Dear Natan: What should be done to my body after I die?

Here is a question from one of this blog’s readers for Natan:

So, I have a super bizarre question for you if you don’t mind. Using Scripture as your base, what is your opinion or interpretation of rightness or wrongness of donating your body to science after death? I have always felt that an earth burial was what was correct, but as I consider how transient we (and people in general) are these days, and the ridiculous cost of death. I am wondering if I should rethink this.  Thoughts?   I know, I’m a weirdo…

Natan’s response:

You’re not a weirdo. These are honest and reasonable questions that I have asked myself. 
I’m not aware of any biblical commands or principles that give instructions on this issue. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but only that I’m not aware of any.
As we get older, we start to think of these things more, don’t we?

I have shied away from having my body used for science or for donating parts to those in need. Somehow, it goes against the grain of my thinking, but I can’t put my finger on why, or give Scriptures for it.


Similarly, people sometimes asking me about cremating vs. burying a body. Again, there are no scriptural commands on this issue, only Hebrew tradition. Traditionally, the body was buried, but this isn’t a biblical command.

I agree that in light of the high cost of burial services, cremation seems like a reasonable option.

Frankly, after I’m dead, I don’t care what happens to my body. Deal with it in the easiest and most cost effective way possible is my opinion. I don’t need a gravestone in a plot somewhere that no one will visit anyway. So why go through the bother? My inheritance is a heavenly one as I await the resurrection.

 

21 thoughts on “Dear Natan: What should be done to my body after I die?

  1. This is a interesting thought that I’ve pondered about often! This body will be usless after the Spirit has left it, I dont know why but I feel uneasy about embalming and autopsy! I’ve jokingly have mentioned to family members they can just dispose of me in a dumpster! I won’t know any diffrence!!

  2. My brother who was previously staunchly opposed to cremation. recently passed away with instructions to not only cremate the body, but to scatter the ashes because he didn’t want to put any of his family in the position of being concerned with upkeep of a plot, or worrying about what to “do” with an urn. At some point it would be passed down to someone who never knew him and might not care. His whole emphasis was on those left behind and what caring for his remains would mean for them. I am for some reason I can’t explain, not comfy with just cremating, but for some other reason I can’t quite wrap my head around, donating the body is less objectionable to me. I am not talking about “parts,” rather donating for med students to learn from….thinking some good may come from a body no longer in use…? The costs of even a simple cremation are now ridiculous. Hard to know how people who are not rich can even afford to die these days…:</ Thanks for answering Natan, and am interested in any other thoughts others may have. Anyone regret how they handled something?

  3. My parents passed away 3 years ago and they were cremated and ashes spread over the pacific ocean-it was freeing to all of us-YHVH is not boxed in by our boxes and is able to resurrect us so I see no restriction to that as some have worried about. just sharing 🙂

  4. Like many other people, I have wondered how YHVH feels about cremating a human body. There are many instances in Scripture where human bodies are being burned but no indication whether this practice is acceptable to Elohim or not, except one reading I stumbled over one day:
    Amos 2: 1 Adonai says: “For Moav’s three crimes, no, four – I will not reverse it – because he burned the bones of the king of Edom, turning them into lime: I will send fire on Moav…..
    This verse seems to indicate to me that YHVH was not pleased about the total burning up of these bones into lime (ashes).
    Therefore, I am in favour to follow the Hebrew tradition of burial.
    Burning something up seems to be Elohim’s way of getting rid of something unwanted.
    In regard to donating my body to science or give permission to use any of my body parts, that seems creepy to me. If Elohim allows people to die from a disease, I do not wish to interfere. Sometimes it can be a challenge to know what treatments are acceptable to YHVH and what may be an abomination.
    If one has put one’s life into Elohim’s hands, why would one offer one’s body parts to other people just because they have no trust in Him.
    Shalom to all,
    Sonja

    • Interesting point you make re. Amos 2:1. Never heard this before. Do you think Yah was angry with the cremation, or with the fact that Moab (the descendant of Lot) killed the Edomites (the descendants of Esau) who were their cousins? I tend to think the latter, but I reserve the right to be wrong on this.

