Reposted, with permission, from DBTS blog.
Despite many advances over the last century in archaeology and biblical backgrounds, together with a growing field of studies in biblical theology, consensus concerning ancient Israel’s perspective of the afterlife remains elusive. The view that conscious life continued after death was pervasive not only in ancient Israel but throughout the ancient Near East. Defining and conceptualizing Sheol in the OT and in Israel’s social practices, however, remains a notorious difficulty.
In the past half-century surprisingly few detailed studies of Sheol have appeared. Among these, most scholars conclude that the ancient Israelites believed that all the dead went to Sheol. In contrast to this understanding, however, a number of biblical passages appear to hold out hope for the deliverance of the godly from Sheol (Gen 5:24; 2 Kgs 3:3–10; Job 14:13; 19:25–26; Ps 16:10–11; 49:15; 73:24; Prov 15:24; 23:14; Hos 13:14). In studying these latter passages, I have come to the conclusion that ancient Israel, from the perspective of the biblical text, and likely also within its social-cultural practices, distinguished the destinies of the righteous versus the wicked in the afterlife. The righteous were understood to ascend to God for a beatific afterlife replete with continued fellowship and joy, while the ungodly were seen to descend to the gloomy underworld known as Sheol to await future judgment by God.
"The find of 10th-century BCE fortifications of Lachish supports the Bible but not all archaeologists are convinced. ...Traditionalists, also referred to as maximalists, claim the Biblical descriptions of a complex and powerful Davidic Kingdom based in Judea in the 10th-century BCE are accurate.
"Sometimes NT writers cite or allude to the OT in ways which, at first blush, seem to disregard the context or, worse, to alter its meaning. This leads many readers of the NT to wonder if its authors were always faithful to the original intent of these passages." - DBTS Blog
Richard Hess is an Old Testament professor at Denver Seminary who has distinguished himself with a brace of high quality studies and commentaries. These include a notable Commentary on Joshua in the Tyndale series, and a book on Israelite Religions. This work of Old Testament introduction competes with the works of Hill & Walton, Longman & Dillard, Arnold & Beyer, as well as older books by Gleason Archer and R. K. Harrison.
In The Old Testament Hess reviews each book of the Hebrew Bible providing an outline, an overview of the contents, a helpful section on “Reading” each book, which is divided into “Premodern” and critical readings; the latter being particularly useful. There is then a section on “Gender and Ideological Criticism,” Ancient Near Eastern and Canonical context, Literary structure, Theological themes, and a brief annotated bibliography. Overall, the style is highly readable and informative. The chapters are enhanced with black and white charts, diagrams, maps, photos, and insets focusing on pertinent topics.
In this excerpt from his book, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser explains why the Old Testament should be emphasized more in local churches:1
Let it be affirmed right away that the central theme of both the Old and New Testaments is Christ. Did not our Lord rebuke the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday afternoon for their failure to understand that he was the one to whom all the Law, Prophets, and Writings pointed (Luke 24:25–27)?
Indeed, while the prophets were ignorant of the time and the circumstances surrounding the coming of the Messiah (1 Pet. 1:10–12), they were clear about five things: (1) they were writing about the Messiah; (2) they knew Messiah would suffer; (3) they knew Messiah would also be glorified and that he would triumph; (4) they knew the suffering would precede the glory; and (5) they knew that they were speaking not only to their own generation but to all of us who would come later, such as those in the church in Peter’s day.
Therefore, the prophets’ bewilderment about their lack of knowledge as to the precise date of the appearing of Messiah should not be taken as proof that the prophets spoke “better than they knew,” or that they often spoke in ignorance of what they wrote.
Returning to chapter 7 of 2 Samuel, verse 13 speaks of David’s son building “a house for My name” with the addition of the pledge of an everlasting dynastic kingdom. Walter Kaiser has commented on the connection between the establishing of a kingdom and the right to erect a temple. He writes,
[A]ccording to 2 Samuel 7:13…the “house” of David had to be first established by Yahweh before a temple could be built. Temple building could only be the completion and crowning effect of Yahweh’s creation of a kingdom.1
If this is right then David could not begin his reign by ordering the construction of a temple to Yahweh. Why not? Because peace in the kingdom was not attained during David’s reign, either through having to impose his reign over dissidents, or through his own disastrous breaking of the law he was supposed to be upholding via the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11).
As Niehaus reminds us, the covenants of God,