Few words call for more careful study
than this; because few words are more obscured in translation,
or are more important in their
Moreover, it is peculiarly a word of Divine origin : a word coined, so to speak,
by the Holy Spirit Himself.
It can therefore be understood only
by our observing the way in which He has used it; learning there from
the meaning He has thus given it.
It is different with the Greek word Hades, which is used in the New Testament to
represent the Old Testament
word Sheol. Hades is a
Greek word. It belongs to Greek mythology, and comes to us surrounded with
traditions. These are all discarded,
and set for ever aside, the moment the Holy Spirit takes it up and
uses it as
the substitute and equivalent for the
Hebrew word Sheol. The Holy Spirit has, in doing this, "purified"
(in accordance with Ps. 12: 6).
Whatever Sheol means in the 01d Testament, that .Hades means in
Testament. In Greek works, of course,
it still bears the meaning the Greeks put upon it; but that meaning has no
place in Scripture.
It matters not, therefore, what Heathen Mythology may have imagined; or what
Tradition has handed down;
what man may say; or what we may
think. There is only 1 one question : and that is a matter of supreme
importance -What does God say about
it; and How does the Holy Spirit use it in the Word of God?
If we know this we know all that can be known. No one can get beyond
this. If, therefore, we put our
readers in possession of the facts,
they will have all the evidence before them, and be independent of all
earthly and human teachers.
This Hebrew word Sheol, about which there is so much
misunderstanding and controversy, occurs sixty-five
times in the Old Testament. We
propose to give the list, complete, from the A.V. with the R.V.variations;
calling attention to the fact that
the American R.V. does not translate the word at all, but simply transliterates
To enable the eye to help the understanding, we have given the three renderings
in three different types;
and have referred to the R.V. text
and margin in the notes. In all cases where not otherwise noted, the R.V.
text is the same as the A.V.
The variations are indicated as follows
* R.V. marg., Heb. Sheol.
# R.V, pit; marg., Heb.Sheol.
(( R.V. Sheol.
|| R.V. Sheol; marg., Or grave.
§ R.V. marg., Or, thegrave; Heb., Sheol.
** R.V. hell; marg., Heb. Sheol.
ALL THE OCCURRENCES OF THE WORD Sheol.
1. Gen. 37:35, I will go down into the grave*
(* This being the first occurrence of the word
Sheol, the R.V, gives a note in
the margin, "Heb. Sheol,
the name of the abode of the dead, answering to the
Greek Hades, Acts ii. 2y." This note is altogether
wrong. (t) It is
interpretation and not translation. (2) It prejudges the word from the outset,
it the word " abode," which has a technical meaning applicable only
to the living : thus anticipating the
conclusion which cannot be arrived at
until we have obtained all the evidence, and have it before us.
(3) It has
nothing in it answering to the Greek Hades." Hades must have the same meaning as
and must answer to that. It must
have the meaning which the Holy Spirit puts upon it, and not the meaning
which the heathen put on it)
2. " " 62:38, * then shall ye bring down my grey hairs
with sorrow to the grave.
3. " " 64:29;* with sorrow to
4. " " 64:31,* with sorrow to the grave.
5. Num. 26:30,* they go down quick into the PIT.
6. " " 26:33,* they went down alive into
7. Deut. 32:ss, # shall burn unto the lowest hell.
8. 1 Sam. 2:6,* He bringeth down to the grave.
9. 2 Sam. 22:6,(( the sorrows (R.V. cords) of hell compassed me.
10. 1 Kings 2:6,* let not his hoar head go down to the
grave in peace.
11. " " 2:9, * his boar head bring the thou down to the
12. Job 7:9, || he that goeth down to the grave
13. " " 11:8, || deeper than hell; what canst
14. " " 14:13, || wouldest hide me in the grave.
15. " " 17:13, || the grave is my house.
16. " " 17:16, || they shall go down to the bars of the pit.
17. " " 21:13,|| in a moment go down to the grave
18. " " 24:19, || so doth the grave (consumed those
who have sinned.
19. " " 26:6, || hell is naked before him.
20. Ps. 6:5, (( in the grave who shall give
21. " " 9:17, * the wicked shall be turned (R.V. returned) into
22. " " 16:10, (( thou wilt not leave my soul in hell
23. " " 18:5, (( the sorrows (R.V. cords) of hell
24. " " 30:3, (( thou hast brought up my soul from the
25. " " 31:17, (( let them be silent in the grave
26. " " 49:14, (( like sheep are they laid in they are laid in
27. " " 49:14, (( their beauty shall consume in the
28. " " 49:15, (( God will redeem my soul from of the grave.
29. " " 55:15, # let them go down quick into hell
(A.V. marg., the grave.)
30. " " 86:13, || thou hast delivered my soul the lowest hell. (A.V. marg.,
31. " " 88:3, || my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
32. " " 89:48, || shall he
deliver his soul from of the hand of the grave.
33. " " 116:3, || the pains of hell gat hold upon
34. " " 139:8, (( if I make
my bed in hell thou art there.
35. " " 141:7, (( our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth.
36. Prov. 1:12, || let us swallow them up alive as the
37. " " 5:5, || her steps take hold on hell.
38." " 7:27, || her house is the way to hell.
39. " " 9:18, (( her guests are in the depths of hell.
