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Daily Reading: 4th January 2015

John 11.18-19

18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, nearly two miles away.

19 Now many Jews had come to Martha and Mary so that they might comfort them over their brother.

The name Bethany means ‘house of dates’, and Jerusalem means ‘Set you double peace’.

We know that Lazarus had already been buried for four days. There are a number of interesting facts that accompany the burial of the dead. The Jewish customs were very different from our own customs of mourning.

For the Jews there were strict laws to obey during the period of mourning, whereas for ourselves it is usually a matter of individual choice.

For the Jews mourning was very much a community affair, with many people accompanying the main mourners, supporting them in compassion. God gave His people provision to bless and comfort those who mourn.

Quite often in our society the main mourners are left alone to grieve in private, only being visited by family and friends. Attendance at the funeral is the main source of general support for the main mourners.

For the Jews burial was normally the same day as death, which was necessary to avoid the stench of decomposition through the heat.

In our country how long it is before a person is either buried or cremated can vary from just under a week to many weeks, depending on circumstances.

We know from the Old Testament that the period of mourning was 30 days, although the mourning period for Jacob was forty days (Genesis 50.3).

The thirty days were divided as follows: three days of weeping; four days of lamentation; and twenty days of sorrow.

W Barclay has many insights to the Jewish funeral, among them are:

1 Jewish funerals were elaborate affairs, the dead being buried in the finest of robes and having expensive treasures buried with them.

2 This made funerals very expensive, putting an impossible strain on family finances. A rabbi named Gamaliel the Second changed this by stating that he wanted to be buried in a simple linen robe, which is still a Jewish custom.

The costs of a funeral is a big issue for us today as they get more and more expensive. At a time of grief and sadness this financial burden is a great source of worry for many people.

3 The main mourners were not allowed to do any work.

4 The diet was severely restricted.

5 Their dress was limited

To be cont.

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