodies are preserved from putrefaction and decay. It was most general among the Egyptians, and it is in connection with this people, that the two instances which we meet with in the Old Testament are mentioned. Genesis 50:2; Genesis 50:26.

The embalmers first removed part of the brain through the nostrils, by means of a crooked iron, and destroyed the rest by injecting caustic drugs. An incision was then made along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and the whole of the intestines removed. The cavity was rinsed out with palm wine, and afterwards scoured with pounded perfumes. It was then filled with pure myrrh pounded, cassia and other aromatics, except frankincense.

This done, the body was sewn up and steeped in natron (salf-petre) for seventy days. When the seventy days were accomplished, the embalmers washed the corpse and swathed it in bandages of linen, cut in strips and smeared with gum. They then gave it up to the relatives of the deceased, who provided for it a wooden case, made in the shape of a man, in which the dead was placed, and deposited in an erect position against the wall of the sepulchral chamber.

Sometimes no incision was made in the body, nor were the intestines removed, but cedar-oil was injected into the stomach by the rectum.

At others, the oil was prevented from escaping until the end of the steeping process, when it was withdrawn, and carried off with it the stomach and intestines in a state of solution, while the flesh was consumed by the natron, and nothing was left but the skin and bones. The body in this state was returned to the relatives of the deceased.

The third mode, which was adopted by the poorer classes, and cost but little, consisted in rinsing out the intestines with syrmaea, an infusion of senna and cassia, and steeping the body for several days in natron. It does not appear that embalming was practiced by the Hebrews. The cost of embalming was sometimes nearly $2000, varying from this amount down to $200 or $300.

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Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Embalming'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/sbd/e/embalming.html. 1901.

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