Psalm 6:5 I don't understand this passage


I am not sure if this is the correct place in the forum to ask general questions about bible passages or not but I do have a question. As I was reading in Psalms this evening I went back to the beginning and ran into Psalm 6:5 which say’s "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? If you read right before that you will see that he is speaking to the Lord. Now, of course being Catholic we know and/or taught that we either go to hell, heaven, or purgatory. Now reading many saints books and priests articles/manuscripts and so forth it is said that even in hell we know and remember him and in fact that is our biggest regret and pain(might not be the right words) and In heaven well of course we know him and also in purgatory we also know him, regret our past, pray for others sake and are in agony for not being with him because of our sinful lives we lead. We are not suppose to believe in ghosts and the afterlife but even if you did I’m sure these so called ghosts(or demons) would also know. So what does he mean when he says this? It seems like a huge contradiction compared to so many other passages that speak about “life” after death. I’m sure I am missing something here and will feel stupid once I know the answer but until then I am confused.:confused: Thanks everyone!


The human afterlife was a topic of gradual understanding in the Scriptural period.

It is natural, from a physical (bodily) perspective, to feel grief and despair in the face of death. Psalms 6:5 (and Ecclesiastes) were written from this perspective.

Only over the generations did it become understood that our relationship with God is in fact eternal, and mediated by consciousness, through death. The prophet Daniel understood that the dead would “awaken” again. The Maccabbees prayed for their dead. And our LORD definitely taught a human afterlife.

But the teaching was not even complete then, not until Saint Paul’s reference to the spiritual body (pneumatikon soma).



The way that it was explained to me was that the condition of the dead before the death and resurrection of Christ was different. That the dead were basically in a kind of limbo and that this quote in Psalms was true for the dead - at the time the Psalms were written. Of course everything changed when Christ came.


I confirm what the others have answered.

There was not a complete understanding, in the Old Testament, of the after life.


Thank you everyone…that makes complete sense what Geddie said about it was the feeling “at death” not after. I will have to look at this verse again and meditate on it. Also, however, I thought that with the old testament as with the new testament, that the Holy Spirit through others of course wrote the Holy bible so wouldn’t there only be facts in there? Similar to the New testament anyway? Or do we give the Old Testament a break because of the times in which it was written. Which would make no sense because it was God, the Holy Spirit that gave this information to them to be written down. And there is no “time” with the Holy spirit. Only Truth and facts. So, is it fair to say then that at least with the Old testament the persons that wrote it were inspired by the Holy Spirit but not necessarily word for word accurate. I wonder why this is. Is it because the information they received from the Holy spirit, being limited in ways, is for the reason of them not being able to comprehend it? Because of their times? I don’t think I am saying this right. I apologize. Sorry for the confusion. Does anyone have any comments on what I am saying if they do understand what I am trying to say? Thank you!


I’ll take a shot at it. :slight_smile: The people in the Old Testament times were in a culture that was not yet ready to understand and accept certain things that the Lord was preparing them for with Divine Revelation.

It is not that the receivers (the prophets and the patriarchs) did not have the ability to comprehend what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them. God revealed what He desired to reveal each time, for our benefit.

In New Testament scripture, somewhere (I cannot remember where, but I will do a search for it and then post it)…The Lord says to his disciples “There is much more I have to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” That statement of our Lord Jesus Christ makes me think of all the wonderful things revealed to us through the Church’s divinely appointed Magisterium, down through the ages, after His Ascension.

(Perpetual Virginity of Mary, Assumption of Mary, Immaculate Conception (sinlessness of our Lady from the first moment of her conception.)

For the Holy Spirit to reveal too much, too soon, would be like trying to teach calculus to a year old baby.

***I found the scripture I mentioed above. It is John 16:12…“I have much more to tell you,but you cannot bear it now.” Continue reading what comes after that passage in the bible. It is beautiful!


Thanks everyone! As far as them not being able to understand what the Holy Spirit could have told them makes sense to me. Thanks. I will read more on John 16:12


The Jewish Study Bible (oxford) agrees broadly that an afterlife was not known in Biblical Israel, but the awareness of it occurs gradually with later revelation.

Sheol was considered the abode of the physically dead, who had some minimal existence there, no matter what kind of moral life they had lived.

But, more to the point, there is no appeal to God from Sheol. This would also broadly fall into the category of rules about praying that should be done now, not putting off praying to God. Jewish scholars do not find any command to pray in the Jewish Bible, explicitly. It is thought to be included in the prayer of Dt 6:4 to love God with all your heart – which is interpreted to mean, to pray.


I think the whole Christian world acknowledges that the real author of Scripture is God, not man. Men only wrote what God inspired them to write. The “sacred writers” did not have to understand what they were writing. They simply wrote the things God intended to be put in writing “for our learning” (Rom 15:4).

Now, that being the case, it is God Himself who authored the words in Psalm 6:5. “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave, who shall give thee thanks?”

And Psalm 146:3-4: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”

And these words in Ecclesiastes: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecc. 9:5).

If it is our belief that we remain conscious through death, I think the only way to explain away these verses is to say that they do not actually mean what they say. Saying the writers then were not given the full revelation (and so did not have full understanding) will not work since that is tantamount to rejecting Divine authorship of Scripture.


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