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August 5    Scripture



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Manners & Customs : Tombs
Tombs in the Ancient World

Funerary Customs EASTERN FUNERALS 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]

Preparing the Body for Burial PREPARATION OF THE BODY FOR BURIAL In Syria the custom has prevailed of wrapping the dead. Usually the face is covered with a napkin, and then the hands and feet are bound round with linen cloth. The body is then put upon a bier, with a pole at each corner, and thus carried on the shoulders of men to the tomb for burial. The description of Lazarus, when JESUS called him forth from the tomb, indicates that the same custom was practiced in those days: "And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go"(John 11:44). Also we know that the body of JESUS was thus wrapped by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus: "Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:40). Embalming spices were used when they could be afforded. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tomb in Smiths Bible Dictionary From the burial of Sarah in the cave of Machpelah, Ge 23:19 to the funeral rites prepared for Dorcas, Ac 9:37 there is no mention of any sarcophagus, or even coffin, in any Jewish burial. Still less were the rites of the Jews like those of the Pelasgi or Etruscans. They were marked with the same simplicity that characterized all their religious observances. This simplicity of rite led to what may be called the distinguishing characteristic of Jewish sepulchres --the deep loculus --which, so far as is now known, is universal in all purely Jewish rock-cut tombs, but hardly known elsewhere. Its form will be understood by referring to the following diagram, representing the forms of Jewish sepulture. In the apartment marked A there are twelve such loculi about two feet in width by three feet high. On the ground floor these generally open on the level of the door; when in the upper story, as at C, on a ledge or platform, on which the body might be laid to be anointed, and on which the stones might rest which closed the outer end of each loculus. The shallow loculus is shown in chamber B, but was apparently only used when sarcophagi were employed, and therefore, so far as we know, only during the Graeco-Roman period, when foreign customs came to be adopted. The shallow loculus would have been singularly inappropriate and inconvenient where an unembalmed body was laid out to decay, as there would evidently be no means of shutting it off from the rest of the catacomb. The deep loculus, on the other hand, was strictly conformable with Jewish customs, and could easily be closed by a stone fitted to the end and luted into the groove which usually exists there. This fact is especially interesting as it affords a key to much that is otherwise hard to be understood in certain passages in the New Testament; Thus in Joh 11:59 Jesus says, "Take away the stone," and (ver. 40) "they took away the stone" without difficulty, apparently. And in ch. Joh 20:1 the same expression is used "the stone is taken away." There is one catacomb-- that known as the "tomb of the kings" --which is closed by a stone rolled across its entrance; but it is the only one, and the immense amount of contrivance and fitting which it has required is sufficient proof that such an arrangement was not applied to any other of the numerous rock tombs around Jerusalem nor could the traces of it have been obliterated had if anywhere existed. Although, therefore, the Jews were singularly free from the pomps and vanities of funereal magnificence, they were at all stages of their independent existence an eminently burying people. Tombs of the patriarchs. --One of the most striking events in the life of Abraham is the purchase of the field of Ephron the Hittite at Hebron, in which was the cave of Machpelah, in order that he might therein bury Sarah his wife, and that it might be a sepulchre for himself and his children. There he and his immediate descendants were laid 3700 years ago, and there they are believed to rest now, under the great mosque of Hebron; but no one in modern times has seen their remains, or been allowed to enter into the cave where they rest. From the time when Abraham established the burying-place of his family at Hebron till the time when David fixed that of his family in the city which bore his name, the Jewish rulers-had no fixed or favorite place of sepulture. Each was buried on his own property, or where he died, without much caring for either the sanctity or convenience chosen. Tomb of the kings. --Of the twenty-two kings of Judah who reigned at Jerusalem from 1048 to 590 B.C. eleven, or exactly one half, were buried in one hypogeum in the "city of David." Of all these it is merely said that they were buried in "the sepulchres of their fathers" or "of the kings" in the city of David, except of two-- Asa and Hezekiah. Two more of these kings-- Jehoram and Joash --were buried also in the city of David "but not in the sepulchres of the kings." The passage in Ne 3:18 and...

