Gathered unto his people

The concept of life after death is not at all clear in the Hebrew Bible, rather the overall text focuses on the ‘here and now’ in how to manage oneself in the physical world surrounding us. The term ‘Ha olam ha baa’, meaning the next world in Hebrew, is one which is commonly used to indicate some form of after-life, but it is not expanded in any more depth. Moreover the term is not Biblical and does not appear anywhere in the Bible, rather it is post-biblical and a phrase initiated by the rabbis in the Mishnah (CE 200) and also in the Zohar.

However there are several texts in the Pentateuch (Torah) which does suggest there is an afterlife and is linked to the phrase ‘gathered unto his people’. This phrase is the only phrase used in the Biblical to indicate that there may be a life after death and is subject to some speculation as to its meaning. Its use is restricted to reference to the deaths of the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Ishmael, Aaron and Moses.

The phrase is found six times in the Bible and occurs only in the Pentateuch.

Then Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people: Genesis 25:8

And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty seven years; and he expired and died; and was gathered to his people: Genesis 25:17

And Isaac expired, and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him: Genesis 35:29

And when Jacob finished commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and expired, and was gathered unto his people: Genesis 49:33

Aaron shall be gathered to his people; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah: Numbers 20:24

And (Moses) die in the mount where you go up, and be gathered to your people; as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people: Deuteronomy: 32: 50


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