Mourning

Boyd’s Bible Dictionary:

Very public and demonstrative
(Gen. 23:2; 37:29-352And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. (Genesis 23:2)
29And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 30And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32And they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no. 33And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:29‑35)
). Period, seven to seventy days (Gen. 1:33And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:3); 1 Sam. 31:1313And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1 Samuel 31:13)). Hired mourners (EccL 12:5; Matt. 9:2323And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (Matthew 9:23)). Methods, weeping, tearing clothes, wearing sackcloth, sprinkling with ashes or dust, shaving head, plucking beard, fasting, laceration.

Concise Bible Dictionary:

It was the habit of the Hebrews, as it still is in the East, to make a great demonstration of their mourning. They would beat their breasts, cover their heads, fast, put dust and ashes on their heads, neglect their hair, wear dull-colored garments, rend their clothes, wear sackcloth, and so forth. For Asa and Zedekiah there was “great burning” of odors at their death, which was most probably copied from the heathen (2 Chron. 16:1414And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him. (2 Chronicles 16:14); Jer. 34:55But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odors for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 34:5)). At a death professional mourners were hired, mostly women. “Call for the mourning women.... let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters” (Jer. 9:17-1817Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come: 18And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters. (Jeremiah 9:17‑18); compare 2 Sam. 14:22And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that had a long time mourned for the dead: (2 Samuel 14:2); Amos 5:1616Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. (Amos 5:16)). Musicians also attended at deaths, who played mournful strains (Matt. 9:2323And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (Matthew 9:23)). God does not desire those who are bereaved to be without feeling: the Lord wept at the grave of Lazarus, but He would have reality in all things. He had to say to His people, “Rend your heart, and not your garments” (Joel 2:1313And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. (Joel 2:13)).

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

His rent coat signified mourning, (see note on Genesis 37:3434And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. (Genesis 37:34), #70) as did also the earth on his head. In the British Museum is a tombstone from Abydos, on which is a representation of a funeral procession, the mourners in which show their grief by throwing dust on their heads. There was an ancient tradition among the Egyptians that, in the infancy of their history as a people, their god Nom had taught their fathers that they were but clay or dust. The practice of putting dust on their heads is supposed to have been originally designed to be symbolical of their origin from dust, and to convey the idea of their humility in view of that fact. We find frequent scriptural reference to the custom. When the Israelites were defeated at Ai, Joshua and the eldersput dust upon their heads” (Josh. 7:66And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. (Joshua 7:6)). The Benjamite who brought to Eli the news of the death of his sons came to Shiloh “with earth upon his head” (1 Sam. 4:1212And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. (1 Samuel 4:12)). The young Amalekite who brought to David the tidings of Saul’s death had “earth upon his head” (2 Sam. 1:22It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. (2 Samuel 1:2)). Tamar, dishonored, “put ashes on her head” (2 Sam. 13:1919And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying. (2 Samuel 13:19)). In the great fast which was held in Nehemiah’s time in Jerusalem, the children of Israel had “earth upon them” (Neh. 9:11Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. (Nehemiah 9:1)). When Job’s three friends mourned with him in his great troubles, they “sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven” (Job 2:1212And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. (Job 2:12)). This shows the great antiquity of the practice. Jeremiah, in lamenting over the desolations of Zion, says that the elders “have cast up dust upon their heads” (Lam. 2:1010The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground. (Lamentations 2:10)). Ezekiel, in predicting the destruction of Tyrian commerce, represents the sailors as casting up “dust upon their heads” (Ezek. 27:3030And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes: (Ezekiel 27:30)). See also Revelation 18:1919And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. (Revelation 18:19).

“47. Time for Mourning” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

“91. Loud Weeping” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

In the East emotions of joy as well as of sorrow are expressed by loud cries. Sir John Chardin (cited by Harmer, Observations, vol. 3, p. 17) says, “Their sentiments of joy or of grief are properly transports; and their transports are ungoverned, excessive, and truly outrageous.” He also states that when any one returns from a long journey his family burst into cries that may be heard twenty doors off. In like manner Joseph and his brethren, in their joy at meeting, indulged in excessive weeping.

