(IN THE FLESH), expressed technically by שֶׂרֶט, se'ret (Le 19:28), or שָׂרֶטֶת, sare'teth (Le 21:5, where the cognate verb שָׂרִט, sarat', is used in the same connection), a gash or incision (Sept. ἐντομίς, Vulg. incisura) in the flesh (בּבָשָׂר); also by גּדוּד, gedud' (Jer 47:7), a cut in the skin (e.g. the hand, as there; the verb גָּדִד, gadad', occurs in the same sense, with reference to the ceremonies of mourning, Jer 16:6; Jer 41:5; Jer 47:5, or as a part of idol worship, De 14:1; 1Ki 18:28); and by קִעֲקִע, kaaka', a "mark" punctured on the person (Le 19:28); compare the daemoniac in Mr 5:5, κατακόπτων ἑαυτόν, "cutting himself" with stones. Among the prohibitory laws which God gave the Israelites there was one that expressly forbad the practice embraced in those words, viz. "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead" (Le 19:28). It is evident from this law that such a species of self-inflicted torture obtained among the nations of Canaan; and it was doubtless to guard his people against the adoption of so barbarous a habit, in its idolatrous form, as well as to restrain desperate grief (comp. 1Th 4:13; see Macdonald, Introd. to the Pentateuch, Edinb. 1861, p. 113), that God led Moses to reiterate the prohibition: "They shall not make baldness upon their heads, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beards, nor make any cuttings in their flesh" (Re 21:5; De 14:1). (See J. G. Michaelis, De incisura.propter mortuos, F. ad O. 1733.) SEE CORNER.
1. The ancients were very violent in their expressions of sorrow. Virgil represents the sister of Dido as tearing her face with her nails, and beating her breasts with her fists (AEn. 4:672). Some of the learned think that that law of Solon's which was transferred by the Romans into the Twelve Tables (Cicero, De Leg.2:23), that women in mourning should not scratch their cheeks (Corp. Jur. Civ. v. 66, 67, ed. Godofredus, 1583), derived its origin from this law of Moses (Le 19:28). But, however this opinion may be questioned, it would appear that the simple tearing of the flesh out of grief and anguish of spirit is taken in other parts of Scripture as a mark of affection: thus (Jer 48:37), "Every head shall be bald, every beard clipped, and upon all cuttings." Again (Jer 16:6): "Both the great and the small shall die in the land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves." So (Jer 41:5): "There came from Samaria fourscore men having their heads shaven and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings to the house of the Lord." A notion apparently existed that self-inflicted baldness or mutilation had a propitiatory efficacy with respect to the manes of the dead, perhaps as representing, in a modified degree, the solemnity of human or animal sacrifices. Herodotus (4. 71) describes the Scythian usage in the case of a deceased king, for whose obsequies not fewer than six human victims, besides offerings of animals and other effects, were considered necessary. An extreme case of funereal bloodshed is represented on the occasion of the burial of Patroclus, when four horses, two dogs, and twelve Trojan captives are offered up (II. 23:171, 176). Originally used with human or animal sacrifices at funerals, after these had gone out of use, the minor propitiatory acts of self-laceration and depilation continued alone (11. 23:141; Od. 4:197; Virg. AEn. 3, 67, with Servius ad loc. 12:605; Eurip. Ale. p. 425; Seneca, Hippol. v. 1176, 1193; Ovid, Eleg. I, 3, 3; Tibullus, Eleg. I, 1:1). Plutarch says that some barbarians mutilate themselves (De Consol. ad Apollon. p. 113, vol. vi, Reiske). He also says that Solon, by the advice of Epimenides, curtailed the Athenian practice in this respect (Solon. 12-21, 1:184, 194). Such being the ancient heathen practice, it is not surprising that the law should forbid similar practices in every case in which they might be used or misconstrued in a propitiatory sense. "Ye shall not make cuttings for (propter) the dead, לָנֶפֶשׁ (Le 19:28; see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 731; Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. II, 19:404,405). SEE GRIEF.
