Why Isn’t the Afterlife Mentioned in the Bible?

Oct. 20 2015

Although belief in the afterlife is a mainstay of rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew Bible is largely silent on the topic. However, notes Hayyim Angel, two of America’s most prominent academic Bible scholars have argued that the Tanakh does indeed endorse belief in the hereafter. Angel explores the questions of why this concept gets so little attention in the Bible, why the talmudic rabbis gave it greater attention, and the implications for contemporary Judaism. He takes as his point of departure the story of the Garden of Eden:

There were two trees at the center of Eden. The Tree of Life seems supernatural. Were Adam and Eve to eat from it, they would have become immortal. . . . [N]early every ancient mythology had a tree, a plant, or something else “of life.” This mythology reflects the obsessive quest for immortality in the ancient world.

In stark contrast, . . . the Torah decisively downplays the Tree of Life. That tree becomes significant to the narrative only after Adam and Eve sin by eating from the Tree of Knowledge and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. [Only then does] God send cherubim to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Life. . . .

Even though the [idea of a] Tree of Life was prevalent in other ancient literatures, the Tree of Knowledge is otherwise unattested. The Torah is a revolution in human history, shifting focus away from nonexistent mythical fruits that give immortality and replacing them with an emphasis on developing a genuine relationship with God. It teaches that we must live religious-moral lives and take personal responsibility for our actions. The ultimate vision of the prophets is a messianic world, which will achieve a perfected, religious-moral society, [rather than immortality].

Read more at Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

More about: Afterlife, Garden of Eden, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Messianism, Religion & Holidays


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy