Death in the OT is not a private matter for the bereaved family. Job's calamities brought in friends and weeping neighbours for a whole week (Job 2: 12–13) and Jeremiah assumes a corporate mourning ritual which includes cutting off hair and self‐laceration (Jer. 16: 6), though prohibited in the Law (Lev. 19: 27–8). It was obviously contrary to custom that Ezekiel did not mourn for his dead wife (Ezek. 24: 17). Professional singers sometimes sang dirges (2 Chron. 35: 25). These rites might last for a week (Gen. 50: 10) or three weeks (Dan. 10: 2), but a precise period of time was not laid down. For a full year after the death of a parent the children avoided festive celebrations.

Some of these customs are mentioned in the NT, although Paul discourages excessive grieving (1 Thess. 4: 13); but there was certainly communal mourning round a synagogue (Mark 5: 38), and Matt. (9: 23) adds the detail that there were flute‐players in attendance.