40." " 15:11, || Hell and destruction are before
41. " " 15:24, ||, that he may depart from hell
42. " " 23:14, || and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
43. " " 27:20,(( Hell and destruction are never
44. " " 30:16, * the grave; and the barren womb.
45. Ecc. 9:10, * no device, nor knowledge in the grave.
46. Song. 8:6, § jealousy
is cruel as the grave.
47. Isa. 5:14, § hell hath enlarged herself.
48. " " 14:9, § hell from beneath is moved for thee (A.V. marg.,
49. 14:11, * *thy pomp is brought down to the grave.
50. " " 14:15, * thou shaft be
brought down to hell.
51. " " 28:15, * with hell are we at agreement.
52. " " 28:18, * your agreement with hell shall not stand.
53. " " 38:10, * I shall go to the gates of the grave.
54. " " 38:14, * the grave cannot praise thee.
55. " ' 57:9, * and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
56. Ezek. 31:15, * * he went down to the grave.
57. Ezek. 31:16, * I cast him down to hell.
58. " " 31:17, * they also went down into hell.
59. " " 32:21, * shall speak to him out of the midst of hell.
60. " " 32:27, * are gone down to hell with their
61. Hos. 13:14,* I will ransom them from the grave.
62. " " 13:14, * O grave, I will be thy
63. Amos 9:2, * though they dig into hell.
64. Jonah 2: 2, out of the belly of hell cried I. (A.V.
marg., the grave.)
65. Hab. 2:5, who enlargeth his desire as hell.
On a careful examination of the above list, we are almost bewildered with what
looks like an
utter absence of any settled plan or principle in the translation of the word
Sheol; in either the
A.V. or R.V.
The American R.V. is alone consistent with itself, as it preserves the word
in each case.
Not only are three renderings used in the other two Versions; but they are used
almost at random.
Now one is in the text and another is in the margin; then one is in the margin
and another in the text.
If the confusion be so great with the Translators, How much more must it be so
with the English readers?
The confusion will be further seen from the following Analysis:
Sheol is rendered
In the TEXT, by the grave 31 times,
hell 31 times,
pit 3 times.
65 times in all.
In the MARGIN "the grave" is put 4 times for "hell,"
thus neutralising 4 passages, by reducing the
total of "hell" renderings to 27, and
correspondingly raising the total of "the grave "
renderings to 35
instances out of 65.
We leave the Analysis of the R.V. renderings to our readers; and go on to call
attention to a few points
which stand out clearly in studying the above list.
1. It will be observed that in a majority of cases Sheol is
rendered "the grave." To be exact, 54 percent:
while "hell " is 41 1/2 percent; and "pit
" only 4 1/2 per cent.
The grave, therefore, stands out on the face of the
above list as the best and commonest rendering.
2. With regard to the word "pit," it will be
observed that in each of the three cases where it occurs
(Num. 26:30, 33; and Job 17:16), the grave is so
evidently meant, that we may at once substitute
that word, and banish "pit" from our consideration
as a rendering of Sheol.
3. As to the rendering "hell," it does not
represent Sheol, because both by Dictionary definition and
by colloquial usage "hell" means the place of
future punishment. Sheol has no such meaning, but
the present state of death. "The grave" is,
therefore, a far more suitable translation, because it visibly
suggests to us what is invisible to the mind, viz., the state of death. It must,
necessarily, be misleading to the
English reader to see the former put to represent the latter.
4. The student will find that "the grave," taken
literally as well as figuratively, will meet all the requirements
of the Hebrew Sheol: not that Sheol means so much
specifically A grave, as generically THE grave.
Holy Scripture is all-sufficient to explain the word Sheol to us.
5. If we enquire of it in the above list of the occurrences of the word
Sheol, it will teach
(a) That as to direction it is down.
(b) That as to place it is in the earth.
(e) That as to nature it is put for the state of death. Not the
act of dying, for which we have no
English word, but the state or duration of death. The Germans are more
fortunate, having the word
sterbend for the act of dying.
Sheol therefore means the state of death; or the state
of the dead, of which the grave is a tangible
evidence. It has to do only with the dead. It may sometimes be personified and
represented as speaking,
as other inanimate things are. It may be represented by a coined word, Grave-dom,
as meaning the dominion
or power of the grave.
(d) As to relation it stands in contrast with the state of the
living, see Deut.30:15, 19, and 1 Sam. 2:6-8.
It is never once associated with the living, except by contrast.
(e) As to association, it is used in connection with mourning (Gen.
sorrow (Gen.42:38. 2 Sam. 22:6. Ps. 18:5 ; 116:3),
fright and terror (Num. 16:27, 34),
weeping (Isa. 38:3, 10, 15, 20), silence (Ps. 31:17; 6:5. . Ecc. 9:10), no
knowledge (Ecc. 9:5, 6, 10),
punishment (Num. 16: 27, 34. 1 Kings 2:6, 9. Job 24:19. Ps. 9:17, R.V.
RE-turned, as before their resurrection).
(f) And, finally, as to duration, the dominion of Sheol or
the grave will continue until, and end only with,
resurrection, which is the only exit
from it (see Hos. 13:14, etc. ; and compare Ps. 16:10 with
Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35).
Our readers can follow out the further study of this important word for
themselves: and can judge as to the correctness of the few conclusions we have
drawn from the above list; and thus be stablished in God's truth.