  5. hmmm. Natan, please weigh in on your interpretation of this verse. I can see this, but am not sure if interpretation is correct. Sonya…I can agree on being uncomfortable with some options. Tell me….if a person doesn’t have the $$ for a burial site, marker, casket, vault, and assorted additional expenses that are charged, what do you think Father would have them do? I have never felt good about anything BUT burial, however…after losing many family members and seeing the associated costs of dying these days…it is sobering.

    • I live in Australia and have read somewhere that our government will pay for a person’s funeral if the person has no money. I guess there would be quite a few people in that situation. Unfortunately, we do have homeless people and many pensioners who do not have their own home and are on a government pension. I suppose, that usually the family (children) makes an effort to pay for the funeral but if they are poor too, the government has to do it because it is illegal to bury one in one’s back yard. I do not know about the American laws in regard to this issue.
      Sonja

    • I’m not in a position to tell a person what to do or not to do with regard to the disposal of their body after death. The Bible is rather silent on this subject.

      These things we know:

      A dead body decomposes and returns to the earth.
      Worms, bacteria, et al will eat a body until only bones are left.
      If one drowns, then fish and scavengers will eat the body.
      When one dies, the spirit leaves the body.
      At the resurrection, even though the body will be in some state of nothingness, YHVH will put it all back together again and give one a new, glorified body.

      So whether one is buried whole and decomposes into minerals, is burned into minerals, drowns and becomes minerals, falls into a crevasse and is frozen in the glacial ice or whatever, YHVH will put it all back together again and breath life back into the body at the resurrection. There is nothing we can do about it when we die, so what’s the big deal? Our faith is in YHVH Elohim and his word, and in the hope of the resurrection.

      Frankly, I tend to not really worry too much about things over which I have no control.

      • no…I wouldn’t want to tell anyone what to do either….just wondered about your interpretation of the vs Sonya wrote about….I read before and after looking for context and couldn’t discern how the burning of the king connected to anything to help me interpret.

  6. We do have laws regarding where people can be buried. And IF the person is on Social Security or disability, they can apply to get $250 I think it is for death costs. That doesn’t come close. My nephew recently died and was cremated with no urn or anything special at ALL and the cost was $2000. His family didn’t have that so my niece paid for that. A burial plot is from what I can tell….thousands of dollars. Death has become a HUGE business:<(

  7. For Sonja…I couldn’t figure out context for the verse in Amos that you brought up, and asked a friend… who could provide context. See 2 Kings 3:26-27 which speaks of what was done and why. The issue appears not to be “cremation” (burning of bones), rather human sacrifice….. all credit to my friend…I couldn’t figure it:<)

    • Context and background info is essential to understanding the truth of anything.

      I like your explanation better than the one that I gave.

      A question still remains in my mind. Was their burning of the king of Moab a matter of human sacrifice or simply retribution (an eye for eye principle) for what he had done to his own son? After all it doesn’t say that they burned the king, just his bones, which leads me to think that he was already dead when they burned him. If that’s the case, maybe YHVH is against cremation after all. Questions and more questions.

      • Well for sure it was a sacrifice per 2 Kings 3:27 “Then he took his firstborn son, who was to have succeeded him as king, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. Following this, such great anger came upon Israel that they left him and went back to their own land.” Depending on what version you read, it says bones, or simply “him.” (my version is from CJB) So still difficult to know if Father is angry because of burning in and of itself, or because of human sacrifice (surely so!) or both. I understand this is not of great consequence regarding salvation or resurrection, but simply prefer to do as Father approves if I can figure it out!

