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fort them and assist at the entertainment, which was given in honour of the dead. In allusion to this custom, the prophet Jeremiah received this charge : “ Thus saith the Lord, enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, nor bemoan them; for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord.” When all the people, therefore, came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, after the funeral of Abner, it was in strict compliance with the general custom of the country. The same observation applies to the circumstance mentioned in the gospel of John, that “ many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them."
Chardin informs us, that “it is usual in the east to leave a relation of a person deceased to weep and mourn, till on the third or fourth day at farthest, the relations and friends go to see him, cause him to eat, lead him to a bath, and cause him to put on new vestments, he having before thrown himself upon the ground.” The surprise of David's servants who had seen his bitter anguish while the child was sick, was excited by his doing that himself, which it was customary for the friends of mourners to do for them."
The oriental mourner was distinguished by the slovenliness of his dress. He suffered the hair of his head, if not cut or plucked off in the excess of his grief, to hang dishevelled upon the shoulders; he neither trimmed his beard, nor washed his feet, even in the hottest weather ; he did not wash his shirt, nor any of the linen he wore, During the whole time of mourning, he refused to change his clothes. In this state of total negligence, it appears that David mourned for his infant son ; for after he learned from his attendants that the child was dead, the inw John xi, 19.
- Harmer's Observ. vol. ii, p. 495.
spired historian observes, “ Then David arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself, and changed his apparel.” · The time of mourning for the dead was longer or shorter, according to the dignity of the person. Among the modern Jews, the usual time is seven days, during which they shut themselves up in their houses ; or if some extraordinary occasion forces them to appear in public, it is without shoes, as a token they have lost a dear friend. This explains the reason that when Ezekiel was commanded to abstain from the rites of mourning, he was directed to put his shoes on his feet.y
It was a custom among the Jews, to visit the sepulchres of their deceased friends three days; for so long they supposed their spirits hovered about them; but when once they perceived their visage begin to change, as it would in that time in those warm countries, all hopes of a return to life were then at an end. After a revolution of humours, which, according to some authors, is completed in three days, the body tends naturally to putrefaction ; and by consequence, Martha had reason to say, that her brother's body, which appears by the context to have been laid in the sepulchre on the same day he died, was now on the fourth day become offensive. But it
But it appears from an incident in the same narrative, that in Judea they were accustomed to visit the grave of their deceased relations after the third day, merely to lament their loss, and give vent to their grief. If this had not been a common practice, the people that came to comfort the sisters of Lazarus, would not so readily have concluded, when Mary went hastily out to meet her Saviour, “ She goeth to the grave to weep there.” The Turkish women continue to follow this custom ; they go before sun-rising on Friday, the stated day of their worship, to the grave of the deceased, where with many tears and lamentations, they sprinkle their monuments with water and flowers. The Persians also visit the sepulchres of their principal imams or prelates; and the Mahommedans in Hindostan follow the same practice, which they probably learned from their neighbours the Persians, going to the grave, and lamenting their departed friends ten days after their decease.? The Syrian women also proceed in companies on certain days to the tombs of their relations, which are built at a little distance from their towns, to weep there; and on these occasions they commonly indulge in the deepest expressions of grief. When Le Bruin was at Rama, he saw a very great company of these mourning women going out of the town to weep at the tombs. He followed them, and seated himself on an elevated spot, adjacent to their sepulchres, near the place where they made their usual lamentations. They first went and placed themselves on the tombs, and wept there ; after remaining about half an hour, some of them rose up and formed a ring, holding each other by the hands. Quickly two of them quitted the others, and took their station in the centre of the ring, where they made so much noise in screaming and clapping their hands, as, together with their various contortions, might, in the opinion of the traveller, have subjected them to the suspicion of insanity. After that they returned, and seated themselves to weep again, till they gradually withdrew to their homes. The dresses they wore were such as they generally used, white, or any other colour ; but when they rose up to form a circle together, they put on a black veil over the upper parts of their persons. Such, it may be concluded, was the weeping at Rama, described in the prophecies of Jeremiah: “ A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and bitter weeping ; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” b
y Potter's Grecian Antiq. vol. ii, p. 240.
In other parts of Palestine and Syria, the friends and relations of the deceased went occasionally to the chambers or cupolas, which were built over the graves, to meditate on their loss, and indulge their grief in those remote and solemn retirements. This seems to have been a very general custom, and to have found its way into countries very distant from the land of promise. Humboldt records a curious and interesting fact of his discovering in the empire of Mexico, one or two of these sepulchral monuments, with a chamber over the grave, in the fashion of the east ;o a circumstance which countenances the idea, that the Mexicans came originally from Asia, where that mode of constructing sepulchres prevailed. The ancient Hebrews had an idolatrous custom of going among the tombs, to receive dreams, by which they endeavoured to form a judgment of events, and how to manage their affairs ;
for the prophet Isaiah charges them with remaining among the graves, and lodging in the monuments; which is rendered by the Seventy, sleeping in the tombs upon, the account of dreams: and it is reasonable to believe, that the sepulchre of Moses was designedly concealed, lest in future times it should become the scene of superstitious veneration, or gross idolatry.
b Jer. xxxi, 15. Harmer's Observ. vol. iii, p. 31. · Political Essay, &c. vol. ii, p. 192, 193. See also his Historical Account.
Oil is now presented in the east, to be burnt in honour of the dead, whom they reverence with a religious kind of homage. Mr. Harmer thinks it most natural to suppose, that the prophet Hosea refers to a similar practice, when he upbraids the Israelites with carrying oil into Egypt. They did not cary it thither in the way of lawful commerce ; for they carried it to Tyre without reproof, to barter it for other goods. It was not sent as a present to the king of Egypt; for the Jewish people endeavoured to gain the friendship of foreign potentates with gold and silver. It was not exacted as a tribute ; for when the king of Egypt dethroned Jehoahaz the king of Judah, and imposed a fine upon the people, he did not appoint them to pay so much oil, but so much silver and gold. But if they burnt oil in those early times in honour of their idols, and their departed friends, and the Jevrs sent it into Egypt with that intention, it is no wonder the prophet so severely reproaches them for their conduct. Oil is in modern times very often presented to the objects of religious veneration in Barbary and Egypt. The Algerines, according to Pitts, when they are in the mouth of the straits, throw a bundle of wax candles, together with a pot of oil, overboard, as a present to the marabot or saint who lies entombed there, on the Barbary shore, near the sea.a
The custom of putting tears into the ampulla or urna lacrymales, so well known among the Romans, seems to have been more anciently in use in Asia, and particularly among the Hebrews. These lacrymal urns were of different materials, some of glass, some of earth, and of various forms and shapes. One went about to each person