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Life in Bible times: Funerals and Tombs

Bible overview
Funerals and burials in Bible times.
Contributed by LUMO project
Story also available on our translated websites: Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Simplified Chinese
Jewish people in Bible times buried their dead as soon as possible. They saw no need to embalm. Jewish laws about not touching a dead body may have discouraged this practice. – Slide 1
Funeral processions were common. The body was carried on a wooden bier. – Slide 2
The procession moved out of the town or city to a burial place. – Slide 3
It was on such a bier that the son of the widow of Nain was being carried when Jesus intervened. – Slide 4
A funeral procession was a noisy affair as the Jews believed in venting their grief with loud wailing, beating on the chest and even tearing of the clothes. – Slide 5
Friends, relatives and even professional mourners joined in expressing their grief. – Slide 6
It was these professional mourners that Jesus dismissed when He raised the daughter of Jairus to life. – Slide 7
Psalms and other songs were sung and sometimes musical instruments, such as the flute, were played. – Slide 8
According to Roman tradition, criminals executed by them were either thrown into an unmarked grave or placed in a mass tomb. Joseph of Arimathea got the permission of Pilate to place the body of Jesus in his unused family tomb (Luke 23:55). – Slide 9
Jews did not normally practise cremation. The first tombs in the Bible were caves. Over time caves were refined into burial places carved out of rock. A large stone was rolled across the entrance of the tomb to protect the it from scavenging animals. It was such a stone covering the entrance to Lazarus’s tomb that Jesus asked to be removed. – Slide 10
Here is a tomb with the stone rolled back. The women visiting Jesus’ tomb wondered how they were going to roll the stone back to get into the tomb. – Slide 11
To control the odours the body was wrapped in cloth with lots of spices placed inside the wrappings. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who buried Jesus, packed 75Ibs of myrrh and aloes around his body. The women visiting Jesus tomb brought further spices to anoint his body. – Slide 12
Inside the tomb was a large slab on which the body was laid and left to decay. When two disciples entered the tomb of Jesus, the burial clothes were folded and His body was not there. – Slide 13
The empty tomb with the stone rolled away has become a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. – Slide 14
Slide 15