Bible Answer

When did the two Marys buy spices to anoint Jesus’ body?

With the crucifixion of Jesus on the Thursday, and His resurrection on the Sunday, when did the women in Mark 16:1 buy their spices?

In Mark 16 we read:

Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.
Mark 16:2 Very early on the first day of the week, they  came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

From other Scripture, we learn that Jesus was crucified on a Thursday and rose before dawn on Sunday morning (see What Day of the Week did Jesus Die?). Furthermore, the day following the Passover is always a Sabbath according to Leviticus 23:6-8, which in the year Jesus died occurred on a Friday. The following day, Saturday, was the regular weekly Sabbath, so Jesus’ death was followed by two back-to-back Sabbath days. 

For these two days the women were prevented from buying the additional spices they needed to finish the embalming process for Jesus’ body, but when the the weekly Sabbath day ended at sundown Saturday night, the women went out to purchase the spices, In Israel, shops reopen for business on the evening following a Sabbath day. This practice still happens today in Israel. Cities become alive with activity after sundown on Saturday night as shoppers flood the markets (usually starting at 8 PM), and businesses generally remain open until nearly midnight on Saturday night to accommodate the post-Sabbath shopping. 

So the women went shopping in the city on Saturday night following the end of the Sabbath to purchase the additional spices. However, the women could not return to Jesus’ grave on Saturday night. The city of Jerusalem was protected by walls and gates, and the city’s gates were shut and locked at night for the protection of the city. Without a way to leave the city, the women were forced to wait until dawn on Sunday morning to bring the spices to Jesus’ grave. 

So at dawn on Sunday morning, the women left the city immediately after the gates were opened, as Mark reports, carrying the spices they purchased the night before hoping to reach Jesus’ body in the tomb. Of course, when they arrived they found the tomb empty.