“277. Fasting for Bereavement” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

2 Samuel 12:2121Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. (2 Samuel 12:21). Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
What astonished the servants of David was, that their master should act so contrary to old established customs of mourning in time of bereavement. Sir John Chardin says, “The practice of the East is to leave a relation of the deceased person to weep and mourn, till on the third or fourth day at furthest the relatives and friends go to see him, cause him to eat, lead him to a bath, and cause him to put on new vestments, he having before thrown himself on the ground” (Hardier, Observations, vol. 4, p. 424). David, on the contrary, changed his apparel and ate food as soon as he learned of the death of the boy.

“278. Covering the Head” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Covering the head, as well as uncovering the feet, (see note on Deut. 25:1010And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. (Deuteronomy 25:10), #208) was a token of great distress. It was probably done by drawing a fold of the outer garment over the head. When Haman mourned over his great discomfiture his head was covered (Esther 6:1212And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. (Esther 6:12)). Jeremiah pathetically represents the plowmen as mourning in this way because of the severe drought. “Because the ground is chapped, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads” (Jer. 14:44Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. (Jeremiah 14:4)).

“279. Earth on the Head” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

His rent coat signified mourning, (see note on Genesis 37:3434And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. (Genesis 37:34), #70) as did also the earth on his head. In the British Museum is a tombstone from Abydos, on which is a representation of a funeral procession, the mourners in which show their grief by throwing dust on their heads. There was an ancient tradition among the Egyptians that, in the infancy of their history as a people, their god Nom had taught their fathers that they were but clay or dust. The practice of putting dust on their heads is supposed to have been originally designed to be symbolical of their origin from dust, and to convey the idea of their humility in view of that fact. We find frequent scriptural reference to the custom. When the Israelites were defeated at Ai, Joshua and the eldersput dust upon their heads” (Josh. 7:66And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. (Joshua 7:6)). The Benjamite who brought to Eli the news of the death of his sons came to Shiloh “with earth upon his head” (1 Sam. 4:1212And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. (1 Samuel 4:12)). The young Amalekite who brought to David the tidings of Saul’s death had “earth upon his head” (2 Sam. 1:22It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. (2 Samuel 1:2)). Tamar, dishonored, “put ashes on her head” (2 Sam. 13:1919And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying. (2 Samuel 13:19)). In the great fast which was held in Nehemiah’s time in Jerusalem, the children of Israel had “earth upon them” (Neh. 9:11Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. (Nehemiah 9:1)). When Job’s three friends mourned with him in his great troubles, they “sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven” (Job 2:1212And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. (Job 2:12)). This shows the great antiquity of the practice. Jeremiah, in lamenting over the desolations of Zion, says that the elders “have cast up dust upon their heads” (Lam. 2:1010The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground. (Lamentations 2:10)). Ezekiel, in predicting the destruction of Tyrian commerce, represents the sailors as casting up “dust upon their heads” (Ezek. 27:3030And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes: (Ezekiel 27:30)). See also Revelation 18:1919And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. (Revelation 18:19).

“285. Lamentations Over the Dead” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Though concealed from sight in the upper chamber, the lamentations of the bereaved king could be easily heard by his followers, for he “cried with a loud voice.” These loud exclamations are alluded to in several other places. At Jacob’s funeral there was “a great and very sore lamentation” (Gen. 50:1010And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days. (Genesis 50:10)). When Jephthah, after his vow, saw his daughter coming, he cried, as if she were already dead, “Alas, my daughter!” (Judg. 11:3535And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. (Judges 11:35)). When the old prophet of Bethel buried in his own grave the disobedient prophet whom he had deceived to his death, he cried out, “Alas, my brother!” (1 Kings 13:3030And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! (1 Kings 13:30)). It was among the curses heaped on Jehoiakim that he should have “the burial of an ass”(Jer. 22:1919He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 22:19)) and not be consigned to the grave with the usual lamentations. “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!” (Jer. 22:1818Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! (Jeremiah 22:18)). Somewhat similar to these are the cries of the Egyptian mourners at the present time. When the master of a house dies, the wives, children, and servants cry out, “O my master!” “O my camel!” “O my lion!” “O camel of the house!” “O my glory!” “O my resource!” “O my father!” “O my misfortune!” (Lane's Modern Egyptians, vol. 2, p. 318).
Roberts, in his Oriental Illustrations, pp. 236-241, gives a number of striking specimens of Hindu lamentations over the dead. Among them are the expressions of grief uttered by a husband on the loss of his wife: “What, the apple of my eye gone! my swan, my parrot, my deer, my Lechimy! Her color was like gold; her gait was like the stately swan; her waist was like lightning; her teeth were like pearls; her eyes like the kiyal-fish (oval); her eyebrows like the bow; and her countenance like the full-blown lotus. Yes, she has gone, the mother of my children! No more welcome, no more smiles in the evening when I return. All the world to me is now as the place of burning. Get ready the wood for my pile. O my wife, my wife listen to the voice of your husband.”
A father also says over the body of his son, “My son, my son! art thou gone? What I am, I left in my old age? My lion, my arrow, my blood, my body, my soul, my third eye! Gone, gone, gone!”

