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Mourn, Mourning

MOURN, MOURNING. The ancient Hebrews placed a much greater emphasis on external symbolic acts than do modern Western people; people in the East today still carry on this respect for symbolic actions. Ceremonies for expressing grief at the death of a relative or on any unhappy occasion are referred to frequently in the Bible. One reared in the modern West must be careful not to view these public expressions as hypocritical; they were a natural valid manifestation of grief in that culture. The OT contains warnings against pagan mourning rites (Lev.19.27-Lev.19.28; Deut.14.1-Deut.14.2). Israelite priests were not allowed to take part in any mourning or other funeral ceremonies (Lev.21.1-Lev.21.4, Lev.21.10-Lev.21.11). When bad news was received or when sudden calamity came, it was customary to tear the clothes (2Sam.1.2) and to sprinkle earth or ashes on the head (Josh.7.6). Hair cloth (“sackcloth”) was adopted as clothing in times of grief (Isa.22.12). We read of covering the head in