I am a Christian and have been studying what we call the Old Testament, and been surprised to have difficulty to find a reference to afterlife in the Jewish books of the Christian Canon. I know that canon constitutes only a portion of Jewish books but for example in the book of Kings, we read the kings to be "sleeping" with their fathers. Also psalms refer to restitution of the person in this world and not a promise for the future.

So can you please bring references (ideally from the Jewish Bible, alternatively other books of your faith) which refers to the resurrection of the dead and afterlife. Obviously there is Ezekiel and resurrection of the bones but I feel the context is different.

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    If by our other "Jewish books" you allow the Oral Law, which we believe forms part of our law given at Sinai, then there is a whole chapter of Sanhedrin called "Cheilek" literally "portion" that talks about the "world to come" which is the afterlife. Other than that there is of course the reference in the book of Samuel where Saul contacts him from beyond the dead.
    – CashCow
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 12:28
  • 1
    I think your answer is at judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27061/501 - and possibly this should be closed as a dup. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 12:54
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/20619/…
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 12:55
  • 1
    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/45280/…
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 12:57
  • @DannySchoemann, not quite a duplicate: that q. asks why matters aren’t more explicit in Tanach; this one asks where it’s discussed at all. A really superb answer to the other question would cover this too, but not the (perfectly fine) answers that are there now. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 20:23

5 Answers 5


Deut. 7:11 states: "You shall observe the commandment, and the decrees, and the ordinances, that I command you, today, to perform them."

The Torah writes about Earthly rewards, and not a lot about the world to come (afterlife) or the resurrection (see further in Deut. Ch.7:12-etc.)

One reason for this is the word "today" in Deut.7:11. The Torah is meant to be a guide to G-d's will in this world. This world was meant for us to work. As Rashi comments on the verse: "Today to perform them" - and tomorrow, in the world to come, to receive their reward. - (Rashi applying a quote from Talmud Eiruvin 22a)

If the Torah would focus on the next world, people would be distracted from their job in this world here and now; "today".

Another reason behind the focus on "today", is to show how G-d's word is true, and other religions are false. Although G-d does offer dual rewards in this world and in the next one; His focus in the Torah, is all about this world.

We have a saying. "He who wishes to lie, usually speaks of far away things." A good liar will claim things that are not easily verifiable, but sound really good. Many world religions, have their priests/preachers, give sermons about the great rewards awaiting followers in the afterlife. Only G-d, removed almost all promises of an afterlife from his official book, and instead promises hard cold Earthly rewards as His focus. Look how fair G-d is to His followers. He offers a reward you can feel and touch. You will know if He keeps His word now; not after you are already dead. :)

Of course, the Tanach does talk about the afterlife and resurrection as a fact. Jewish people realize that the world to come plays a role in our belief system, and is more important than Earthly rewards. So, the Tanach will remind us of it. Here are some verses:

Genesis 5:24

"...and Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for G-d had taken him."

Genesis 25:8 (and many places)

"And Abraham expired and died at a good old age, mature and content, and he was gathered to his people."

This terminology implies that Abraham would go on to his own afterlife with his family etc.

Kohelet (Eccl.) 12:7

12:1 "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."...12:5 ...because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets..."

12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the soul shall return unto G-d who gave it."

2 Samuel 12:23

22 And he said: 'While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said: Who knoweth whether the L-rd will not be gracious to me, that the child may live?

23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."

It is interesting to read the entire event in 1 Samuel 28. Samuel specifically rises from his rest and informs King Saul that he would join him in the afterlife. In fact, one may consider why the Torah would forbid people from consulting the dead (Deut.18:11) if dead people cease to exist?

1 Samuel 28:19

"...tomorrow, you and your sons will be with me."

2 Kings 2:11

"....and Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind."

Obviously, as someone else pointed out, Isaiah 26:19, and Daniel 12:2, are pretty straightforward as well.

