What is 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.