Questions From Readers
● Does 2 Chronicles 16:14 mean that King Asa was cremated?
No, the “funeral burning” here mentioned was of aromatic spices.
When faithful King Asa died, he was buried with honor. We read: “They buried him in his grand burial place that he had excavated for himself in the city of David; and they laid him in the bed that had been filled with balsam oil and different sorts of ointment mixed in an ointment of special make. Further, they made an extraordinarily great funeral burning for him.”—2 Chron. 16:14.
Some readers have thought that this meant the “burning” of his body. However, the Hebrews did not normally cremate their dead; they buried them in caves, tombs or earthen graves. Evidently cremation as part of an honorable burial occurred only in unusual cases, such as with Saul and his sons.—1 Sam. 31:8-13.
But the Hebrews did use fragrant spices and ointments as part of burials. (John 19:40) Thus, after mentioning such sweet-smelling substances used at Asa’s burial, the account speaks of “an extraordinarily great funeral burning for him.” Note, the burning was “for” him, not “of” him. The verse itself, then, indicates that what was burned were the aromatic spices, giving a fragrant scent.
Such “burnings” are mentioned only in the case of kings. In foretelling the peaceful death of King Zedekiah, Jeremiah said: “As with the burnings for your fathers, the former kings . . . they will make a burning for you.” (Jer. 34:5) But after God struck down unfaithful King Jehoram of Judah, the king was not given a grand burial. We are told: “His people did not make a burning for him” and he was not buried in the “burial places of the kings.” (2 Chron. 21:18-20) No fragrant spices were burned at his burial.