This word in the King James Version is the translations of two Hebrew words, pegher, and gewiyah, while nebhelah, and guphah, which mean the same, are translated "body," with which the English word "corpse" (Latin, corpus) was originally synonymical. Therefore we find the now apparently unnecessary addition of the adjective "dead" in 2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36. The Greek equivalent is ptoma, literally, "a fallen body," "a ruin" (from pipto, "to fall"), in Mark 6:29; Revelation 11:8,9.
Corpses were considered as unclean and defiling in the Old Testament, so that priests were not to touch dead bodies except those of near kinsfolk (Leviticus 21:1-3), the high priest and a Nazirite not even such (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6-8). Numbers 19 presents to us the ceremonial of purification from such defilement by the sprinkling with the ashes of a red heifer, cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet.
It was considered a great calamity and disgrace to have one's body left unburied, a "food unto all birds of the heavens, and unto the beasts of the earth" (Deuteronomy 28:26; 2 Samuel 21:10; Psalms 79:2; Isaiah 34:3; Jeremiah 7:33, etc.). Thence is explained the merit of Rizpah (2 Samuel 21:10), and of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, who protected or recovered and buried the mutilated bodies of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:11-13; 2 Samuel 2:4-7; compare 1 Chronicles 10:11,12).
Even the corpses of persons executed by hanging were not to remain on the tree "all night," "for he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thou defile not thy land which Yahweh thy God giveth thee for an inheritance" (Deuteronomy 21:23).
H. L. E. Luering
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