Cremation - why and why not

One of the top ten reads on the Aquila Report right now.

From the article:

1 Sam. 31:12 recounts one of the very few examples in which cremation is specifically brought up in the Bible, and it is portrayed in a neutral, if not positive light. Saul’s body is retrieved from the Philistines and burned by the “valiant men” of Jabesh Gilead.

From 1 Sam 31:

Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

Emphasis mine.

This irritates me to no end. If you are going to scripture, do it right. Don’t change things for your argument. Don’t blur the text. I can’t even…

For me, I can’t care about anything in the rest of his argument. Terrible. And typical.


Interesting note at the bottom of the article:

This article first appeared in the June, 2003 issue. It has been corrected, with a reference to 1 Sam. 31:13 now pointing to the previous verse, 1 Sam. 31:12.

So the article originally pointed to the verse about Saul’s bones being buried, but has since been “corrected” to omit that verse entirely so as to make the case that Saul was cremated?

Even putting that aside, how do you write an entire post about cremation vs burial and not once mention the future resurrection of the dead? That’s kinda the whole point.


Regarding the men of Jabesh-Gilead burning the bodies of Saul and his sons, was this decision perhaps based on the extent of their mutilation (1 Sam 31:9-10)? Or perhaps it just seemed to them like the right thing to do at the time. There are a number of straightforward narratives in the Bible that we’re not supposed to emulate.

Either way, it’s clear these men were careful to collect the bones and then buried them in a definitive, marked place (and that with solemnity, fasting for 7 days). There was no scattering of ashes to the wind.


Hi Nathan - I wrote the article. The article was a well-meant, and well-researched effort. It was, however, done by a limited man, and knowing my limitations, I appreciate hearing feedback. I’ve since incorporated what you said into the piece - you haven’t changed my mind, but after reading what you wrote I did think it important to include reference to a 1 Sam 31:13.

I’ll add, it would have been great if you’d commented on the article on our website. I only came across your comment here by, well, I’d say luck, but neither of us believe in that. But let’s say it was an unlikely occurrence.




I appreciate the change.