Life with Yahweh after Death
Tackmier, Bill J.
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This dissertation demonstrates how seven Psalms passages that refer to life beyond death reflect a single, coherent view of postmortem existence held in ancient Israel. Although it has been argued by some over the past hundred years that four of the passages (Pss 6:6; 30:10; 88:10–12; and 115:17) reflect a time when Israel either did not believe in an afterlife or had a very limited view of postmortem existence, this dissertation argues that the seven passages are muted expressions of afterlife belief — muted so as not to be confused with beliefs among Israel’s neighbors that the dead could speak to the living. The psalmists, like many in ancient Israel, opposed the cult of the dead practiced throughout the ancient Near East. The three other psalms examined (Pss 16, 49, and 73) focus on how the individual believed he would go on to an existence of eternal bliss with Yahweh without reference to other deceased persons sharing that existence. The psalmists do not deny that such a community of the dead existed, but they appear to avoid addressing the topic since Israel was often tempted to practice the cult of the dead, which involved offering sacrifices to the dead and soliciting their counsel and guidance from beyond the grave. The dissertation first surveys the cult of the dead as practiced by Israel’s neighbors, then surveys how the rest of Hebrew Scripture cautiously handles the topics of afterlife and the cult of the dead, and finally examines exegetically the seven Psalms references to show that the psalmists are affirming belief in a continued postmortem existence with Yahweh, but one in which the dead were unable to communicate to the living either Yahweh’s praises or his counsel.
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