Embalm (הָנִט, chanat', to spice; hence spoken of the ripening of fruit, on account of its aromatic juice, improperly rendered "putteth forth" in Song 2:13), the process of preserving a corpse by means of aromatics (Ge 1; Ge 2; Ge 3; Ge 26; Sept. ἐνταφάζω). This art was practiced among the Egyptians from the earliest times, and arrived at great perfection in that country, where, however, it has now become lost, the practice apparently having gradually fallen into disuse in consequence of the change of customs affected by the introduction of Christianity in that part of the Roman empire. It is in connection with that country that the above instances occur, and later examples (2Ch 16:14; Joh 9:39-40) seem to have been in imitation of the Egyptian custom. The modern method of embalming is in essential points similar.
I. Egyptian. —
1. The feeling which led the Egyptians to embalm the dead probably sprang from their, belief in the future reunion of the soul with the body. Such a reunion is distinctly spoken of in the Book of the Dead (Lepsius, Todtenbuch, chapter 89 and passing), and Herodotus expressly mentions the Egyptian belief in the transmigration of souls (2:123). This latter idea may have led to the embalming of lower animals also, especially those deemed sacred, as the ox, the ibis, and the cat, mummies of which are frequent. The actual process is said to have been derived from "their first merely burying in the sand, impregnated with natron and other salts, which dried and preserved the body" (Rawlinson, Herod. 2:122). Drugs and bitumen were of later introduction, the latter not being generally employed before the 18th dynasty. When the practice ceased entirely is uncertain.
2. Herodotus (2:86-89) describes three modes, varying in completeness and expense, and practiced by persons regularly trained to the profession, who were initiated into the mysteries of the art by their ancestors. The most costly mode, which is estimated by Diodorus Siculus (1:91) at a talent of silver (over $1000), was said by the Egyptian priests to belong to him whose name in such a matter it was not lawful to mention, viz. Osiris. The embalmers first removed part of the brain through the nostrils by means of a crooked iron, and destroyed the rest by injecting caustic drugs. An incision was then made along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and the whole of the intestines removed. The cavity was rinsed out with palm-wine, and afterwards scoured with pounded perfumes. It was then filled with pure myrrh pounded, cassia, and other aromatics, except frankincense. This done, the body was sewn up and steeped in natron for seventy days. When the seventy days were accomplished, the embalmers washed the corpse and swathed it in bandages of linen, cut in strips and smeared with gum. They then gave it up to the relatives of the deceased, who provided for it a wooden case, made in the shape of a man, in which the dead was placed, and deposited in an erect position against the wall of the sepulchral chamber. Diodorus Siculus gives some particulars of the process which are omitted by Herodotus. When the body was laid out on the ground for the purpose of embalming, one of the operators, called the scribe (γραμματεύς), marked out the part of the left flank where the incision was to be made. The dissector (παρασχίστης) then, with a sharp Ethiopian stone (black flint, or Ethiopian agate, Rawlinson, Herod. 2:121), hastily cut through as much flesh as the law enjoined, and fled, pursued by curses and volleys of stones from the spectators. When all the embalmers (ταριχευταί) were assembled, one of them extracted the intestines, with the exception of the heart and kidneys; another cleansed them one by one, and rinsed them in palm-wine and perfumes. The body was then washed with oil of cedar, and other things worthy of notice, for more than thirty days (according to some MSS. forty), and afterwards sprinkled with myrrh, cinnamon, and other substances, which possess the property not only of preserving the body for a long period, but also of communicating to it an agreeable shell. This process was so effectual that the features of the dead could be recognized. It is remarkable that Diodorus omits all mention of the steeping in natron. Porphyry(De Abst. 4:10) supplies an omission of Herodotus, who neglects to mention what was done with the intestines after they were removed from the body. In the case of a person of respectable rank they were placed in a separate vessel and thrown into the river. This account is confirmed by Plutarch (Sept. Sap. Conv. c. 16).
