After seeing Egyptian pyramids and enormous tombs that the Nabateans created in Petra, Bruce asked Avner why the Pentateuch doesn't pay more attention to the afterlife. The Bible mentions the patriarchs being buried, but not much about how or why. Avner replied:
"Because the Bible deals with life -- how to live a holy life, an ethical life, a spiritual life. One of the reasons the Israelites ignored Egyptian influence on death is that the purpose of life in the Pentateuch is largely to serve God, or to have a family that will serve God. There's no mention of an afterlife. Life ceases when you die. And when you die, you stop serving God."
"But God continues."
"That's right. This is a break from other Near Eastern religions. In Egypt, in Petra, the kings become deities themselves. The pyramids, these tombs, are representations of the power of those people after they die."
"But if you're an Israelite ---
"There's only one God. He exists forever. So if you're going to build a temple, you build it to God. You don't build it to yourself."
I liked this brief exchange because it stresses the deity and importance of God and not pharaohs or any other human leader. Have you ever thought about the Torah's silence on the afterlife? Were the people so busy trying to survive, that they didn't have time to contemplate after death, what happens to us? Did they not care? Were they content in knowing this life is all there is to existence? Or was it merely that the Jews' main thought was pleasing God and living set apart and holy in the here and now so there was no need to include much of anything about life after death? Did they know if they kept the Law, they would have good things after death so why ponder the unknowable and unfathomable future - "what is eternal life like?" - when they could focus on the practical and doable part - what got them there? Why do the New Testament writers include much more about eternal life and how to obtain it? Even Jesus is recorded in discussions with someone in how to be 'born again' spiritually so he might have everlasting life.
Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler; pg. 386