On the surface, the word “gather” seems simple enough to understand. But in the context of the Scriptures I have been rooting around in, it is not an easy word for it brought up death before Christ came to save us from our sins.
The Old Testament often tells us that when the Hebrew fathers and descendants died, they were gathered to their people or to their fathers.
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8
(These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.). Genesis 25:17
And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Genesis 35:29
When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. Genesis 49:33
“Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Number 20:24-26
The LORD said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against My word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold Me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.). Numbers 27: 12-14
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers…. Deuteronomy 31:16
That very day the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32: 48-52
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10
But to the king of Judah (King Josiah), who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king. 2 Kings 22:18-20
God gathers His own, in death and at other times, to their people, their fathers.
- to gather, receive, remove, gather in:
- to gather, collect, to gather (an individual into company of others), to bring up the rear, to gather and take away, remove, withdraw
- to assemble, be gathered
- to be gathered to one’s fathers, to be brought in or into (association with others)
- to be taken away, removed, perish
- to gather (harvest), to take in, receive into, rearguard, rearward (subst), to be gathered, to gather oneself or themselves
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel;
I will set them together
like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in its pasture,
a noisy multitude of men. Micah 2:12
Shepherds must gather their sheep as they are most unable to do much for themselves. They need guidance and rescuing and picking up when they fall. They need to be protected from wolves and illness. God refers to us as sheep often in the Bible. We need guidance and protection, healing and rescuing, and so much more. Our stubborn and sinful ways can get us off God’s path for us. Thus, our need is to listen, pray, and accept help from the One Who has plans for us and will guide us in all ways. He is our Shepherd.
As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well. Genesis 29:2-3
As one sows, we also are to reap, to gather up the harvest:
You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Exodus 23:16
God calls us to gather to Him….
“Gather to Me My faithful ones,
who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice!” Psalm 50:5
What about those who died during Old Testament times? Yes, they were gathered with family, but where were they when gathered?
In researching the word, gather, out of the Old Testament, a word I really could not quite wrap my head around, I looked deeper into how others defined this word. I found pastors and theologians with thoughts, research of their own, imaginings, that were beyond my original thoughts, helping me to make better sense of how this may be defined.
from David A. Padfield, Gathered To His People, Truth Magazine: “But what does it mean to be gathered to our people? “Gathered” (Hb. acaph) is defined as “to be collected, gathered together . . . used of entering into Hades, where the Hebrews regarded their ancestors as being gathered together. This gathering to one’s fathers, or one’s people is distinguished both from death and burial” (Gesenius’ Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon, p. 626). William Wilson commented, “To be gathered to his fathers, is a peculiar phrase deserving notice; it is distinguished from death which precedes, and from burial of the body which follows: Gen. xxv. 8; xxxv. 29; 2 Kings xxii. 20. It seems to denote the being received by his own people, or among them. We read in the N.T. of being received into Abraham’s bosom, or of sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, as at a feast; so that to be gathered to his own people, is to be with them in joy or torment in Hades” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 182). Abraham has been “gathered to his people” until that day when his dust shall live again at the sound of the last trumpet, and all the buried dead shall hear the voice of the Son of Man….” *
from Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: “This expression, which is synonymous with ‘going to his fathers‘ (Gen. 15:15), or ‘being gathered to his fathers‘ (Judg. 2:10), but is constantly distinguished from departing this life and being buried, denotes the reunion in Sheol with friends who have gone before, and therefore presupposes faith in the personal continuance of a man after death, as a presentiment which the promises of God had exalted in the case of the patriarchs into a firm assurance of faith (Heb. 11:13).” **
from John McArthur Study Helps: “‘Hades’ was the Greek term for the abode of the dead. In the LXX (Septuagint), it was used to translate the Hebrew Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in NT usage, ‘Hades’ always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment on hell. The imagery Jesus used paralleled the common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked–separated by an impassable gulf. But there is no reason to suppose, as some do, that ‘Abraham’s side’ spoke of a temporary prison for the souls of the OT saints, who were brought to heaven only after he had actually atone for their sins. Scripture consistently teaches that the spirits of the righteous dead go immediately into the presence of God (Luke 23:43, 2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23). And the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30) belies the notion that they were confined in a compartment of Sheol until Christ finished His work.“***
We humans can do our best to understand God’s path for the Old Testament people, the Israelites. We do know that God loves the Israelites. They are His children. I need to not worry about them and trust that God has them in His way!! He writes:
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15
God gathers His own to their people and to Him. He draws them in, guides them in as a shepherd leads his flock to pastures and water. This feels so very peaceful to me as I ponder this word, gather, regarding death, calling His saints home.
As I age, death can be on my thoughts from time to time, but because I know that Christ came to call me to Himself, death is not a fearful future for me. Knowing that God will shepherd me Home when it is my time is, actually, such a sweet thought for me. I can truly rest in His calling. I can rest in His guidance until that moment. I can rest.
“Far be it from You to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18:25
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Isaiah 26:19
I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. Hosea 13:14
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
God knows where His children will be. They will be with Him. That is what is important. We on earth try to figure everything out, but God’s plans are perfect and we need to rest in Him. If we are in Christ Jesus, we have been adopted into the family of God and will be with God when we die. PERIOD.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17
Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25
LORD, You died for my sins, and have forgiven me. Gratitude overflows. I am so sorry that I have sinned against You. By Your forgiveness, I have been born anew. I am Yours. Hallelujah! Oh, What a Savior! You have given me eternal life and I will spend eternity with You. Thank You, Lord Jesus. I am gathered to You, needing You as my Shepherd. You are my very present Help in times of trouble, my Refuge and Strength. I know as I age, physical death looms, but I am not afraid for You are with me. I carry hope because You are near and will carry me over that threshold in Your arms. I asked of, believed in, and abided in You. There will be no spiritual death for me. I will be gathered to You and am so blessed. Thank You, O my Holy Father. In the Name of my Savior, I pray. Amen.
Photo from Kauai/”Gather:” taken by me; graphic added by me
“Gather” rocks @ https://medium.com/lets-gather/get-ready-to-gather-42c4e5f59197
Sheep @ water trough photo @ Flickr
wheat photo @ www.wallpaperflare.com
* from Gathered To His People @ Truth Magazine, David A. Padfield, Evansville, Indiana, Guardian of Truth XXXII: 19, pp. 580, 597, October 6, 1988
** Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, vol. 1, Commentary on the Old Testament(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 168.
***John McArthur Study Helps/Luke 16:23, from The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997
Photo/graphic – Psalm 116:15 @ pinterest
Photo/graphic – 1 John 2:24-25 @ pinterest