“541. Mourning Women” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Jeremiah 9:17-1817Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come: 18And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters. (Jeremiah 9:17‑18). Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come: and let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.
Not only are great lamentations made by the bereaved for their loved ones, but professed mourners, usually women, are hired for the purpose. They assemble in greater or less number, according to the ability which those who hire them have to pay for their services. Their hair is disheveled, their clothes torn, and their countenances daubed with paint and dirt. They sing in a sort of chorus, mingled with shrill screams and loud wailing, distorting their limbs frightfully, swaying their bodies to and fro, and moving in a kind of melancholy dance to the thrumming music of tambourines. They recount the virtues of the deceased, calling him by names of tenderest endearment, and plaintively inquiring of him why he left his family and friends! With wonderful ingenuity these hired mourners seek to make a genuine lamentation among the visitors who have come to the funeral, by alluding to any among them who have suffered bereavement, dwelling on its character and circumstances, and thus eliciting from the sorrowing ones cries of real grief.
Miss Rogers gives a thrilling account of a formal mourning which lasted for a week, and at which she was present for several hours. Three rows of women on the one side of the room faced three rows on the other side. They clapped their hands and struck their breasts in time to the monotonous melody they murmured. One side, led by a celebrated professional mourner, sang the praises of the dead man, while the other responded in chorus. After the singing they shrieked and made a rattling noise in their throats, while the widow kneeled, swayed her body backward and forward, and feebly joined in the wild cry.
“A minstrel woman began slowly beating a tambourine, and all the company clapped their hands in measure with it, singing, ‘Alas for him! Alas for him! He was brave, he was good; alas for him!’ Then three women rose, with naked swords in their hands, and stood at two or three yards distance from each other. They began dancing with slow and graceful movements, with their swords at first held low and their heads drooping. Each dancer kept within a circle of about a yard in diameter. By degrees the tambourine and the clapping of the hands and the songs grew louder, the steps of the dancers were quickened. They threw back their heads and gazed upward passionately, as if they would look into the very heavens, They flourished their uplifted swords, and as their movements became more wild and excited, the bright steel flashed, and bright eyes seemed to grow brighter. As one by one the dancers sank, overcome with fatigue, others rose to replace them. Thus passed seven days and nights. Professional mourners were in constant attendance to keep up the excitement, and dances and dirges succeeded each other, with intervals of wild and hysterical weeping and shrieking” (Domestic Life in Palestine, pp. 181-182).
Shaw says that the hired mourners at Moorish funerals cry out in a deep and hollow voice, several times together, Loo! loo! loo! ending each period with “some ventriloquous sighs.” See Travels, p. 242.
To this singular custom of hiring mourners the prophet refers in the text, and also in the twentieth verse. These hired mourners were present at the burial of the good king Josiah (2 Chron. 35:2525And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations. (2 Chronicles 35:25)). Solomon refers to them in Ecclesiastes 12:55Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: (Ecclesiastes 12:5): “The mourners go about the streets.” Amos speaks of “such as are skillful of lamentation” (Amos 5:1616Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. (Amos 5:16)). Hired mourners were present with their instruments of funeral music at the house of Jairus after the death of his daughter. See Matthew 9:2323And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (Matthew 9:23); Mark 5:3838And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. (Mark 5:38).