On many occasions when one died he was said to be buried in his father's sepulchre:

KJV Judges 8:32

And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

KJV Judges 16:31

Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

KJV 2 Samuel 21:14

And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.

In another narrative, we learn of a young prophet who disobeys God through the deceit of an older prophet. The older prophet tells him that he shall die because he disobeyed God and will not be buried in his father's sepulcher:

KJV 1 Kings 13:21-22

And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, 22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

This somewhat sounds like a curse and did it have any spiritual significance?


2 Answers 2


The Cambridge commentary sums up the custom and situation in 1 Kings 13:22 well -

thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers: With the Jews, as since with Christians, burial rites were much regarded. To be cast out unburied was deemed a great calamity (cf. Psalm 79:3; Jeremiah 14:16), and a judgement for sin, as in the case of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:10). To be buried by the side of one’s ancestors shews that all care has been bestowed upon the corpse. In the present instance the deprivation of such burial is equivalent to death in some unusual way and at a distance from home.

Barnes adds this:

On the anxiety of the Hebrews to be buried with their fathers, see Genesis 47:30; Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:1, Genesis 49:25; 2 Samuel 19:37, etc.

Matthew Poole agrees and is more specific about the curse:

"and thy carcass shall not be buried in the proper sepulchre"; which was esteemed a kind of curse, and a note of infamy; as the contrary was reckoned an honour and blessing. See 1 Kings 14:13 Isaiah 14:19,20 Jer 22:19 26:23.


The idea of being buried in the sepulcher of one's father is practically synonymous with the theme of "sleeping with one's fathers" which is mentioned many times in the OT accounts of the kings and patriarchs. It has a similar meaning to our phrase "Rest In Peace." In primitive times, being buried in a different place than one's ancestors carried the connotation that one might not be at peace in the afterlife.

In the Bible, the tradition of burying a person in an ancestral tomb starts with Abraham, when he purchases a cave from the Hittites for that purpose:

Sarah died at Kir′iath-ar′ba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from before his dead, and said to the Hittites, “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” ... So the field of Ephron in Mach-pe′lah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave which was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Mach-pe′lah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. (Gen 23)

Later, Abraham himself was buried in this cave, as were Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Esau. Later, in the final chapter of Genesis, the remains of Jacob were brought back from Egypt to be buried there as well.

Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am about to die: in my tomb which I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, I pray you, and bury my father; then I will return.” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear. (Gen 50)

So we find a very ancient biblical tradition indicating the importance of being buried with one's fathers in an ancestral tomb.

The imprecation "thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers" is thus indeed a curse, meant to imply that the person will not rest in peace in Sheol but shall be tormented with loneliness and perhaps worse. The prophet's predication in 1 Kings 13 : 21-22 is mentioned again in 2 Kings 23. Here, King Josiah goes out of his way to desecrate the remains of the priests who worshiped at Bethel instead of Jerusalem. Interestingly, he does not disturb the tomb of either prophet mentioned in the OP.

And as Josi′ah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them upon the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. Then he said, “What is yonder monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things which you have done against the altar at Bethel.” And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samar′ia.

To be buried in one's ancestral tomb, also called "sleeping with one's fathers" was thought to ensure one might not be totally alone in the afterlife. The tradition goes back to the time of Abraham, whose descendants took great care to be buried in their father's tomb. It is referred again and again in the history of the Kings of Judah and Israel. To predict that a person would not be buried in his ancestral tomb was a kind of curse, implying that one's situation in the afterlife would be one of complete isolation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.