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What Does the Bible Say About … CREMATION?

Is Cremation right or wrong?

In the Bible there is no instance of cremation, Jewish, heathen or Christian. The Jews entombed, if possible, or else buried their dead. 1 Kings 11:15–“Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead”

Even criminals were buried. Deut 21:22-23–“If a man guilty of a capital offence is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day.”

A cave was the usual tomb, as Palestine abounds in caves. Gen 49:29-32–“Then he gave them these instructions: ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah.'”

Even Jesus was entombed when he died on the cross. John 19:40-42–“Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

Does this mean we should not cremate? Although cremation was the customary practice of the ancient Greeks, and was also not unknown among the Romans, the Bible never says that this is wrong. If it was wrong to cremate, you can be assured that it would have been mentioned in the Bible.

Burning is mentioned in the Bible in the following instances:

a. In the case of Saul’s and his sons’ mutilated headless bodies, where regular burial was impossible and there was a possibility of the Philistines coming and mutilating them still more. Notice though that the bones were not burned but buried.: 1 Sam 31:11-13–“When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh.”

b. In a plague, to prevent contagion: Amos 6:9-10–“If ten men are left in one house, they too will die. 10And if a relative who is to burn the bodies comes to carry them out of the house and asks anyone still hiding there, “Is anyone with you?” and he says, “No,” then he will say, “Hush! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”

c. At one instance, some Israelites had committed some secret sin and were to be destroyed by fire: Josh 7:15–“He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!”

So, is it wrong to cremate? The Bible doesn’t tell us so. What is more important than how we are buried is how we live our lives: 1 Cor 13:3–“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Cremation or burial is not the question. The question is this: What kind of life are you leading? Do you care for God and your neighbours? Do you show compassion to them? Do you love everyone the way God loves you? It is still not too late to do so.

Rob Chaffart


Cremation which is act of burning the dead to ashes was and is not normal practice for Hebrews and the Jews. In the present day, pagans are involved in cremation. The Christian body today is also against it.

For the believers I would like to submit that the practice of cremation is wrong because of the following biblical reasons.

1. Graves of criminals or enemies of God were sometimes marked with a heap of stones after burning. He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. Achan violated the covenant of the Lord and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel. “Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day.” Joshua 7:15, 26. Achan sinned against God and did not repent.

2. Saul, a king in Israel who was heavily anointed when called to rule Israel missed it because he committed the sin of disobedience. His end was also cremation after death. I Samuel 31:12 says “All their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them.”

The circumstances that surrounded the above that were buried by cremation was not right in the sight of God. I believe men of God were moved to do this in order to serve as examples to some of us to be righteous and holy in all our dealings with the Almighty God.

Burial of the dead was a normal practice before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

When Sarah died in Genesis 23, Abraham had to purchase a piece of land to bury his wife. He refused being given the land free. If burial was not important and grave was not given any significance; he would have done whatever he willed to the corpse of Sarah his wife.

Hebrew 11:22 says “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones”

This is just to mention a few of the patriarchs of old in Old Testament.

In Jesus’ parable, the dead beggar Lazarus is pictured reclining against Abraham at the feast in Paradise (Lk. 15-22-23, the position of a n honored guest (Jn. 13;23).

Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn.19.38) and a member of the Sanhedrin who provided linen and a tomb for Jesus’ burial (Mt. 27:57ff) Jesus was buried and he rose up the third day from the grave ( Luke 24:45-49)

The disciples of Jesus who were crucified and died for the cause of Christ were given befitting burial. Even John that king Herod wickedly killed was buried. He was not cremated.

In many tribes and traditions today, it is a curse for anyone who dies without a grave except person has been drowned in flowing river or burnt in fire accidentally and his remain cannot be traced. Even then, when remains of the dead is recovered in the circumstances, effort will be made to bury the remains in the grave normally.

Death is natural and inescapable. Heb. 9:27 and yet also unnatural, the penalty for sin – Gen. 2:17, Romans 6:23)

Whereas it is not the method of burial that is so important, the important thing for anyone to do while alive is to become born again. Jesus said in

John 3:5-6 that “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit given birth to spirit. For the unbeliever no matter how good the grave or sepulchre may be; their portion is contained in Revelation 21:8. Hell is the portion of the wicked. Mercy is available for those who will like to repent today.

In Jesus’ parable, the dead beggar Lazarus is pictured reclining against Abraham at the feast in Paradise (Lk. 15-22-23, the position of an honoured guest (Jn. 13;23). If Abraham was not right with God, there would not be such a reference from scriptures concerning him.


“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” I Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16

Rev Debo Adeyemo


I can find no reference in the Bible to suggest either way. Sometimes bodies were buried and sometimes burned. Here is a reference to the burning of King Saul and his sons.

1Samuel 31:11-AV And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;

1Samuel 31:12-AV All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.

1Samuel 31:13-AV And they took their bones, and buried [them] under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

Most of the statements on the treatment of dead bodies in the laws given to Moses had to do with ‘cleanliness’. People who were ‘unclean’ for any reason could not socialize with others and could not go into any place of worship, further it was beholden on them to advise others who might socialize with them that they were ‘unclean’. This being ‘unclean’ was a normal part of life for the Israelites, for instance, sexual intercourse, menstruation, illness etc. The list is quite long.

Touching a dead human body got you 7 days. I understand these rules were principally for hygiene reasons and to prevent the spread of infection and disease.

Numbers 19:11-AV He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.

