The Biblical concept of mourning

A Christian burial was always done with the message of hope of resurrection. Death was often called sleep (1 Th 4:13) and the grave just a resting place. The body was respected as a Temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19) and belonged to God (1 Cor 6:13-14). When they could afford it professional mourners were hired (Mk 5:38). Non-Christians were not encouraged to participate in mourning (1 Th 4:13).

Christians were allowed to cry about the immediate loss, yet they must at the same time be filled with joy when they think of the heavenly joy, peace and glory they are going to experience in the New Jerusalem. As Jesus overcome the death, those who belief in Him, should experience eternal victory. Funerals showed the victory in Christ (Rm 6:4-5).

The procession to the grave was led by professional mourners and, sometimes even people playing on flutes. The family members would then follow. Cries of sadness and agony were then heard from the mourners and the family from a far distance (Am 5:16; Ec 12:5; Job 21:33; Jer 9:17; Mt 9:23; 2 Sm 3:31; 2 Sm 3:32). 

The time of mourning varied:

  • Genesis 50:3 says that for Jacob the mourning lasted 70 days.
  • Numbers 20:29 says that the morning for Aaron lasted 30 days.
  • Deuteronomy 34:5-8 states that in the case of Moses the mourning lasted for 30 days after the burial.

The Jewish law had some rules with regards to the mourning:

  • The partner staying behind was forbidden to work.
  • He could not bathe or anoint himself.
  • He was forbidden to read the Holy Scriptures.