Ecclesiastes 9:5—Do the dead remember anything?
Problem: Taken at face value, Solomon seems to be claiming that the dead have no more knowledge of anything. He wrote here, “the dead know nothing.” Likewise, the psalmist said, “in death there is no remembrance” (Ps. 6:5). But, this seems to contradict the many passages that speak of souls being conscious after death (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 6:9).
Solution: The Bible teaches that the soul survives death in a conscious state of knowledge (see comments on 2 Kings 14:29). The passages which say there is no knowledge or remembrance after death are speaking of no memory in this world, not of no memory of this world. Solomon clearly qualified his comment by saying it was “in the grave” (Ecc. 9:10) that there was “no remembrance.” He affirmed also that the dead do not know what is going on “under the sun” (9:6). But while they do not know what is happening on earth, they certainly do know what is going on in heaven (cf. Rev. 6:9). In short, these texts refer simply to man in relation to this presentlife—they say nothing about the life to come immediately after this one.
See All Problems
This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.