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burial Summary and Overview

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burial in Easton's Bible Dictionary

The first burial we have an account of is that of Sarah (Gen. 23). The first commercial transaction recorded is that of the purchase of a burial-place, for which Abraham weighed to Ephron "four hundred shekels of silver current money with the merchants." Thus the patriarch became the owner of a part of the land of Canaan, the only part he ever possessed. When he himself died, "his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah," beside Sarah his wife (Gen. 25:9). Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, was buried under Allon-bachuth, "the oak of weeping" (Gen. 35:8), near to Bethel. Rachel died, and was buried near Ephrath; "and Jacob set a pillar upon her grave" (16-20). Isaac was buried at Hebron, where he had died (27, 29). Jacob, when charging his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah, said, "There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah" (49:31). In compliance with the oath which he made him swear unto him (47:29-31), Joseph, assisted by his brethren, buried Jacob in the cave of Machpelah (50:2, 13). At the Exodus, Moses "took the bones of Joseph with him," and they were buried in the "parcel of ground" which Jacob had bought of the sons of Hamor (Josh. 24:32), which became Joseph's inheritance (Gen. 48:22; 1 Chr. 5:1; John 4:5). Two burials are mentioned as having taken place in the wilderness. That of Miriam (Num. 20:1), and that of Moses, "in the land of Moab" (Deut. 34:5, 6, 8). There is no account of the actual burial of Aaron, which probably, however, took place on the summit of Mount Hor (Num. 20:28, 29). Joshua was buried "in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah" (Josh. 24: 30). In Job we find a reference to burying-places, which were probably the Pyramids (3:14, 15). The Hebrew word for "waste places" here resembles in sound the Egyptian word for "pyramids." Samuel, like Moses, was honoured with a national burial (1 Sam. 25:1). Joab (1 Kings 2:34) "was buried in his own house in the wilderness." In connection with the burial of Saul and his three sons we meet for the first time with the practice of burning the dead (1 Sam. 31:11-13). The same practice is again referred to by Amos (6:10). Absalom was buried "in the wood" where he was slain (2 Sam. 18:17, 18). The raising of the heap of stones over his grave was intended to mark abhorrence of the person buried (compare Josh. 7:26 and 8:29). There was no fixed royal burying-place for the Hebrew kings. We find several royal burials taking place, however, "in the city of David" (1 Kings 2:10; 11:43; 15:8; 2 Kings 14:19, 20; 15:38; 1 Kings 14:31; 22:50; 2 Chr. 21:19, 20; 2 Chr. 24:25, etc.). Hezekiah was buried in the mount of the sepulchres of the sons of David; "and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death" (2 Chr. 32:33). Little is said regarding the burial of the kings of Israel. Some of them were buried in Samaria, the capital of their kingdom (2 Kings 10:35; 13:9; 14:16). Our Lord was buried in a new tomb, hewn out of the rock, which Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for himself (Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:46; John 19:41, 42). The grave of Lazarus was "a cave, and a stone lay on it" (John 11:38). Graves were frequently either natural caverns or artificial excavations formed in the sides of rocks (Gen. 23:9; Matt. 27:60); and coffins were seldom used, unless when the body was brought from a distance.

