Friday, September 30, 2016

Resurrection in the Old Testament

Jesus (and St. Paul) both speak of the Jews' belief in the Resurrection of the body, but when was that revealed to the Jews? I read an article which claimed that the Resurrection was a relatively "new" concept at the time of Jesus, probably "stolen" from the Babylonians during the captivity. Does the Bible have any references to resurrection from before the captivity?

I though I'd take a look at the Old Testament. Armed with nothing but a search engine and a love of Scripture I found the following:

Of course the most obvious example in 2 Maccabees 7 [emphasis mine]:

The Martyrdom of Seven Brothers

It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.”
The king fell into a rage, and gave orders that pans and caldrons be heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying,  “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song which bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, ‘And he will have compassion on his servants.’”
After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, “Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?”  He replied in the language of his fathers, and said to them, “No.” Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done.  And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”
After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.
When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. And when he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!
Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him. But he looked at the king, and said, “Because you have authority among men, mortal though you are, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people.  Keep on, and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants!”
After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, “Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore astounding things have happened.  But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!”
The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”
More on the Moses reference highlighted above as we go backwards in time.

There's the story of Elijah, who was assumed bodily into heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), but that doesn't quite count as a resurrection. There is also the story of Elisha's bones bringing a man back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21) but although the man is raised from the dead it is an "exceptional" case, not indicative that all will be resurrected. But several of the prophets speak of the resurrection.

Daniel 12:2
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
and Daniel 12:13
But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.”
Isaiah 26:19 announces of the resurrection of the Jews:
Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.
    O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a radiant dew,
    and the earth will give birth to those long dead.
Hosea 6:1-2 speaks of resurrection as well.
Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
    he has struck down, and he will bind us up. 
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.
The Psalms deal with at least implied resurrection, such as Psalm 16:9-10:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
    my body also dwells secure. 
For thou dost not give me up to Sheol,
    or let thy godly one see the Pit.
That's a little obscure to me, as it's not clear if it means David (the author) will not die, or will die but be resurrected. However, St. Peter (to whom Jesus explained all of Scripture) clearly saw it as referring to the Resurrection and says so at Pentecost in Acts 2:25-32:
For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    moreover my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
    nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.
So I have to agree on that one.  This one is much clearer - in 1 Samuel 2:6 Hannah prays:
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
Job clearly believes that at least he can be resurrected:
O that you would hide me in Sheol,
    that you would conceal me until your wrath is past,
    that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! 
If mortals die, will they live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait
    until my release should come.
Then there is Jonah. Yes, good old Jonah. I remember that story from my childhood, but as far as I knew, and as all the kids' stories (like VeggieTales) Jonah just spent 3 days living in the belly of the whale. Sure, when Jesus says (Matthew 16:1-4)
And the Pharisees and Sad′ducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,  “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
He was referring to His death and Resurrection, but Jonah was just a symbol of that, right? I mean three days in the tomb was like Jonah spending three days in the belly of the whale? Well kids, the actual story is darker. Jonah was dead, and was resurrected. (Jonah 1:17-2:9):
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
“I called to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and thou didst hear my voice.
For thou didst cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood was round about me;
all thy waves and thy billows
    passed over me. 
Then I said, ‘I am cast out
    from thy presence;
how shall I again look
    upon thy holy temple?’ 
The waters closed in over me,
    the deep was round about me;
weeds were wrapped about my head 
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
    whose bars closed upon me for ever;
yet thou didst bring up my life from the Pit,
    O Lord my God. 
When my soul fainted within me,
    I remembered the Lord;
and my prayer came to thee,
    into thy holy temple. 
Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their true loyalty. 
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to thee;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Deliverance belongs to the Lord!”
The Maccabees passage at the beginning references Moses. The reference is to Deuteronomy 32:36, which says:
Indeed the Lord will vindicate his people,
    have compassion on his servants,

when he sees that their power is gone,
    neither bond nor free remaining.
Not a very obvious reference to resurrection, but it gets better. If we continue another few verses we see that God is referring to resurrection (Deuteronomy 32:39):
See now that I, even I, am he;
    there is no god besides me.
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and no one can deliver from my hand.
And finally, there is Abraham, all the way back in Genesis 22:9-10:
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
"But Mike," you say, "that doesn't say anything about resurrection." I know, but remember Abraham had been promised descendants through Isaac explicitly. So if Isaac is to die, the only way he could expect God to fulfill God's covenant would be through the resurrection of Isaac. It may not seem obvious to you, but it was to the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:17-19):
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
When I started this  post I really only knew about two references to resurrection in the Old Testament. It took me quite a while, but I was surprised (and pleased) to find as many as I did (eleven). Do you ever wonder about things in the Bible? It may be time to dust off the old search engine and go digging.


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