And devout men carried Stephen to his burial
These men were not Jewish proselytes, but members of the Christian church; who were eminent for their religion and piety, and who had courage enough, amidst this persecution, to show a respect to the dead body of this holy martyr; which they took from under the stones, washed it, and wound it up in linen clothes, and put it into a coffin, or on a bier: they did everything preparatory to the funeral, which, is chiefly designed by the word here used, rather than the carrying of him out to his grave; though this also they did, and buried him: and to bear a corpse and follow it to the grave, and bury it, were with the Jews F24 reckoned among acts of kindness, mercy, and piety, and which would not fail of a reward; they have a saying F25, that
``he that mourns, they shall mourn for him; and he that buries, they shalt bury him and he that lifts up (his voice in weeping lamentation), they shall lift up for him; he that accompanies (a dead corpse), they shall accompany him; he that "carries", they shall carry him;''as these devout men did, who would not suffer Stephen to be buried in the common burying place of malefactors, but interred him elsewhere, in a more decent manner: but whether they had leave from the sanhedrim so to do, or whether they did this of themselves, is not certain; if the latter, which seems most likely, it is an instance of great boldness and resolution, and especially at this time; for
``they did not bury one that was stoned in the sepulchres of his fathers, but there were two burying places appointed by the sanhedrim, one for those that are stoned and burnt, and another for those that are slain with the sword and strangled F26.''So that, they acted contrary to the Jewish canon, as they also did in what follows:
and made great lamentation over him;
though they did not sorrow as those without hope, yet they did not put on a stoical apathy; but as men sensible of the loss the church of Christ had sustained, by the death of a person so eminent for his gifts and grace, they mourned over him in a becoming manner: in this they went contrary to the Jewish rule, which forbids lamentation for those that died as malefactors, and runs thus F1
``they do not mourn, but they grieve; for grief is only in the heart;''their reason for this was, as the commentators say F2, because they thought that
``their disgrace was an atonement for their sin:''but these devout men knew that Stephen needed no such atonement, and that his sins were atoned for another way: otherwise the Jews looked upon mourning for the dead to be to the honour of him; hence they say F3, that mourning
``is the glory of the dead--whoever is backward to the mourning of a wise man shall not prolong his days; and whoever is sluggish in mourning for a good man, ought to be buried alive; and whoever causes tears to descend for a good man, lo, his reward is reserved for him with the holy blessed God.''
F24 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.
F25 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 72. 1. & Moed Katon, fol. 28. 2.
F26 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 5.
F1 Misn. Sanhedrin, sect. 6.
F2 Jarchi & Bartenora in ib.
F3 Maimon. Hilch. Ebel, c. 12. sect. 1, 2.