Jewish Burial Customs
March 2023

“Jewish Burial Customs,” Liahona, Mar. 2023.

Jewish Burial Customs

Lazarus, Martha, and Mary were siblings who lived in the city of Bethany. They were friends of the Savior’s, and He visited them on multiple occasions. At a certain point in His ministry, Jesus left Judea, where Bethany was located, because the Jews in the area desired to kill Him (see John 10:39–40). While Jesus was away, Lazarus fell ill, died, and was buried according to Jewish custom (see John 11:1–17).

These are some of the customs they likely would have followed at Lazarus’s death and burial.

liquid being poured on a hand

After the person died, his or her eyes were closed. The body was washed with scents such as nard, myrrh, and aloe (see Luke 23:56; John 19:38–40).

Illustrations by Noah Regan

people standing next to a body wrapped in cloth

The body was wrapped in cloth and carried to the family’s home, where relatives and neighbors could visit (see Acts 9:37).

body being carried on a litter

Usually within eight hours of the death, the body was carried to the tomb on a litter so all visitors could see the body (see Luke 7:12–14). Women led the procession. Family members tore their clothes as a sign of mourning.

woman entering an open tomb

Some tombs were carved into rock (see Matthew 27:58–60). The tombs had small openings so that people had to bow to enter.

body lying on a stone bench in a tomb

The body was laid on a bench cut out of the stone. The tomb was covered with a large round stone to prevent thieves or animals from entering.1

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, His disciples had a powerful reason to hope rather than only grieve the loss of a loved one. They could not deny that, because of Jesus Christ, “the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting” (Mosiah 16:7).


  1. See Henri Daniel-Rops, Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ (trans. Patrick O’Brian, 1962), 328–33; see also Bible Dictionary, “Burial.”