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 (
When bad news was received or when sudden calamity came, it was customary to tear the clothes (
A death in the household set in motion an elaborate ceremony of mourning that lasted a week or more. The members of the family and their friends gathered around the corpse and indulged in lamentations bordering on hysteria. The rites mentioned above were observed, but in a more abandoned form than for other mourning. During the last century, W. M. Thomson saw a ceremony of mourning carried out by the Arabs of Palestine. He described the three concentric circles of mourners, slowly marching, clapping their hands, and chanting a funeral dirge. At times they stopped and, flinging their arms and handkerchiefs about in wild frenzy, screamed and wailed like maniacs.
Professional mourners were often called in for a funeral (