2. But the practice of self-mutilation as an act of worship belonged also to heathen religious ceremonies not funereal. The priests of Baal, a Syrian and also an Assyrian deity, cut themselves with knives to propitiate the god "after their manner" (1Ki 18:28). Herodotus says that the Carians, who resided in Europe, cut their foreheads with knives at festivals of Isis; in this respect exceeding the Egyptians, who beat themselves on those occasions (Herod. 2:61). This shows that the practice was not then at least an Egyptian one. Lucian, speaking of the Syrian priestly attendants of this mock deity, says that, using violent gestures, they cut their arms and tongues with swords (Lucian, Asinus, c. 37, vol. 2:102, Amst.; De Dea Syr. 2:658, 681; comp. Eze 8:14). Similar practices in the worship of Bellona are mentioned by Lucan (Phars. 1:560), and alluded to by AElius Lampridius (Comm. p. 209), by Tertullian (Apol. 9), and Lactantius (Div. Instit. i, c. 21, 29, Paris). Herodotus, speaking of means used for allaying a storm, uses the words ἔντομα ποιεῦντες, which may mean cutting the flesh, but more probably offering human sacrifices (Herod. 7:191; 2:119, with Schweighibuser's note; see also Virgo AEn. 2:116; Lucr. 1:85). Agreeably to the inference which all this furnishes, we find Tacitus declare (Hist. 1:4) that "the gods care, not for our safety, but punishment." In fact, it was a current opinion among the ancient heathen that the gods were jealous of human happiness; and in no part of the heathen world did this opinion more prevail, according to Sanchoniathon's account, than among the inhabitants of those very countries which surrounded that land where God designed to place his people Israel. The prohibition, therefore, is directed against practices prevailing, not among the Egyptians whom the Israelites were leaving, but among the Syrians, to whom they were about to become neighbors (Selden, De Diis Syris, lib. ii, c. 1). The spirit of Islam is less favorable than that of heathenism to displays of this kind; yet examples of them are not of rare occurrence even in the Moslem countries of Western Asia, including Palestine itself. The annexed figure is copied from one which is represented in many of the books of travel in Egypt and Palestine that were printed in the seventeenth century. It is described by the missionary Eugene Roger (La Terre Saincte, etc., 1646, p. 252) as representing "one of those calenders or devotees whom the Arabs name Balhoaua," and whom the simple people honor as holy martyrs. He appears in public with a cimeter stuck through the fleshy part of his side, with three heavy iron spikes thrust through the muscles of his arm, and with a feather inserted into a cut in his forehead. He moves about with great composure, and endures all these sufferings, hoping for recompense in the Paradise of Mohammed. Add to this, the common accounts of the gashes which the Persian devotees inflict upon themselves, in the frenzy of their love and grief, during the annual mourning for Hassan and Hossein (see Mrs. Postans, in the Jour. Sac. Lit., July, 1848, p. 107). The Mexicans and Peruvians offered human sacrifices both at funerals and festivals. The Gosayens of India, a class of Brahminical friars, endeavor in some cases to extort alms by gashing their limbs with knives. Among the native negro African tribes also the practice appears to prevail of offering human sacrifices at the death of chiefs. (See Chardin, Voyages. 6:482; 9:58, 490; Olearius, Travels, p. 237; Lane, Mod. Eg. 2:59; Prescott, Mexico, 1:53, 63; Peru, 1:86; Elphinstone, Hist. of India, 1:116; Strabo, 15:711 et sq.; Niebuhr, Voyages. 2:54; Livingstone, Travels, p. 318, 588; Col. Ch. Chron. No. 131. 179; Muratori, Anecd. 4:99, 100). SEE SACRIFICE.
3. But there is another usage contemplated more remotely by the prohibition, viz., that of printing marks (στίγματα), tattooing, to indicate allegiance to a deity, in the same manner as soldiers and slaves bore tattooed marks to indicate allegiance or adscription. (See Biedermann, De Charact. corpori impressis, Frib. 1755.) This is evidently alluded to in the Revelation of John (Joh 13:16; Joh 19:20; Joh 17:5), though in a contrary direction, in Eze 9:4, by Paul (Ga 6:17), in the Re 7:3, and perhaps by Isa 45:5 and Zec 13:6. Lucian, speaking of the priests of the Syrian deity, says that they, and, in fact, the Assyrians generally, bear such marks on some part of their body (De Dea Syr. 2:684). A tradition, mentioned by Jerome, was current among the Jews, that king Jehoiakim bore on his body marks of this kind which were discovered after his death (Spencer, De Leg.Hebr. II, 20:410). Philo, quoted by Spencer, describes the marks of tattooing impressed on those who submitted to the process in their besotted love for idol-worship, as being made by branding (σιδήρῳ πεπυρωμένῳ, Philo, de Monarch. 1:819; Spencer, p. 416). The Arabs, both men and women, are in the habit of tattooing their faces, and other parts of the body, and the members of Brahminical sects in India are distinguished by marks on the forehead, often erroneously supposed by Europeans to be marks of caste (Niebuhr, Descr. de A r. p. 58; Voyages. 1:242; Wellsted, Arabia, 2:206, 445; Olearius, Travels, p. 299; Elphinstone, India, 1:195). SEE MARK (ON THE PERSON).