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Is Mourning in the Scriptures? Where?


I have been trying to research Catholic mourning periods and ran across your piece Catholic Funeral Etiquette - Part III - The Mourning Period by Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

My question is where and when does this tradition come from? I've been unable to find where these mourning periods are in the Scriptures, so where are they, or when and how did they start?



TIA responds:


Thank you for your consideration.

Yes, a period of mourning after a person died was a common practice that can be found in many places in the Holy Scriptures.

Many memorable mourning periods are reported there:
  • The one for Sarah with lamentations and tears (Gen 23:2);

  • The one for Jacob that was observed for 70 days throughout Egypt (Gen 50:3);

  • The one for Moses with 30 days of tears and lamentations in the prairies of Moab (Deut 34:8);

  • The one for Samuel, whose death was lamented by all of Israel (1 Kings 25:1);

  • The ones for Saul and Jonathan where David composed elegies to mourn them (2 Kings 1:17-27);

  • The one for Judah Maccabee for whom all Israel wept and lamented long days (1 Mac 9:20).
The practices of mourning a deceased person were also used on other sad occasions: to ask forgiveness for public sins, to plead to God to stop a punishment, a war, a plague, a drought etc. The more frequent practices were:
  1. To weep and lament for the loss of a loved one (Eccles 12:5; 2 Par 35:24; Jer 9:17; Amos 5:16; Job 27:15; Ps 77:64; Jer 9:1, 31:15, 41:6);

  2. To receive the silent visits of friends who come to offer comfort (1 Par 7:22; John 11:19, 28, 31; Act 9:39; Rom 12:15);

  3. To cast oneself on the ground (Job 1:20; 2 Kings 13:31); to seat oneself on the ground to express one's incapacity to do anything because of grief (Judges 20:26; Job 2:13; 2 Kings 12:16, 13:31; Is 3:26; Lam 1:1, 2:10; Ez 3:15; 1 Ezra 9:3; Ps 136:1);

  4. To tear one’s clothing (Gen 37:34; 2 Kings 3:31);

  5. To put on dark clothes and hairshirts (2 Kings 14:2; Judith 10:2); “clothing proper to tears and mourning” (Esther 14:2);

  6. To cease using oils and perfumes (2 Kings 14:2) and leave off the normal care of one’s appearance to show one's only concern is sadness (Ex 33:4; 2 Kings 19:24; Ez 26:16; Dan 10:3);

  7. To cover one’s head (Jer 14:4); and hide one's face under a hood in order to not be distracted from mourning (2 Kings 15:30; Mich 3:7);

  8. After the funeral, to have the repass meal (2 Kings 3:35; Bar 6:31) offered by friends to the relatives of the deceased. At it the mourning bread was eaten (Jer 16:7,8; Ez 24:17; Os 9:4); and the chalice of consolation was passed around (Jer 16:7).
In some parts of the Holy Scriptures many customs of mourning are mentioned (Jer 16:4-7; Ez 24:16,17). Other recommendations for mourning are addressed in Ecclesiastics 38:16-24.

St. Paul counsels his followers not to lose hope when mourning a dead relative (1 Tes 4:12).

Funeral ceremonies followed by a period of mourning can be found also among the Egyptians, Assyrians-Chaldeans, Greek and Romans.

Although the oldest funeral ceremonies seem to be those of the Egyptians and Assyrians-Chaldeans, we are not certain whether the Hebrew ones referred to in the Scriptures were actually the original cermonies that were imitated by others. Most likely they all rose naturally from the same need of the human soul to mourn the death of loved ones.

The data from this answer were taken mostly from the Dictionnaire de la Bible by F. Vigouroux, Paris: Letouzey & Ané, 1899, entries Deuil, Funérailles.

We hope this answer will help you.


    TIA correspondence desk

Posted August 13, 2019



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