The watery gulf between earthly mortals and the myriads of deities who inhabited heaven and Sheol was bridged by the rituals of ancient Semitic religion. Here, our schematic diagram simplifies ancient Semitic cosmology to show the earth conveniently sandwiched between the two sectors of divine residence.

Up to the seventh century B.C., “downward”; channels of communication (to Sheol) were much preferred to “upward”; ones (to heaven) when personal or family issues were at stake; Sheol was held to be the resting place of departed mortals, who could both threaten and help their earthly progeny. Following King Josiah’s religious reform (623 B.C.), which firmly rooted monotheism among the Hebrews, new spiritual pathways were paved—this time towards heaven.