Decease, in the Old Testament and Apocyphra
de-ses' (rapha', plural repha'im, "ghosts," "shades," is translated by "dead," "dead body," and "deceased" in both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)): The word seems to mean "soft," "inert," but its etymology is uncertain (see REPHAIM). The various writers of the Old Testament present, as is to be expected on such a subject, different conceptions of the condition of the deceased. In the beginning probably a vague idea of the continuation of existence was held, without the activities (Isa 59:10) and the joys of the present life (Ps 49:17). They dwell in the "land of forgetfulness" (Job 14:21; Ps 88:5; compare Isa 26:14), they "tremble" of cold (Job 26:5), they totter and "stumble at noonday as in the twilight" (Isa 59:10), their voice is described as low and muttering or chirping (Isa 8:19; 29:4), which may refer to the peculiar pitch of the voice of the spirit medium when a spirit speaks through him. (The calling up of the dead, which was strictly forbidden to Israel (Le 19:31; 20:27) is referred to in 1Sa 28:13 and perhaps in Isa 14:9.) The deceased are separated from their friends; love and hatred have both ceased with them (Ec 9:5-6); "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol" (Ec 9:10). The deceased are unable to praise Yahweh (Ps 6:5; 88:10-12; Isa 38:18; Baruch 2:17; Sirach 17:27,28). Nor does there seem to have been at first an anticipation of reward or punishment after death (Ps 88:10; Sirach 41:4), probably because the shades were supposed to be lacking the organs by which either reward or punishment could be perceived; nevertheless they are still in the realm of God's power (1Sa 2:6; Ps 86:13; 139:8; Pr 15:11; Isa 7:11; Ho 13:14; Am 9:2; Tobit 13:2).
Gradually the possibility of a return of the departed was conceived (Ge 5:24; 2Ki 13:21; Ps 49:15; 73:24; 86:13; Ho 13:14; The Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-7; 4:13,14; 6:18,19; 10:14). Even here it is often more the idea of the immortality of the soul than that of the resurrection of the body, and some of these passages may be interpreted as allegorical expressions for a temporal rescue from great disaster (e.g. 1Sa 2:6); nevertheless this interpretation presupposes the existence of a deliverance from the shadows of Sheol to a better life in the presence of Yahweh. Some passages refer clearly to such an escape at the end of the age (Da 12:2; Isa 26:19). Only very few of the Old Testament believers reached the sublime faith of Job (Isa 19:25,25) and none the blessed expectation taught in the New Testament, for none but Christ has "brought life and immortality to light" (2Ti 1:10; Joh 5:28-29).
The opinion that the dead or at least the newly buried could partake of the food which was placed in graves, a custom which recent excavations have clearly shown to have been almost universal in Palestine, and which is referred to in De 26:14 and Tobit 4:17, was soon doubted (Sirach 30:18), and food and drink prepared for the funeral was henceforth intended as the "bread of comfort" and the "cup of consolation" for the mourners (Jer 16:7; 2Sa 3:35; Eze 24:17). Similarly the offering and burning of incense, originally an homage to the deceased, became a relief for the mourner (2Ch 16:14; 21:19; Jer 34:5). See also The Wisdom of Solomon 3:2; 7:6; Sirach 38:23, and articles on CORPSE; DEATH; HADES; SHEOL.
H. L. E. Luering