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They fetch a groan; then lay the bewailed body on a couch, and throw over it the purple robes, his wonted apparel."?
The body was then embalmed, which was performed by the Egyptians after the following method: the brain was removed with a bent iron, and the vacuity filled up with medicaments; the bowels were also drawn out, and the trunk being stuffed with myrrh, cassia, and other spices, except frankincense, which were proper to exsiccate the humours, it was pickled in nitre, in which it lay for seventy days. After this period, it was wrapped in bandages of fine linen and gums, to make it adhere; and was then delivered to the relations of the deceased entire; all its features, and the very hairs of the eyelids being preserved. In this manner were the kings of Judah embalmed for many ages.
But when the funeral obsequies were not long delayed, they used another kind of embalming. They wrapped up the body with sweet spices and odours, without extracting the brain, or removing the bowels. This is the way in which it was proposed to embalm the sacred body of our Saviour; which was prevented by his resurrection.8. This last seems to be properly what the ancients denominated embalming; for Moses observes, in reference to Jacob, “ Forty days were fulfilled for him (for so are fulfilled the days of those who are embalmed), and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.” We learn from two Greek historians, Herodotus and Diodorus, that the time of mourning was while the body remained with the embalmers; which, according to Hero. dotus, was seventy days.h' It lay in nitre thirty days, for the purpose of drying up all its superfluous and noxious moisture; and the remaining forty, (the time mentioned by Diodorus), were employed in anointing it with gums and spices, to preserve it; which we infer from the words of Moses, was the proper embalming. The former circumstance explains the reason, why the Egyptians mourned for Israel threescore and ten days; the latter explains the meaning of the forty days which were fulfilled for Israel, being the days of those that are embalmed.
* Davidson's Translation. See also Æneid. lib. ix, 1. 488.
8 Harmer's Observ. vol. iii, p. 73.
The ancient Greeks were accustomed to lay out the body after it was shrouded in its grave-clothes; sometimes upon a bier, which they bedecked with various sorts of flowers. The place where the bodies were laid out, was near the door of the house : there the friends of the de ceased attended them with loud lamentations ; a custom which still continues to be observed among that people. Dr. Chandler, when travelling in Greece, saw a woman at Megara, sitting with the door of her cottage open, lamenting her dead husband aloud; and at Zante, a woman in a house with the door open, bewailing her little son, whose body lay by her dressed, the hair powdered, the face painted, and bedecked with gold leaf. This custom of mourning for the dead, near the door of the house, was probably borrowed from the Syrians; and if so, it will serve to illustrate an obscure expression of Moses, relative to Abraham : “ And Sarah died in Kirjatharba'; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep
for her."). He came out of his own separate tent, and seating himself on the ground near the door of her tent, where her corpse was placed, that he might perform those public solemn rites of mourning, that were required, as well by decency as affection, lamented with many tears the loss he had sustained.
h Lib. i, cap. 86. · Lib. i, c. 91, p. 101, 102. j Gen. 1, 2, 3.
See Harmer's Obsery. vol. iii, chap. vii, throughout. Chandler's Trav. p. 195. Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 184.
1 Gen. xxiii, 2.
While the body lay exposed in this manner, it was customary to give it constant attendance, to defend it from any violence or affront that might be offered: Whence Achilles says of his friend Patroclus,
Ος μου ενα κλισιη δεδειγμενος οξεί χαλκω, &c. Il. lib. xix, l. 211. “ Slain at the entrance of the tent he lies; while his companions mourn around.” And a little before, we find him so passionately concerned lest flies and vermin should pol. lute the corpse, that he could not be drawn from it to the battle, till Thetis promised to guard it. Not less atten. tive were the Jews, to the dust of their departed friends, of which Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, furnished a striking and affecting example; she “ took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest, until water dropped” upon the dead bodies of her two sons, and the five sons of Michal, the daughter of Saul, who were put to death for the treachery of their father," and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night."ma
Before the door of the house where the corpse lay, stood a vessel of water, the design of which was, that those who had been employed about the dead body might purify themselves by washing; for the heathen world thought themselves polluted by the contact of a dead body, and even considered the house where it lay, not
Iliad. lib. xix, I. 25.
altogether free from pollution. Euripides accordingly makes Helena say, “Our houses are sacred, not defiled by the death of Menelaus:" Καθαρα γαρ ημιν δoμασ',
', sylads ψυχην αφηκε Μενελιως. .
Helena, v. 1446. The Romans had the same idea ; only instead of placing a vessel of water at the door, they appointed one to go round and purify the attendants. The air proceeding from a dead body, was thought to pollute every thing into which it entered; this is the reason that every open vessel, as well as the whole house, underwent a general purification, immediately after the funeral solemnities were over. In these sentiments and customs, we discover a faint trace of the laws respecting dead bodies, which were given from the top of Sinai to the people of Israel. “He that toucheth the dead body of a man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean." 66 This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent; all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. 'And every open vessel which hath no covering bound upon it, shall be unclean."
The body, after being exposed at the door of the house, or in some open apartment, the usual number of days, was laid in a coffin. This, however, seems to have been an honour commonly reserved for persons of better condition ; for on any other supposition, it is not easy to account for the remark of the inspired writer, that the body of Joseph, after being embalmed, was put in a coffin in Egypt.P n Æneid. lib. vi, 1. 229, &c.
Gen. 1, 26. • Numb. xix, 11, 12, 14, 15. See Potter's Gr. Antiq. yol ü, p. 188, 189.
The meaner sort of people seem to have been interred in their grave-clothes, without a coffin. In this manner was the sacred body of our Lord committed to the tomb.
The body was sometimes placed upon a bier, which bore some resemblance to a coffin or bed, in order to be carried out to burial. Upon one of these was carried forth the widow's son of Nain, whom our compassionate Lord raised to life, and restored to his mother. We are informed in the history of the kings of Judah, that Asa being dead, they laid him in the bed, which was filled with sweet odours. Josephus, the Jewish historian, de scribing the funeral of Herod the great, says, his bed was adorned with precious stones; his body rested under a purple covering ; he had a diadem and a crown of gold upon his head, a sceptre in his hand; and that all his house followed the bed." The bier used by the Turks at Aleppo, says Russel, is a kind of coffin, much in the form of ours, only the lid rises with a ledge in the middle. Christians, according to the same author, are carried to the
grave in an open bier of the same kind as that used by the people of Nain. But the Jews seem to have conveyed their dead bodies to their funerals without any support, as may be inferred from the history of Ananias and his wife Sapphira : “ And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out and buried him."t With equal dispatch they carried forth - Sapphira, and buried her by her husband. No hint is given of a bier in either
9 Buckingham's Trav. vol. ii, p. 371. The body which this traveller saw was wrapped in linen, without a coffin, and slung on cords between two poles, borne on men's shoulders, with its feet foremost.
Josephus' Antiq. book xvii, chap. viii, sec. 3. * Hist. of Aleppo, vol. i, p. 306 ; and vol, ii, p. 56. + Acts v, 6.