  8. Helpful commentaries:
    Matthew Henry’s commentaries page 1191.
    But I think its all summed up in Paul Wright’s commentary in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary page 364 (cremation).
    I really do love a good pro-active Bible study; great fellowship.
    Thank you, John

  9. Thanks everyone for trying to get to the bottom of this. Of course, I agree, that Elohim can put us all together again without having to rely on the state of our bones.
    As drbetsill (sorry, I don’t know your proper name) points out, its all about pleasing our Heavenly Father.
    Since it seems unclear whether cremation is an acceptable way of disposing of a human body, perhaps the best thing to do is to follow Hebrew tradition because Elohim said nothing against it.
    It seems to me that the fact that God mentions that the bones were burned until they turned into lime is significant. Many people in Scripture got burned but not into lime. That requires some effort. Apparently, the Israelites considered the burning of human bones the ultimate desecration of the dead.
    I looked at 2 Kings 3 but can’t work out what it has to do with Amos 2:1 ??
    2 Kings 3:27 writes about the king of Moav sacrificing his son.
    Amos 2:1 talks about the bones of the king of Edom being burned into lime.

    People being burned up by fire seems to be a punishment from Elohim for various crimes: Nadab and Abihu, the leaders who rebelled against Moshe, the lake of fire.

    Sonja

      • I love this. Talking it thru and searching and getting more info as we go…..SO Sonja (b/t/w…I am Darlene, when I set up the account my user name was just initials:<), your point about not seeing the Amos/Kings connection…depending on which version you read, it can be confusing as to exactly whose bones were burned in sacrifice. Some versions specifically say sacrifice, some do not. The order of the words makes it confusing as to which king's son was burned, etc, so…the connection that was previously seen was dependent on who exactly was burned. Digging further though, I have come to believe that there is NOT a connection (thanks for motivating me to seek that) and that these are two separate instances. The one regarding a sacrifice was wrong because it was a sacrifice, but the other situation…looks to be totally different. Evidently the reason Father was SO angry is because in spite they dug up the bones of a dead king just to humiliate… I am doing a copy/paste of a commentary about this. It seems reasonable to me that this could be accurate. If so, Father was not angry due to a "cremation" or "donating the body to medical science as was the original question" rather it was due to extreme disrespect. What does everyone think about this?

        Bible verses about Burning Bones of King of Edom
        (From Forerunner Commentary)

        Amos 2:1-3

        Moab's major transgression was the result of a long-burning feud between Moab and Edom. Out of spite and anger, the Moabites dug up the bones of a long-dead Edomite king and threw them into a fire. This is another example of taking advantage of someone who is weak and defenseless. Can a corpse fight back? The principle here is that every sin has a boomerang. God noticed the sin, burning the bones of the king of Edom, and promised to avenge it (Deuteronomy 32:35).

        John W. Ritenbaugh
        Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)

        Revelation 11:9

        "Those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies." This really confused commentators up until about 1940 or 1950, because they did not understand how the whole world would be able to see dead bodies in Jerusalem. So, scratching their heads, they thought of it as a mystery. Now we know: Television makes it possible for us to see anything that happens anywhere on earth. With the modern technological advancements over the last half century or so, we have a better grasp on how Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

        The next matter is the phrase "not allow." They do not allow the Two Witnesses' dead bodies to be put into graves, which is the ultimate in disrespect and desecration. Amos 2:1 shows how much God is against this sort of thing, which is why this detail is mentioned in Revelation 11. Amos is summarizing God's judgments on the nations surrounding Israel and Judah:

        Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment [meaning, I will punish], because he [the king of Moab] burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime." (Amos 2:1)

        The Moabite king evidently exhumed the dead body. Then, in the sight of the defeated Edomites, he burned the bones of one of their kings. To defile the dead is so heinous a crime that God says, "Just for that, I'm going to come and wipe you out." It was a terrible thing for a nation to perpetrate against the king of another nation—despite his being dead for perhaps many years. God is very much against this sort of desecration.

        Richard T. Ritenbaugh
        The Two Witnesses (Part 7)

  10. Thanks Darlene, you really have done some digging! I suppose this is one of those issues where everyone has to follow their own conscience or better still, ask the Holy Spirit for clear guidance.
    Shalom to all, Sonja

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