Isaiah 26:19

"May your dead come to life, may my corpses arise. Awake and shout for joy, you who rest in the dirt."

Daniel 12:2

"Many of those who sleep in the dusty Earth will awaken. These for everlasting life, and these for shame; for abhorrence."

Daniel himself is promised an afterlife:

Daniel 12:13

"As for you, go to (your) end. You will rest, and you will arise, for your portion at the end of days."

Finally, it is interesting to note a couple of conversations brought in Talmud Sanhedrin, chapter Cheilek, 91a. Through the ages, there have been groups who deny the afterlife and resurrection. Mostly, it is because it is deemed illogical. However, Judaism finds it to be a very logical concept taught throughout our own Oral Torah. One reason is because it is in line with G-d's idea of true justice. Another is because it just seems that it would be natural for G-d to do so.

Ceasar asked Rabban Gamliel: Dead people become dirt. How can dirt live again? The daughter of Ceasar said, "Rabbi, let me handle this question." She asked her father: There are two potters in our town, one makes vessels using water and one uses clay. Which one is a greater craftsman? Ceasar answered, of course, the one who can form vessels out of water. She said, if G-d makes people out of an (original) drop of water, then certainly he can make people out of dirt!

A certain heretic once said to Geviah ben Pesissah (a Rabbi): Woe to you sinners who say that the dead will live! If the living must die, then the dead should certainly experience (continuous)death! Geviah answered: Woe to you sinners who deny! If people who never existed can live, then people who once lived can certainly live again!


The answer is there are few if any Biblical references. The afterlife is more emphasized in the oral tradition than in the actual Bible. Which is why you had the Sadduccees (the priestly Jews who only believed in the first five books of the Bible with no oral tradition) who did not believe in an afterlife at all. To this day there are still many Jews who are ambivalent about the afterlife, it's not something we talk about often (if it all). Which is probably more of a response to the emphasis in which Christians and Muslims talk about it and their consequences. Holy wars, crusades, are often brought about by the emphasis of, or promises for, the afterlife for their participants.

For more information, you can read an essay from the Jewish virtual library. Here is a snippet of it:

The Torah, therefore, might have been silent about afterlife out of a desire to ensure that Judaism not evolve in the direction of the death obsessed Egyptian religion. Throughout history, those religions that have assigned a significant role to afterlife have often permitted other religious values to become distorted. For example, belief in the afterlife motivated the men of the Spanish Inquisition to torture innocent human beings; they believed it was morally desirable to torture people for a few days in this world until they accepted Christ, and thereby save them from the eternal torments of hell.

In Judaism the belief in afterlife is less a leap of faith than a logical outgrowth of other Jewish beliefs. If one believes in a God who is all-powerful and all-just, one cannot believe that this world, in which evil far too often triumphs, is the only arena in which human life exists. For if this existence is the final word, and God permits evil to win, then it cannot be that God is good. Thus, when someone says he or she believes in God but not in afterlife, it would seem that either they have not thought the issue through, or they don't believe in God, or the divine being in whom they believe is amoral or immoral.

Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/afterlife.html

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 19:28

Some passages that are understood by some to refer to personal resurrection include:

Isaiah 26:19:
Oh, let Your dead revive!
Let corpses arise!
Awake and shout for joy,
You who dwell in the dust!—
For Your dew is like the dew on fresh growth;
You make the land of the shades come to life.

Job 19:25-27:
But I know that my Vindicator lives;
In the end He will testify on earth—
This, after my skin will have been peeled off.
But I would behold God while still in my flesh,
I myself, not another, would behold Him;
Would see with my own eyes:
My heart pines within me.

Daniel 12:1-2: “At that time, the great prince, Michael, who stands beside the sons of your people, will appear. It will be a time of trouble, the like of which has never been since the nation came into being. At that time, your people will be rescued, all who are found inscribed in the book. Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence.

