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English Bible Dictionary

Burial | Sepulchres

 

[TOMBS] On this subject we have to notice--

  • The place of burial, its site and shape;

  • The mode of burial;

  • The prevalent notions regarding this duty.

  • A natural cave enlarged and adapted by excavation, or an artificial imitation of one was the standard type of sepulchre. Sepulchres, when the owner's means permitted it, were commonly prepared beforehand, and stood often in gardens, by roadsides, or even adjoining houses. Kings and prophets alone were probably buried within towns. (1 Kings 2:10; 16:6,28) Cities soon became populous and demanded cemeteries, (Ezekiel 39:15) which were placed without the walls. Sepulchres were marked sometimes by pillars or by pyramids. Such as were not otherwise noticeable were scrupulously "whited," (Matthew 23:27) once a year, after the rains before the Passover, to warn passers-by of defilement.

  • "The manner of the Jews" included the use of spices, where they could command the means. (2 Chronicles 16:10) A portion of these was burnt in honor of the deceased, and to this use was probably destined part of the one hundred pounds weight of "myrrh and aloes" in our Lord's case, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. In no instance, save that of Saul and his sons, were the bodies burned; and even then the bones were interred, and re-exhumed for solemn entombment. It was the office of the next of kin to perform and preside over the whole funeral office; though public buriers were not unknown in New Testament times. (Acts 5:6,10) The body was borne by the nearest relatives. The grave-clothes were probably of the fashion worn in life, but swathed and fastened with bandages, and the head covered separately.

  • The precedent of Jacob's and Joseph's remains being returned to the land of Canaan was followed, in wish at least, by every pious Jew.

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