burial in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

BURIAL , BURY . Gen 23:4; Matt 26:12. It was customary among the Jews, and ancients generally, for the children or near kindred to close the eyes of the dying. Gen 46:4. A loud and general wailing followed the decease, John 11:19, 1 Chr 24:31, 1 Sam 15:33, and continued many days after burial. The body of the deceased was washed and laid out. Acts 9:37. It was wrapped in folds of linen cloth, and the head bound around with a napkin. It is said that Lazarus was bound "hand and foot with grave clothes," John 11:44, and it is supposed by many that each limb had its separate wrapper, as it was customary in Egypt to wrap even each finger in a separate cloth or band, so that hundreds of yards of cloth are often unwound from one of their mummies. When thus bound around, it was placed on a bier, in readiness to be borne to the grave. See Bier, Embalm. The climate, and the uncleanness which was contracted, under the law, from contact with a dead body, or even by coming into the same apartment with it, would naturally lead to the custom of early interments. In Persia, we are told, it is not customary to keep the dead over two or three hours, and the European Jews universally bury their dead early. There were many exceptions in this respect, however. The practice of embalming was not general among the Jews, though spices, etc., were used in their burials. 2 Chr 16:14; John 19:40. Jacob and Joseph, whose bodies were embalmed, both died in Egypt, where the art of embalming was very skilfully practised. In Jacob's case we are told that Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm BUR BUR his father, and then he was placed in a coffin in Egypt, and thence his body was carried to Machpelah, in Canaan, and buried. Gen 50:2, 1 Kgs 15:7, Jud 4:12. Coffins were used in Egypt and Babylon, but are unknown in the East even at the present day except when a body is to be conveyed to a distant place. See Embalm. All civilized nations have agreed in attending with some solemnity to the burial of their dead. Among the Jews the bier was followed to the grave by the nearest relations and other friends. 2 Sam 3:31; Luke 7:12. Other persons attended, and sometimes mourners (or rather wailers by profession) were employed to attend the body. Jer 9:17; Eze 24:17; Am 5:16; Matt 9:23. This is the custom now in many Eastern nations. Certain places were appropriated by the Jews to the purpose of burying the dead, and they were both public and private. Gen 23:4; Gen 50:13; Jud 8:32; Jud 16:31; 2 Sam 2:32; 2 Sam 21:14; 2 Kgs 23:6; Jer 26:23. They were usually selected in gardens, 2 Kgs 21:18, Acts 11:26; John 19:41; or fields. Gen 23:11; or caves in the sides of the mountains, 2 Kgs 23:16-17; or in rocks, Isa 22:16; and to be unburied was regarded as exceedingly disgraceful. 1 Sam 17:44-46; 2 Kgs 9:10; Ps 141:7; Jer 8:2 and Gen 22:19. The grave was called the house or home of the dead. Job 30:23; Eccl 12:5. The burial places were usually in retired situations, and hence were the resort of demoniacs. Matt 8:28, and were usually without the city walls. Kings and prophets alone, it would seem, were buried within the walls. Josh 24:30, 1 Sam 15:33; 1 Sam 25:1; 1 Sam 28:3; 2 Kgs 21:18; 2 Chr 16:14; 2 Chr 24:16; 2 Chr 33:20; Neh 3:16. Though solitary, they were selected with reference to shade, prospect, etc. Gen 23:17; Gen 35:8; 1 Sam 31:13. The desire to be buried with one's kindred was very strong, 2 Sam 19:37; and it is remarkable that the Jews, as a people, in all their dispersions and sufferings, retain an ardent desire to be buried in their own land, especially around Jerusalem. It was not unusual for a single family to have near their dwelling-house a small building without door or window, built of stone or other durable material, which was called the sepulchral house or family mansion for the dead. The following description of the tombs of the Judges is taken from Baedeker's Palestine and Syria, p. 238: On the western side of the rock there is a small fore-court, leading to a vestibule, from which is entered the tomb-chamber. The portal was once capable of being closed from within. On the left side of the chamber are 7 shaft-tombs, above which, at irregular distances, are 3 vaulted niche-tombs, and at the back of these again there are several shaft-tombs. In the western wall is a niche. Adjoining this first chamber on the east and south are 2 others, on about the same level, and 2 on a lower level. They have tombs on three sides. A passage with 3 tombs descends from the first to the north-eastern chamber, which contains 13 tombs. The other side-chamber contains no tomb. The sepulchres of the Jews were sometimes expensively built and adorned or garnished, and were whitened at short intervals, so as to make them conspicuous, that they might be avoided, as contact with them occasioned ceremonial uncleanness. Hence the Plan of Tombs of the Judges. (After de Sauley.) force of our Lord's reproof. Matt 23:27. Sometimes titles or inscriptions were placed on them. 2 Kgs 23:17. To build a sepulchre for a man was an BUR BYT expression of respect and honor. Matt 23:20; Luke 11:48. The most famous sepulchres in Palestine are the Machpelah, the burial-place of the patriarchs, under the great mosque of Hebron, to which, however, no stranger is admitted; the sepulchre of Joseph, near Jacob's well, in Tomb of the Judges. (From Photograph by Good.) Samaria; the tombs of the kings and the tombs of the Judges, near Jerusalem:and the supposed sepulchre of Christ, in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem.

