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Mourning for 30 Days in Biblical Context


The Bible says it but God may not be talking

The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 34:8 that after the death of Moses the children of Israel mourned for 30 days. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. This scripture does not indicate whether the Lord instituted this practice, if it came from Egypt, or was something the children of Israel came up with on their own. Because these words are in the Bible, some believers in Christ use them to tell others they need to stop grieving a deceased loved one after 30 days. Life goes on and people must go back to work after death but I don't know anyone who stopped loving or missing someone just because the clock strikes 12 midnight on day 31. Scripture says the people mourned Moses for a specific number of days but does not validate where the custom came from. There is no mention of how long Moses' wife and children, Joshua or others grieved for him in their hearts. There is also no record as to whether God Himself gave the edict or the Israelites began this custom themselves. It could have been something they saw practiced in Egypt. This is why we should not add to what is written by saying something is what He expects when that is not what is indicated. Just because something is in scripture does not indicate that the particular verse is a direct order from the Creator. This is why biblical context is so important.

Traditions of man

Biblical scholars believe the 30 days was based on Jewish tradition and you can read about it in the above link. We have traditions that are upheld today that have evolved over time and are customary but not a direct order from the Lord. Prior to COVID, it was common for most of those who died within certain church denominations to be buried within a week of their death if insurance or money was in place. There would a wake at a funeral home or church one evening and a funeral service the following day. Some people now have wakes 30 minutes prior to the eulogy. If the body was not cremated final rites are given at a cemetery and everyone would go back to the church to eat. During the period between the death and celebration n of life service, people would stop by the home of the deceased to visit and bring food or cards with money. Most jobs give 3 days off from work and after that everyone goes back to their routines but that does not indicate that their hearts have healed. These practices are traditions of man that have evolved over time and as life goes on these rituals change. Some people have no service and their cremated ashes are spread in a place of their choice or where the family decides.

A community affiar

No one knows precisely how Moses was mourned during that 4 week period of time but there are some clues. Scholars believe that the Israelites 30 days of mourning was the public community-wide grieving where everyone within their camp was involved. Keep in mind that at this point the children of Israel were all living together in one place. They did not have to drive across town and neither did they have jobs they had to obtain leave from. They ate from the land and did not have to shop at grocery stores. This made it easier for everyone to participate than it would be today. The children of Israel's rituals could include any one or all of the following: Men shaving their heads, the wearing of sackcloth and ashes, professional mourners who sang, played music, cried and wailed, the rending or tearing of clothing and beating of breasts. and or spending time at the home of the deceased. This public showing of grief is what was taking place during the 30 days and on day 31 everyone went back to their regular schedules. Moses loved ones could have grieved for him in their hearts and daily lives for months or even years. We don't know because the Bible does not tell us. There is no scripture that says our hearts heal within 30 days of the death of a loved one but some overzealous believers take this scripture to indicate that after 30 days all grieving stops.

Get understanding

It is insensitive to suggest to anyone how long they should mourn for a loved one and especially wrong to misquote scriptuures from the Bible to do so. I have been told by parents that they never get over the loss of a child and simply do their best each day to carry on. I know widows and widowers who say they still cry for their deceased spouse years and decades later. The modern-day church in some areas has become legalistic and pounds people over the heads with certain scripture. This is why an understanding of the text is needed before one verse is used out of context to damage a grieving individual. There are churches today that observe a 30 day period of mourning after a pastor dies but no one has told me how it is done. Perhaps they shut down ministry functions or even fast I'm not certain how it all takes place but this I do know; People today who worship together do not live in the same area as the Israelites did. Believers in Christ reside in different communities and are not going to all gather and remain in a sanctuary, tear their clothing, cry and wail or shave their heads for 30 days. Churchgoers in our modern times have varied jobs and work different schedules so there is no way an entire church in the 21st century can grieve and mourn as one, the way the children of Israel did

Updated practices

.Keep all of the above in mind should someone tell you the Bible says only mourn for 30 days. This is not what Deuteronomy 34:8 indicates so please do your own research and enlighten others. My husband of 40 years passed away 4 months prior to this article. I have slowly returned to some of my previous routines but I still miss him. The Lord gave me my emotions and I do not believe He expects me or anyone else to turn off decades of love after 30 days. If I find out otherwise I will write another Hub. Today even people in the Jewish community have updated their practices and observe Shiva which is a 7 day mourning period beginning after the funeral. The bereaved remain at home and those who care come by to visit and they talk about the deceased. This is a manner in which grieving individuals can re-enter society, but again it does not indicate that they do not continue to mourn in their hearts for much longer. It is interesting that present-day Jews observe Shiva and not a 30 day mourning period while Christians embrace the month long. observation of the Old Testament and Jewish law past.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Cheryl E Preston

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