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Isaiah 38:18 NASB

For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.

Did Hezekiah not believe in an afterlife, even after claiming in verse three that he walked before God in truth and did what was right in His sight?

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  • Looks like you are missing the word "go" in the Scripture text. Oct 9, 2022 at 2:53
  • Edited, thanks @TheVotiveSoul! Oct 9, 2022 at 3:26
  • This concept appears also in psalms. Psalms 6:6, 30:10
    – Kapandaria
    Oct 9, 2022 at 5:44
  • Why would one think that Hezekiah did believe in an afterlife? Oct 9, 2022 at 16:34
  • @Ray Butterworth Because belief in the afterlife is common to all peoples the world over as far back as we can go. We also have positive evidence that the Jews believed in an afterlife. Why would they be the exception? Nov 8, 2022 at 16:30

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Sheol was the place where spirits dwelled after they died, so the answer is yes in that sense. Among its characteristics, which are variously described:

The dead descend or are made to go down into it; the revived ascend or are brought and lifted up from it... Here the dead meet without distinction of rank or condition—the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave... The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life. Jacob would mourn there; David abides there in peace; the warriors have their weapons with them, yet they are mere shadows. The dead merely exist without knowledge or feeling. Silence reigns supreme; and oblivion is the lot of them that enter therein. Hence it is known also as "Dumah," the abode of silence; and there God is not praised. Still, on certain extraordinary occasions the dwellers in Sheol are credited with the gift of making known their feelings of rejoicing at the downfall of the enemy. Sleep is their usual lot. Sheol is a horrible, dreary, dark, disorderly land; yet it is the appointed house for all the living. Return from Sheol is not expected. (See article Sheol for biblical refs.)

Thus Sheol was a realm in which the dead, for the most part, lived in a semi-conscious state or worse. But it is hard to know how well acquainted Hezekiah was with the above descriptions. What we do know is that Hezekiah says "Sheol cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness." See the context for clarification. NIV does a good job with this IMO even though changes "sheol" to "the grave":

 A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery..
    The grave cannot praise you,
        death cannot sing your praise;
    those who go down to the pit
        cannot hope for your faithfulness.
    The living, the living—they praise you,
        as I am doing today.

Hezekiah is thanking God for his deliverance from a deathly illness. His words about Sheol reflect the attitude of other Judean poets as well. Psalm 6, attributed to David, is an example:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave [sheol]?

So yes, Hezekiah believed in an afterlife, but not one in which people could relate to God and probably not even hope for deliverance. His writing here reflects an attitude that was not uncommon--that God is better served by the living than by those who dwell in Sheol.

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