The second mode of embalming cost about 20 minae. In this case no incision was made in the body, nor were the intestines removed, but cedar- oil was injected into the stomach by the rectum. The oil was prevented from escaping, and the body was then steeped in natron for the appointed number of days. On the last day the oil was withdrawn, and carried off with it the stomach and intestines in a state of solution, while the flesh was consumed by the natron, and nothing was left but the skin and bones. The body in this state was returned to the relatives of the deceased.
The third mode, which was adopted by the poorer classes, and cost but little, consisted in rinsing out the intestines with syrmaea, an infusion of senna and cassia (Pettigrew, Hist. of Mummies, page 69), and steeping the body for the usual number of days in natron.
Although the three modes of embalming are so precisely described by Herodotus, it has been found impossible to classify the mummies which have been discovered and examined under one or other of these three heads. Pettigrew, from his own observations, confirms the truth of Herodotus's statement that the brain was removed through the nostrils. But in many instances, in which the body was carefully preserved and elaborately ornamented, the brain had not been removed at all, while in some mummies the cavity was found to be filled with resinous and bituminous matter. M. Rouyer, in his Notice sur los Embaumements d.s Anciens Egyptiens (Description de l'Egypte, page 471), endeavored to class the mummies which he examined under two principal divisions, which were again subdivided into others. These were,
I. Mummies with the ventral incision, preserved, 1, by balsamic matter, and, 2, by natron. The first of these are filled with a mixture of resin and aromatics, and are of an olive color — the skin dry, flexible, and adhering to the bones. Others are filled with. bitumen or asphaltum, and are black, the skin hard and shining. Those prepared with natron are also filled with resinous substances and bitumen.
II. Mummies without the ventral incision. This class is again subdivided, according as the bodies were, 1, salted and filled with pisasphaltum, a compound of asphaltum and common pitch; or, 2, salted only. The former are supposed to have been immersed in the pitch when in a liquid state. The medicaments employed in embalming were various. From a chemical analysis of the substances found in mummies, M. Rouelle detected three modes of embalming: 1, with asphaltum, or Jew's pitch, called also funeral gum, or gum of mummies; 2, with a mixture of asphaltum and cedria, the liquor distilled from the cedar; 3, with this mixture, together with some resinous and aromatic ingredients. The powdered aromatics mentioned by Herodotus were not mixed with the bituminous matter, but sprinkled into the cavities of the body. Pettigrew supposes that after the spicing "the body must have been subjected to a very considerable degree of heat; for the resinous and aromatic substances have penetrated even into the innermost structure of the bones, an effect which could not have been produced without the aid of a high temperature, and which was absolutely necessary for the entire preservation of the body" (page 62). M. Rouyer is of the same opinion (page 471). The surface of the body was in one example covered with "a coating of the dust of woods and barks, nowhere less than one inch in thickness," which '"had the smell of cinnamon or cassia" (Pettigrew, pages 62, 63). At this same stage plates of gold were sometimes applied to portions of the body, or even its whole surface. Before enwrapping, the body was always placed at full length, with no variety save in the position of the arms.
The principal embalming material in the more costly mummies appears to have been asphalt, either alone or mixed with a vegetable liquor, or so mixed with the addition of resinous and aromatic ingredients. Pettigrew supposes resinous matters were used as a kind of varnish for the body, and that pounded aromatics were sprinkled in the cavities within. The natron, in a solution of which the mummies were placed in every method, appears to have been a fixed alkali. It might be obtained from the Natron Lakes and like places in, the Libyan desert. Wax has also been discovered (Pettigrew's History, page 75 sq.).
