One final wordplay—in verse 13—demonstrates this. There we read: “But whoever takes refuge in me will possess the land, and will inherit my holy mountain.”

The Hebrew word for possess is ynhl; it is a verbal form of the noun nahala, a word that means “possession, property, inheritance.” More specifically, it refers to the ancestral estate of every Israelite, the family homestead. It is, of course, the fertility of the nahala, the family homestead, that is so essential to the well-being of the dead. Surely, then, it is no coincidence that when we look back at verses 5–6, we find a word similar to nahala, nahal, which means valley or wadi, and which is used to refer to the valley as the home of the perished, the dead. Indeed, W.H. Irwin has suggested that nahal may even mean grave in this context. The poet through wordplay is attempting to demonstrate to us precisely the point we made above: the crucial stake that the dead in the valley graveyard (the nahal) have in the fertility of the family inheritance (the nahala).

The wordplay continues. What, according to verse 13, will the living possess? They will possess the land (Hebrew: eres). The eres for the living is the land of their ancestral heritage. For the dead, eres is likewise this ancestral patrimony, but it is also the underworld, for eres can have this meaning in biblical Hebrew. That the living possess and nurture the fertility of the nahala, their eres, guarantees for the dead eternal rest in their nahala, the eres of the underworld. Fertility and death belong together.