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    Who are "some"?
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 19:56

See here for a discussion in the talmud where hints to resurrection of the dead are found in the Torah. http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_90.html#PARTb

The mishna on the folio beforehand stated that a belief in the resurrection is not enough, one must believe it is 'from the Torah'. Rashi seems to take this statement very literally. Rambam did not always seem too bothered to include this point in his description of the belief in the resurrection. This led Tifferes Yisroel to say that even the sages in the mishna and Rashi did not mean that one's belief must be hanging on the actual hints in the Torah, what they mean is the belief cannot come from sources foreign to Judaism. Many if not most of the ancient religions the Jewish people came in contact with believed in some type of spiritual world and or resurrection. Most significantly the Egyptians and Babylonians. The focus of the belief in the Torah sourced resurrection is specifically so as to acknowledge that our belief does not stem from their beliefs.

  • It should be noted as I discuss here at length, that the text of the Mishnah being discussed is absent from the Kaufman ms. , from the texts of the Rif, Rambam, etc. and is evidently a later addition. In fact Rambam never mentions that this belief (or any of the other ikkarim) need to be accompanied by belief in the source, although Rambam himself discusses the allusions, he nowhere states that one must accept the allusions; just that one needs to accept the concept itself.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 17:46
  • Rambam in his pirush on that mishna states if one does not believe in the drasha he is denying the torah and neviim. If that line is not originally mishnaic, we can assume put it in there was based on the Rambam ושיאמין בו, וְּלְגַדְּלוֹ וּלְאָהֳבוֹ, ולהתפלל בשבילו [=שיבוא], כפי מה שֶׁנִּבְּאוּ עליו כל הנביאים ממשה עד מלאכי עליו השלום. ומי שהסתפק בו, או נתמעט אצלו מעלתו – כפר בתורה, שֶׁיָּעֲדָה בו בתורה בפירוש בפרשת בלעם (במדבר כד, יז-כד) ו"אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים" (דברים ל, ג-י). ומכלל יסוד זה שאין מלך לישראל אלא מבית דוד ומזרע שְׁלֹמֹה בלבד. וכל החולק על המשפחה הזאת – כפר בשם יתברך ובדברי נביאיו.
    – user6591
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 18:10
  • Let's not have that other argument over again. If you guys want to, just ask the question (as if you don't know the answer!) and write up good answers explaining all the sides. There's clearly a lot of material to explore and pointing to one comment or manuscript is not going to be conclusive.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 18:21

It is brought in the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 90b in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that we are taught about the resurrection of the dead explicitly in the five books of Moshe. (BeMidbar 18:28)

אמר ר' יוחנן) מניין לתחיית המתים מן התורה שנאמר (במדבר יח, כח) ונתתם ממנו [את] תרומת ה' לאהרן הכהן וכי אהרן לעולם קיים והלא לא נכנס לארץ ישראל שנותנין לו תרומה אלא מלמד שעתיד לחיות וישראל נותנין לו תרומה מכאן לתחיית המתים מן התורה

"Rabbi Yochanan says, 'What is the source from the Torah for the resurrection of the dead?'; That it says, 'And you will give from it the Terumah of HaShem to Aharon the Kohen. (Meaning from the ma'aser that is given to the Levi'im, which only comes from the produce of the land of Israel once you enter the land of Israel, you will give Terumah to Aharon the Kohen.) And since Aharon only lived so long and since he never entered the land of Israel for us to give him Terumah, it is learned, rather, that in the future there is to be resurrection and Israel will give him Terumah then. From here the resurrection of the dead is from the (written) Torah."

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    in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that we are taught about the resurrection of the dead explicitly in the five books of Moshe R. Yohanan never claims that this is explicit!
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 17:49
  • ex·plic·it adjective 1. stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt. "the speaker's intentions were not made explicit" synonyms: clear, plain, straightforward, crystal clear, easily understandable; Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 18:07
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    @YaacovDeane "stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt" "clear, plain, straightforward, crystal clear, easily understandable" But none of that applies here...
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 18:15

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