3. The embalming having been completed, the body was wrapped in bandages. There has been much difficulty as to the material; but it seems certain that linen was invariably used. Though always long, they vary in this respect; and we know no authenticated instance of their exceeding 700 yards, though much greater measures are mentioned. The width is also very various, but it is generally not more than seven or eight inches. The quantity of cloth used is best ascertained from the weight. The texture varies, in the cases of single mummies, the coarser material being always nearer to the body. The bandages are found to have been saturated with asphalt, resin, gum, or natron; but the asphalt has only been traced in those nearest the body: probably the saturation is due to the preparation of the mummies, and does not indicate any special preparation of the clothes. The beauty of the bandaging has been the subject of great admiration. The strips were very closely bound, and all directions were adopted that could carry out this object. Pettigrew is of opinion that they were certainly applied wet. Various amulets and personal ornaments are found upon mummies and in their wrappings; the former were thought to be of use to the soul in its wanderings, and they were placed with the body from the belief in the relation between the two after death. With these matters, and the other particulars of Egyptian mummies, we have little to do, as our object is to show how far the Jewish burial-usages may have been derived from Egypt. The body in the cases of most of the richer mummies, when bandaged, has been covered with what has been termed by the French a cartonage, formed of layers of cloth, plastered with lime on the inside. The shape is that of a body of which the arms and legs are not distinguishable. In this shape every dead person who had, if we may believe Diodorus, been judged by a particular court to be worthy of the honor of burial, was considered to have the form of Osiris, and was called by his name. It seems more probable, however, that the tribunal spoken of was that of Amenti, "the hidden," the Egyptian Hades, and that the practice of embalming was universal. The cartonage of the more costly mummies is generally beautifully painted with subjects connected with Amenti. Mummies of this class are enclosed in one or even two wooden cases, either of sycamore, or, rarely, of cedar. The mummies of royal and very wealthy persons were placed in an outer stone case, within which there was a wooden case, and, probably, sometimes two such cases. SEE MUMMY. It would seem that the features of the face, as well as the other parts of the body, were covered over with the bandage, and that it was only through this, and latterly through the coffin, which commonly took the form of the features, that these could be recognized.
II. Hebraeo-Egyptian. — The records of the embalming of Jacob and Joseph are very brief. In the former case we read, "And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of embalming: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days" (Ge 1; Ge 2; Ge 3). Of Joseph we are only told that "they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt" (verse 26). It should be remarked, that in Joseph's case the embalming must have been thorough, as Moses at the Exodus carried his body into Canaan. The motive of embalming in these instances was evidently that the strong desire of these patriarchs to be buried in the Land of Promise might be complied with, although, had this not been so, respect would probably have led to the same result. That the physicians were employed by Joseph to embalm his father may mean no more than the usual embalmers, who must have had medical and surgical knowledge, but it is not unlikely that the kings and high officers were embalmed by household physicians. The periods of forty days for embalming, and seventy for mourning, are not easily reconciled with the statement of Herodotus, who specifies seventy days as the time that the body remained in natron. Hengstenberg (Egypt and the Books of Moses, page 69) attempts to reconcile this discrepancy by supposing that the seventy days of Herodotus include the whole time of embalming, and not that of steeping in natron only. But the differences in detail which characterize the descriptions of Herodotus and Diodorus, and the impossibility of reconciling these descriptions in all points with the results of scientific observation, lead to the natural conclusion that, if these descriptions are correct in themselves, they do not include every method of embalming which was practiced, and that, consequently; any discrepancies between them and the Bible narrative cannot fairly be attributed to a want of accuracy in the latter. Perhaps the periods varied in different ages, or the forty days may not include the time of steeping in natron. Diodorus Siculus, who, having visited Egypt, is scarcely likely to have been in error in a matter necessarily well known, speaks of the anointing of the body at first with oil of cedar and other things for above thirty or forty days (ἑφ᾿ ἡμέρας πλείους τῶν τριάκοντα ; some MSS. τεσσαράκοντα. This period would correspond very well with the forty days mentioned in Genesis, which are literally "the days of spicing," and indicate that the latter denoted the most essential period of embalming. Or, if the same period as the seventy days of Herodotus be meant by Diodorus, then there would appear to have been a change. It may be worth noticing, that Herodotus, when first mentioning the steeping in natron, speaks of seventy days as the extreme time to which it might be lawfully prolonged (ἡμέρας ἑβδομήκοντα: πλεῦνας δὲ τουτέων οὐκ ἔξεστι ταριχεύειν), that (according to Pettigrew, page 61) "appearing to be precisely the time necessary for the operation of the alkali on the animal fiber." This would seem to render it possible that the seventy days in the time of Herodotus was the period of mourning, as it was not to be exceeded in what appears to have been the longest operation of embalming. The division of the seventy days mentioned in Genesis into forty and thirty may be suggested if we compare the thirty days' mourning for Moses and for Aaron, in which case the seventy days in this instance might mean until the end of seventy days. It is also to be remarked that Diodorus speaks of the time of mourning for a king being seventy- two days, apparently ending with the day of burial (1:72). Joseph's coffin was perhaps a stone case, as his mummy was to be long kept ready for removal. SEE COFFIN.