burial in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

The Jews entombed, if possible, or else inferred, their dead; the rabbis alleging as a reason" Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19). Even enemies received burial (1 Kings 11:15). The law ordained the same treatment of the malefactor (Deuteronomy 21:23). Nothing but extreme profanity on the part of the deceased during life was deemed a warrant for disturbing their remains (2 Kings 23:16-17; Jeremiah 8:1-2). A cave was the usual tomb, as Israel abounds in caves. The funeral rites were much less elaborate than those of the Egyptians. Jacob and Joseph dying in Egypt were embalmed; the Egyptians, through lack of a better hope, endeavoring to avert or delay corruption. Kings and prophets alone were buried within the walls of towns. A strong family feeling led the Israelites to desire burial in the same tomb as their forefathers. So Jacob (Genesis 49:29-32). The burial place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob, in the field of Machpelah (Genesis 23), bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, and the field bought by Jacob from Shechem's father, Hamor, where Joseph's bones were buried (Joshua 24:32), were the only fixed possessions the patriarchs had in Canaan, and the sole purchases they made there. They felt their bodies belonged to the Lord. To be excluded from the family burying place, as Uzziah and Manasseh were, was deemed an indignity. 2 Chronicles 26:23; 2 Chronicles 33:20; compare 1 Kings 13:22-31, which shows it was a mark of great respect to one not of one's family to desire burial with him (compare Rth 1:17). The greatest indignity was to be denied burial (2 Kings 9:10; Isaiah 14:20; Jeremiah 22:18-19; 2 Samuel 21:12-14). David's magnanimity appears in his care to restore his enemy Saul's remains to the paternal tomb. To give a place in one's own sepulchre was a special honor; as the children of Heth offered Abraham, and as Jehoiada was buried among the kings (Genesis 23:6; 2 Chronicles 24:16). So Joseph of Arimathea could not have done a greater honor to our crucified Lord's body than giving it a place in his own new tomb, fulfilling the prophecy Isaiah 53:9 (John 19:31-42). A common tomb for all the kindred, with galleries, is not uncommon in the East. Burning was only practiced in peculiar circumstances, as in the case of Saul's and his sons' mutilated headless bodies, where regular burial was impossible and there was a possibility of the Philistines coming and mutilating them still more. However, the bones were not burned but buried (1 Samuel 31:11-13). Also in a plague, to prevent contagion (Amos 6:9-10). Costly spices were wrapped up in the linen swathes round the corpse, and also were burnt at the funeral (2 Chronicles 16:14); so Nicodemus honored Jesus with 100 pounds weight of "myrrh and aloes." The rapidity of decomposition in the hot East, and the legal uncleanness of association with a dead body, caused immediate interment; as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5; Numbers 19:11-14). Hired mourners with shrill pipes increased the sound of wailings for the dead (Matthew 9:23; Jeremiah 9:17; 2 Chronicles 35:25). The body without any coffin was carried to burial on a bier (Luke 7:12). A napkin was bound round the head, and linen bandages wound round the body (John 11:44; John 19:40). The whole of the preparations are included in the Greek word entafiasmos which Jesus uses (Mark 14:8). After burial the funeral feast followed (Jeremiah 16:6-8). Ezekiel 24:17, "Eat not the bread of men," i.e. the bread or viands, as well as "the cup of consolation," which men usually bring mourners in token of sympathy. The law (Leviticus 19:28) forbade cuttings in the flesh for the dead, usual among the pagan. Families often reduced their means by lavish expenditure in gifts at funerals, to which there may be reference in Deuteronomy 26:14. By the law also nothing ought to be carried into a mourning house (as being unclean) of that which was sanctified, as for instance tithes. Samuel was buried in his own house at Ramah; and the sepulchers of Judah's kings were in the city of David (2 Chronicles 16:14). Fine ranges of tombs, said to be of the kings, judges, and prophets, still remain near Jerusalem; but these, many think, are the tomb of Helena, the widow of the king of Adiabene, who settled at Jerusalem and relieved poor Jews in the famine foretold by Agabus under Claudius Caesar. The "graves of the children of the people" were and are in the valley of Kedron or Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 23:6); and on the graves of them that had sacrificed to the idols and groves Josiah strawed the dust of their idols (2 Chronicles 34:4): "the graves of the common people" outside the city (Jeremiah 26:23). Tophet, the valley E. of the city, was once the haunt of Moloch worship, but was doomed to defilement by burials there (Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:11). "The potters' field," with its holes dug out for clay, afforded graves ready made "to bury strangers in." Tombs were often cut out of the living rock. One of the kings' tombs near Jerusalem has a large circular stone set on its edge. A deep recess is cut in the solid rock at the left of the door, into which the stone might be rolled aside, when the tomb was opened; when closed, the stone would be rolled back to its proper place. The disk is large enough, not only to cover the entrance, but also to fit into another recess at the right of the door, and thus completely shut it in. There is an incline to its proper place, so that to roll it back is much harder than to roll it into it. The women going to Jesus' tomb might well say," Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (Mark 16:3.) Mary stooped to look in, because the door was low; the angel sat on the stone rolled aside into its recess, as the women drew near (Matthew 28:2; John 20:11; compare Isaiah 22:16; Luke 23:53). Demoniacs and outcasts would haunt such tombs for shelter, when open (Isaiah 60:4; Mark 5:5). Sepulchers used to be whitened, after the rains, before the Passover, each year, to guard against any defiling himself by touching them. This explains Jesus' comparison of hypocrites to "whited sepulchers" (Matthew 23:27). To repair the prophets' tombs was regarded as an act of great piety (Matthew 23:29).