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"act of burying," late 13c.; earlier "tomb" (c.1200), false singular from Old English byrgels "tomb," from byrgan "to bury" + suffix -els; a compound also found in Old Saxon burgisli, suggesting a Proto-Germanic *burgisli-, from PIE *bhergh- "to hide, protect" (see bury). The Germanic suffix *-isli- (also in Old English hydels "hiding place," fætels "bag") became obsolete and was felt as a plural of the Latin-derived suffix -al (2) forming nouns of action from verbs (survival, approval, etc.).
The first burial we have an account of is that of Sarah (Gen. 23). The first commercial transaction recorded is that of the purchase of a burial-place, for which Abraham weighed to Ephron "four hundred shekels of silver current money with the merchants." Thus the patriarch became the owner of a part of the land of Canaan, the only part he ever possessed. When he himself died, "his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah," beside Sarah his wife (Gen. 25:9). Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, was buried under Allon-bachuth, "the oak of weeping" (Gen. 35:8), near to Bethel. Rachel died, and was buried near Ephrath; "and Jacob set a pillar upon her grave" (16-20). Isaac was buried at Hebron, where he had died (27, 29). Jacob, when charging his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah, said, "There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah" (49:31). In compliance with the oath which he made him swear unto him (47:29-31), Joseph, assisted by his brethren, buried Jacob in the cave of Machpelah (50:2, 13). At the Exodus, Moses "took the bones of Joseph with him," and they were buried in the "parcel of ground" which Jacob had bought of the sons of Hamor (Josh. 24:32), which became Joseph's inheritance (Gen. 48:22; 1 Chr. 5:1; John 4:5). Two burials are mentioned as having taken place in the wilderness. That of Miriam (Num. 20:1), and that of Moses, "in the land of Moab" (Deut. 34:5, 6, 8). There is no account of the actual burial of Aaron, which probably, however, took place on the summit of Mount Hor (Num. 20:28, 29). Joshua was buried "in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah" (Josh. 24: 30). In Job we find a reference to burying-places, which were probably the Pyramids (3:14, 15). The Hebrew word for "waste places" here resembles in sound the Egyptian word for "pyramids." Samuel, like Moses, was honoured with a national burial (1 Sam. 25:1). Joab (1 Kings 2:34) "was buried in his own house in the wilderness." In connection with the burial of Saul and his three sons we meet for the first time with the practice of burning the dead (1 Sam. 31:11-13). The same practice is again referred to by Amos (6:10). Absalom was buried "in the wood" where he was slain (2 Sam. 18:17, 18). The raising of the heap of stones over his grave was intended to mark abhorrence of the person buried (comp. Josh. 7:26 and 8:29). There was no fixed royal burying-place for the Hebrew kings. We find several royal burials taking place, however, "in the city of David" (1 Kings 2:10; 11:43; 15:8; 2 Kings 14:19, 20; 15:38; 1 Kings 14:31; 22:50; 2 Chr. 21:19, 20; 2 Chr. 24:25, etc.). Hezekiah was buried in the mount of the sepulchres of the sons of David; "and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death" (2 Chr. 32:33). Little is said regarding the burial of the kings of Israel. Some of them were buried in Samaria, the capital of their kingdom (2 Kings 10:35; 13:9; 14:16). Our Lord was buried in a new tomb, hewn out of the rock, which Joseph of Arimathea had prepared for himself (Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:46; John 19:41, 42). The grave of Lazarus was "a cave, and a stone lay on it" (John 11:38). Graves were frequently either natural caverns or artificial excavations formed in the sides of rocks (Gen. 23:9; Matt. 27:60); and coffins were seldom used, unless when the body was brought from a distance.