Burial follows death quickly. The burial of the dead in the East takes place soon after death, usually the same day. The people of these regions have a primitive idea that the spirit of the one who dies, hovers near the body for three days after death. Mourners think of this spirit as being able to hear the wailing calls of grief. Martha, no doubt, thought it would be hopeless to think of reviving her brother's body, because he had been dead four days (John 11:39).
Burial in caves, tombs, or graves. Today there are thousands of rock-cut tombs scattered over the land of Israel, to bring to mind past decades. Such tombs were made by the wealthy. Not being able to afford these, the poorer folks buried their dead in graves. Some of these tombs had many chambers in them. They were closed by a rolling-stone which ran down an inclined plane in front of the mouth of the sepulcher. In the vicinity of ancient Gadara (Luke 8:27), there are many rock-hewn tombs today, bringing to mind the experience of JESUS when he met the demoniac who lived in the tombs.
Often the dead were buried in graves dug in the earth, as in the case of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, who was buried under an oak at Bethel (Genesis 35:8). Natural caves were sometimes utilized, as in the case of the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were placed (Genesis 49:31; 50:13). When they could afford to do so, families had a sepulcher. Gideon was buried in the sepulcher of Joash his father (Judges 8:32). Only prophets and kings were buried within the limits of a city, as Samuel, who was buried in his house at Ramah (I Samuel 25:1), and David, who was buried in the city of David (I Kings 2:10). A graveyard for poorer people was located outside Jerusalem (II Kings 23:6). Many of the villages had graveyards outside their limits, as for example Nain, where JESUS raised the widow's son (Luke 7:11-17). There is a graveyard located there today.8
Custom following burial. In Bible times it was quite customary for the sorrowing ones to fast up to the time burial. Then following the funeral, they would be offered bread and wine as a comforting refreshment. Such was called a mourning feast, which had as its real purpose the comforting of the mourners. The prophet Jeremiah refers to this custom: "Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother" (Jeremiah 16:7). This mourning feast brought to an end the period of deepest sorrow and strict fasting. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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