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The Tearing of Garments as the Main Symbol of Mourning in The Bible / קריעת הבגד כמנהג אבל עיקרי במקרא

נתן קלאוס and Natan Klaus
Beit Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World / בית מקרא: כתב-עת לחקר המקרא ועולמו
כרך נו‎, חוברת ב‎ (תשע"א / 2011), pp. 71-99
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23511809
Page Count: 29
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The Tearing of Garments as the Main Symbol of Mourning in The Bible / קריעת הבגד כמנהג אבל עיקרי במקרא
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Abstract

This study attempts to shed some more light on the customs of mourning among the ancient Hebrews and other people in the Ancient Near East, among whom the customs exist. Mourning (Heb. אבל) is an expression of grief and sorrow over the death of a close relative, friend, national leader, or in response to a national calamity. The ceremony of mourning is used also as a sign of distress or deep grief. We found some symbols of mourning in the Hebrew Bible: Tearing of garment, wearing sackcloth, placing dust on the head, lamentation, silence in mourning, fast, putting hands on the head etc. But it seems that the rite of mourning most frequently attested in the narrative and poetic sections of the Bible is the rending of garments. We learned that half of the events of tearing garments in the Bible were not due to mourning over death but are due to grief and distress. In most cases the tearing of garments occurs after the death or the event that causes the mourning, but in some cases it occurs before the event. Some people tore their garments more than once. King David for example tore his garments three times. People from all the classes tear their garments. People from high class as Kings, Princes, Prophets and Priests as well as people from lower class like slaves and warriors. The tearing of garments was always an act of mourning over an unnatural death such as war or murder. In other cases of mourning and tearing garments, the reasons were: rape, uprising against God, religious sins and words of contempt.

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