Nevertheless it was customary among the Jews to bury their dead. Burning was usually done to live people as a punishment. God also uses this means to punish or destroy disobedient people.

Genesis 47:30-AV But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

Matthew 27:7-AV And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

Leviticus 20:14-AV And if a man take a wife and her mother, it [is] wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Leviticus 21:9-AV And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

Leviticus 10:1-AV And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.

Leviticus 10:2-AV And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Numbers 11:1-AV And [when] the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard [it]; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed [them that were] in the uttermost parts of the camp.

There are many more references to God using fire to destroy wicked people, most concern the second coming and the day of judgement, but I think you get the picture. Burning seems to be associated mostly with punishment.

At times there was a very great slaughter of either the children of Israel or the Philistines. On one occasion 30,000 of the children of Israel were killed in one battle. The disposal of bodies is not mentioned except the verses above concerning the king and his sons. The sensible thing to do would be to stack and burn in the interests of preventing plagues, and is probably what was done if the bodies were anywhere near civilization. Another method that gets mentioned is to feed the birds of the air and beasts of the earth which must have dined pretty well at times.

One mention of a burning of the bodies of slain enemies. Joshua 7:25-AV And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

Here is a reference to feeding the birds and animals.

1Samuel 17:46-AV This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

There is a perception among Christians that at one time God punished those who were burning the dead and for that reason many shy away from cremation. It wasn’t quite like that. Here is the verse concerned and the meaning supplied by John Gill. You will notice at first glance this verse seems to have Josiah polluting the altar, but Josiah was doing God’s work. You see, it wasn’t God’s altar, it belonged to the idol worshipers.

2Kings 23:16-AV And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that [were] there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned [them] upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.

Ver. 16. “And as Josiah turned himself”. From the high place, and the altar at Bethel; for he not only gave orders for the destroying of idolatrous places and idols, but he saw them executed himself:

“he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount”; the graves of idolatrous priests and worshippers, who chose to be buried near those places of idolatry; nor was it unusual for persons to be buried on hills and mountains, see Jos 24:30,33″ and this was a custom in other nations formerly {t}, particularly among the Indians {u} now, who in many things agree with the Jews:

“and sent and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burnt them upon”

“the altar”; where they had sacrificed to idols:

“and polluted it”; with their bones, which, according to the law, were defiling, and which was done in contempt of their idolatrous worship there:

“according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who”

“proclaimed these words”; or things; foretold that such a king by name would arise, and burn men’s bones upon the altar, and which had been foretold more than three hundred and fifty years before this time. Vid. Servium in Virgil. Aeneid. 11. ver 849. “fuit ingens monte sub alto”. {u} Manasseh ben Israel Spes Israelis. sect 6. p. 29.

As to the question there does not seem to be any firm instruction concerning the disposal of the dead (not that I have been able to find) and if this is the case then circumstances and personal preferences will dictate the method. I think cremation is considerably cheaper.

It is apparent however that as a general rule the children of Israel buried their dead. Burning was usually associated with punishment in which case the burnee was alive when it was done. At the times where burning of the dead is mentioned, one case involved an enemy, and the other the king and his sons. Since they transported the bones and buried them under a tree leads me to suspect that the transportation of the bodies was not practical. Here is what John Gill says about the incident.

Ver. 12. “All the valiant men arose”, &c.] Of the city of Jabeshgilead, fired with indignation at the Philistines’ ill usage of Saul and the bodies of his sons:

“and went all night”; not only for secrecy, but for haste:

“and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of”

“Bethshan, and came to Jabesh”; brought them with them thither, the Philistines either having no knowledge of it, or not daring to oppose them:

“and burnt them there”: that is, the flesh of them, for the bones they buried, as in “#1Sa 31:13”; and this they did, contrary to the common usage of the country, which was not to burn; but this they did, that if the Philistines should come to recover them, they would not be able to do it: though the Targum is,

“they burnt over them, as they burn over their kings there;”

they made a burning for them of spices over them; or of their beds, and other household goods, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe, though they prefer the other sense; see “#2Ch 16:14 21:19” perhaps the true reason might be, because they were putrid and infectious.

Finally, to worry that God cannot resurrect some one who has been burned is ridiculous. Millions of martyrs have been burned at the stake, and millions in fires either accidental or deliberate. All will be resurrected either at the first resurrection or the second. One practical thing to consider is that the soil is greatly enriched by the decomposition of a dead body but the air is polluted by burning it.

Finally, to those considering cremation, here is something to think about. How many bodies does a modern crematorium dispose of in a day? Answer, many. At the end of the day when the furnace has cooled down, a shovel full of ashes is placed in containers for those who have requested them. With a bit of luck you will get ‘some’ of your loved one’s ashes. Yes, the bones also have to be disposed of and there was an outcry in this city recently when it was discovered they were going to fertilizer.

God bless, Lance


I believe that cremation is a good choice, after one dies. Dave


Just a personal opinion but I think that there is more wrong with a normal funeral than cremation. I cannot think of anything Biblical that would show either way but just a few points of my own.

1. A normal funeral is very expensive for all involved. The family most of the time has to go into great debt to pay for a place for the person to be buried and then also for the nice little box for them to lay in. It is very wrong for families to have to go into debt and many times poor widows are left with children and this is the last thing that they need.

2. In many cities in the world we are having a real problem with places to put the people who are being buried and so this is another reason why cremation may not be too bad.

3. The most important point is, not how we go into the ground but how we come out.

Joshua & Inga Miller