NT Wright, page 91:
Death itself was sad, and tinged with evil (in ancient Hebrew theology). It was not seen, in the canonical Old Testament, as a happy release, an escape of the soul from the prison-house of the body. This, of course, is the corollary of the Israelite belief in the goodness and god-givenness of life in this world. Hence the robust if stern wisdom of Ecclesiastes: since this is the way things are, your best course is to enjoy life to the full. (Eccles. 2:24; 3:12f, 22; 5:18-20; 6:3-6; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:9f; 12:1-8).
Rev. Wright lists the following passages from the early and middle books of the Old Testament which clearly indicate that the ancient Israelites had no concept of an after-life, let alone a resurrection. It will be interesting to see how Rev. Wright explains the development of such a belief in later Old Testament texts such as in the Book of Daniel (a text which most modern scholars now believe was written during the Greek occupation of Palestine, not in Babylon).
For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth?
NT Wright: (the answer is: No: to die is to be forgotten for good. Death means that the body returns to the dust, and the breath to God who gave it; meaning not that an immortal part (soul) goes (upward) to live with God, but that the God who breathed life’s breath into human nostrils in the first place will simply withdraw it into his own possession.)
Psalm 6: 5-10
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any that go down into silence.
(This passage is in stark contrast to the statements regarding heaven in the New Testament, and even Jesus’ statements regarding Paradise. The Rich Man was talking to Abraham. That is not silence.)
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2 let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
and my life draws near to Sheol
4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5 like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you? Selah
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?Isaiah 38: 10-11, 18-19I said: In the noontide of my days
I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the Lord
in the land of the living;
I shall look upon mortals no more
among the inhabitants of the world.
For Sheol cannot thank you,
death cannot praise you;
those who go down to the Pit cannot hope
for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, they thank you,
as I do this day;
fathers make known to children
2 Samuel 14:14
14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up.
(Which part of God’s inerrant Word is correct? This passage, or the passages in the New Testament that teach a resurrection of the body?)
Eccles. 9:5,6; 10
The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36 And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” (Sheol cannot mean “Hell”, as no one seriously believes that Jacob believed that he was destined for Hell. Sheol was the grave. For the Patriarchs, death was the end of existence…forever. God’s promises and blessings would live on in their offspring, and their offspring, etc.)
“Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
8 The eye that beholds me will see me no more;
while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone.
9 As the cloud fades and vanishes,
so those who go down to Sheol do not come up; (doesn’t sound like resurrection talk, to me)
10 they return no more to their houses,
nor do their places know them any more.
Job 14: 1,2; 7-10
“A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,
2 comes up like a flower and withers,
flees like a shadow and does not last.
“For there is hope for a tree,
if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.
10 But mortals die, and are laid low;
humans expire, and where are they?
11 As waters fail from a lake,
and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again; (“do not rise again”—Can it be anymore clear?)
until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
or be roused out of their sleep.
NT Wright, page 102:
It is true that, as we shall see, at some points within this tradition a new word was spoken, promising life beyond the grave. But the vast majority in ancient Israel the great and solid hope, built upon the character of the creator and covenant god, was for YHWH’s blessing of justice, properity and peace upon the nation and land, and eventually upon the whole earth. Patriarchs, prophets, kings, and ordinary Israelites would indeed lie down to sleep with their ancestors. YHWH’s purposes, however, would go forwards, and would be fulfilled in their time.