Quest Bible - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How did people mourn death in the Old Testament?

2 Samuel 14:2

Feelings of grief were expressed freely, beginning immediately after a person died. Mourners ripped their clothes, tore out their hair, wore sackcloth instead of ordinary clothes, sprinkled dust and ashes on their heads, and removed all jewelry. They wept and wailed and stopped eating (see Ex 33:4; 2Sa 14:2; Mt 6:16–18). Later, the Israelites were not allowed to engage in such mourning practices of other cultures as shaving the head or cutting the body with knives (see Lev 19:28; Dt 14:1; Jer 16:6).

During a period of mourning, friends would come to the house and visit, perhaps providing musicians. A family might hire professional mourners to keep up loud weeping for hours or days (see Jer 9:17–18; Mt 9:23–24; Ac 9:39). Food was provided to the mourners. After the funeral, women would go to the grave early in the morning to pray, weep or chant prayers. The period of mourning varied, depending on the importance of the person who died. The Israelites mourned thirty days for Aaron (see Nu 20:29) but fasted only seven days for King Saul (see 1Sa 31:13).

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