III. Jewish. — It is not until long after the Exodus that we find any record of Jewish embalming, and then we have, in the O.T., but one distinct mention of the practice. This is in the case of king Asa, whose burial is thus related: "And they buried him in his own sepulchers, which he had digged for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed [or rather "coffin," not "bier"] which he had filled [or "which was filled"] with perfumes and spices compounded by the apothecaries' art; and they made for him an exceeding great burning" (2Ch 16:14). The burning is mentioned of other kings of Judah. From this passage it seems that Asa had prepared a bed, probably a sarcophagus, filled with spices, and that spices were also burnt at his burial. In the accounts of our Savior's burial the same or similar customs appear to be indicated, but fuller particulars are given. We read that Nicodemus "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred, pound [weight]." The body they wound "in linen clothes with the sweet spices, as the manner of the Jews is to prepare for burial" (Joh 19:39-40). Mark specifies that fine clothes were used (Mr 15:46), and mentions that the women who came to the sepulcher on the morning of the resurrection "had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him" (Mr 16:1). Luke relates that the women went to see the sepulcher. "And they returned, and prepared sweet spices and ointments" (Mark 23:56). Immediately afterwards he speaks of their "bringing the sweet spices which they had prepared" (Mark 24:1) on the second day after. Our Lord himself referred to the use of ointment in burial-ceremonies (πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφιάζειν) "for the preparation for burial," when he commended the piety of the woman who had anointed his head with "very precious ointment" (Mt 26:6-13), and spoke in like manner in the similar case of Mary, the sister of Lazarus (Joh 12:3-8). The customs at this time would seem to have been to anoint the body and wrap it in fine linen, with spices and ointments in the folds, and afterwards to pour more ointment upon it, and perhaps also to burn spices. In the case of our Savior, the hurried burial and the following of the Sabbath may have caused an unusual delay. Ordinarily everything was probably completed at once.
Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus speak of the use of myrrh in Egyptian embalming, but we do not find any mention of aloes. The wrapping in fine linen is rather contrary to the Egyptian practice than like it, when we remember that the coarser mummy-bandages are those which immediately enfold the body, and would best correspond to the clothes used by the Jews.
The Jewish custom has therefore little in common with the Egyptian. It was, however, probably intended as a kind of embalming, although it is evident from what is mentioned in the case of Lazarus, who was regularly swathed (Joh 11:44), that its effect was not preservation (verse 39). The use of aromatics may naturally have been a harmless relic of the Egyptian custom, which, however, was very different in all else that relates to the disposal of the corpse. SEE BURIAL.
Among the later Jews a sort of embalming by means of honey occurs (Josephus, Ant. 14:7, 4; see Strabo, 16:746; compare Pliny, 22:50). Wax is said to have been employed for a similar purpose by the ancient Persians (Herodotus, 1:140; comp. Cicero, Tusc. Quest. 1:45; Xenophon, Hellen. 5:3, 19).
IV. Literature. — See Pettigrew, History of Egyptian Mummies (Lond. 1840, 4to); Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 2d series, 2:451 sq.; Rosellini, Monumenti dell' Egitto, II, 3:334 sq., and pl. 121; Jablonski, Opusc. ed. Water, 1:472; Caylus, Abhand. zur Gesch. u. Kunst. 1:334 sq.; Heyne, in the Commentt. Soc. Goett. 1780, 3:89 sq.; Winekler, Animadverss. 1:105 sq.; Creuzer, Comment. in Herod. 1:14 sq., 361 sq.; Sethus, De alimentor. facultatibus (Par. 1658), 10, page 74; Ritter, in the Hall. Encyclop. 7:374 sq.; Brande's Encyclopedia, and the Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v. Mummy.