burials in the Bible

ABRAHAM AND SARAH. The first burial we have an account of is that of Sarah (Genesis 23). The first commercial transaction recorded is that of the purchase of a burial place, for which Abraham weighed to Ephron “four hundred shekels of silver current money with the merchants.” Thus, the patriarch became the owner of a part of the land of Canaan, the only part he ever possessed.

When he himself died, “his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah,” beside Sarah his wife (Genesis 25:9).

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DEBORAH, Rebekah’s nurse, was buried under Allon-bachuth, “the oak of weeping” (Genesis 35:8), near to Bethel.

RACHEL was buried near Ephrath; “and Jacob set a pillar upon her grave” (Genesis 35:16-20).

ISAAC was buried at Hebron, where he had died (Genesis 35:27,29).

JACOB, when charging his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah, said,

“There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah” (Genesis 49:31).

In compliance with the oath which he made him swear unto him (47:29-31), Joseph, assisted by his brethren, buried Jacob in the cave of Machpelah (50:2, 13). At the Exodus, Moses “took the bones of Joseph with him,” and they were buried in the “parcel of ground” which Jacob had bought of the sons of Hamor (Joshua 24:32), which became Joseph’s inheritance (Genesis 48:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1; John 4:5).

MOSES and MIRIAM. Two burials are mentioned as having taken place in the wilderness. That of Miriam (Numbers 20:1), and that of Moses, “in the land of Moab” (Deuteronomy 34:5,6,8).

AARON. There is no account of the actual burial of Aaron, which probably, however, took place on the summit of Mount Hor (Numbers 20:28,29).

JOSHUA was buried “in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah” (Joshua 24:30).

PYRAMIDS as burial sites. In Job we find a reference to burying-places, which were probably the Pyramids (Job 3:14,15). The Hebrew word for “waste places” here resembles in sound the Egyptian word for “pyramids.”

SAMUEL, like Moses, was honored with a national burial (1 Samuel 25:1). Joab (1 Kings 2:34) “was buried in his own house in the wilderness.”

ABSALOM was buried “in the wood” where he was slain (2 Samuel 18:17,18). The raising of the heap of stones over his grave was intended to mark abhorrence of the person buried (compare Joshua 7:26 and 8:29).

HEBREW KINGS. There was no fixed royal burying-place for the Hebrew kings. We find several royal burials taking place, however, “in the city of David” ( 1 Kings 2:10; 11:43; 15:8; 2 Kings 14:19-20; 15:38; 1 Kings 14:31; 22:50; 2 Chronicles 21:19,20; 2 Chronicles 24:25, etc.).

HEZEKIAH was buried in the mount of the sepulchres of the sons of David; “and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death” (2 Chronicles 32:33).

ISRAEL’S KINGS. Little is said regarding the burial of the kings of Israel. Some of them were buried in Samaria, the capital of their kingdom (2 Kings 10:35; 13:9; 14:16).

JESUS CHRIST. Our Lord was buried in a new tomb, hewn out of the rock, which Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for himself ( Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:46; John 19:41-42).

[See: More about Jesus Christ’s tomb / About His death]

LAZARUS. The grave of Lazarus was “a cave, and a stone lay on it” ( John 11:38). Graves were frequently either natural caverns or artificial excavations formed in the sides of rocks ( Genesis 23:9; Matthew 27:60); and coffins were seldom used, unless when the body was brought from a distance.

CREMATION. In connection with the burial of Saul and his three sons, we meet for the first time with the practice of burning the dead (1 Samuel 31:11-13). The same practice is again referred to by Amos (Amos 6:10).

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Author: Matthew G. Easton, with minor editing by Paul S. Taylor.