Tombs in Easton's Bible Dictionary of the Hebrews were generally excavated in the solid rock, or were natural caves. Mention is made of such tombs in Judg. 8:32; 2 Sam. 2:32; 2 Kings 9:28; 23:30. They were sometimes made in gardens (2 Kings 21:26; 23:16; Matt. 27:60). They are found in great numbers in and around Jerusalem and all over the land. They were sometimes whitewashed (Matt. 23:27, 29). The body of Jesus was laid in Joseph's new rock-hewn tomb, in a garden near to Calvary. All evidence is in favour of the opinion that this tomb was somewhere near the Damascus gate, and outside the city, and cannot be identified with the so-called "holy sepulchre." The mouth of such rocky tombs was usually closed by a large stone (Heb. golal), which could only be removed by the united efforts of several men (Matt. 28:2; comp. John 11:39). (See GOLGOTHA -T0001522.)

Tombs in Fausset's Bible Dictionary Simplicity is the characteristic of Jewish sepulture. No sarcophagus or coffin or separate tomb structure for one individual; usually no pillar (but Jacob set one over Rachel, Genesis 35:20) or mound, no inscription or painting. The coffining and embalming of Joseph as a naturalized Egyptian, and the embalming of Jacob his father in Egypt, are exceptional cases. So also the burning of Saul, when his body was hastily rescued from the Philistines. The body was usually washed, anointed, wrapped in linen, and borne without pageant or prayers to the grave. "Great burnings" of perfumes accompanied the sepulture of kings (Mark 14:8; Mark 16:1; John 19:39, etc.; 2 Chronicles 16:14; Jeremiah 34:5). The Jewish rock tombs are of three classes: (1) Kokim tombs, which have parallel tunnels running in, three or four side by side, from the walls of a rectangular chamber; the bodies lay with their feet toward the chamber, and stone pillows for the heads at the further end; the entrance door is in the face of the cliff; this is the most ancient form of tomb, for the kokim are found sometimes in part destroyed to enlarge the tomb on a different system. (2) Loculus tombs; these often have decorated facades, within the chamber has an arched recess with rock- cut sarcophagus or loculus beneath, the body lying parallel to the side of the chamber; the rolling stone is found with the loculus, hardly ever with the koka tomb; our Lord's sepulchre was therefore a loculus. (3) Sunken tombs are not of Jewish origin. The so- called sepulchres of Joseph and Nicodemus are unmistakably Jewish kokim, rock-hewn. The present chamber in the church of the Holy Sepulchre was formed when the church was built, by cutting away a portion of the original tomb chamber so as to leave a sort of cave, and the floor was leveled at the same time. The side of the kok was cut away, and a canopy of rock left over its bed. In course of time, by pilgrims carrying off relics of rock the kok became entirely isolated, the canopy disappeared, and the tomb assumed its present form (Major Wilson). The angel at the head and the angel at the foot could only have been in a loculus, not a koka tomb. The Mishna (Baba Bathra, 2:9) says, "corpses and sepulchres are separated from the city 50 cubits." The fact that the locuhs tomb was formed out of an original koka tomb, whereas our Lord's loculus tomb was a "new" one "wherein was man never yet laid" (John 19:41), seems to be fatal to the claim of the so-called Holy Sepulchre, independently of the argument of its having been probably inside the walls. The loculi or recesses are about two feet wide by three high. A stone closes the outer end of each loculus. The shallow loculi were used only in the Greek-Roman period, when sarcophagi were introduced, and for embalmed bodies. The deep loculus lengthwise from the cave best suited the unembalmed body, for it whilst the body was decomposing could most easily be shut off with a small stone from the rest of the catacomb (compare John 11:38-40, "take away the stone," and "they took away the stone".) This, and the stone rolled away from out' Lord's tomb (Mark 16:3-4, "the stone was rolled away ... very great"), was that at the mouth of the cave, not as Smith's Dictionary supposes from the small mouth of the loculus inside. The stone, like a cheese or millstone, (generally three feet wide,) rolled right and left of the door (generally two feet wide) in a groove, so that it could be moved to one side when the tomb was opened and rolled back over the mouth in shutting the tomb. (See BURIAL.) The slope was down toward the cave mouth, so that it would roll down there by its own...

Tombs Scripture - Luke 8:27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in [any] house, but in the tombs.

Tombs Scripture - Mark 5:2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

Tombs Scripture - Mark 5:3 Who had [his] dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

Tombs Scripture - Mark 5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

Tombs Scripture - Matthew 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

Tombs Scripture - Matthew 8:28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.