1. Hell in The Old Testament
The word "Hell" appears in the Old Testament approximately 31 times and, without exception, is translated from the Hebrew word "Sheol." This same Hebrew word is also translated "pit" three different times. "Pit," translated from Sheol, is found in Numbers 16:30,33 and Job 17:16. Hell is referred to as a pit three times, both being the same place.
Sheol is not the grave. A mistranslation--"Sheol" is also translated as grave approximately 25 times in the Old Testament, which has caused much confusion concerning the Doctrine of Hell. Jehovah's Witnesses utilize this translational error to the fullest, claiming Hell is the grave and nothing more. When we look at the Hebrew we find that the word "gibrah" is properly used for "grave." "Gibrah" is translated throughout the Old testament as "grave, burying place, and sepulchre," and properly so. Sheol is never in any case in the Old testament ever referring to grave, burying place or sepulchre; but, rather a place located in the center of the earth. The grave, burying place and sepulchre houses our dead bodies, but Sheol is the compartment that contains the souls and spirits that will never die and which were in those earthly bodies.
Here are a few of the places where the Hebrew word "Sheol" is mistranslated as grave in the Old testament. Beside the passages in parenthesis is the way it appears in the Revised Standard. The Revised Standard has transliterated, i.e., put the Hebrew word "Sheol" itself in the English translation. There is one exception where Sheol is translated as "Pit" by the Revised Standard and that is Job 33:22. This would be correct, since Sheol is a pit located in the center of the earth.
1. Job 7:9 (Sheol). "As a cloud is consumed and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more."
2. Psalm 6:5 (Sheol). "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave, who shall give thee thanks."
3. Psalm 31:17 (Sheol). "Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."
4. Psalm 49:15 (Sheol). "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me."
5. Job 33:22 (Pit). "Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers."
6. Isaiah 38:18 (Sheol). "For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the Pit cannot hope for thy truth."
7. 1st Samuel 2:6 (Sheol). "The Lord killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."
8. Hosea 13:14 (Sheol). "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: ... O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes."
The correct Hebrew word for grave, burying place or sepulchre is "gibrah" and is never used in reference to Sheol or the Pit, located in the earth's core. In the manner of the Hebrew, "Sheol" is referring to it's own place and not that of the grave or sepulchre at any time.
Here are a few of the places where "gibrah" is properly translated in the King James as grave, sepulchre and burying place:
1. 1st kings 13:30, "And he laid his carcase in his own grave..."
2. 2nd Samuel 3:32, "And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner..."
3. Psalm 88:5, "Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more..."
4. 2nd Samuel 2:32, "And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his
5. Genesis 47:30, "But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place."
I have taken a little time to point out this translational error as it is imperative if one is to understand that the grave and Sheol are entirely two separate places. If this is not brought into focus, then the mistranslation would lead one to believe that Hell is the grave and nothing more. Again, I want to point out that this is the teaching of Armstrongism, Jehovah's Witnesses and many of the cults--that is why it is so important to understand the difference in the Hebrew words and when they are and not properly translated concerning this subject.
This is by no means an exhaustive word study, but a brief look to distinguish the difference between the grave (gibrah) and Sheol (Hell).
In the King James translation, without exception, everywhere in the Old testament where the word "Hell" appears, it is always the Hebrew "Sheol."
1. Isaiah 5:14 (Sheol). "Hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it."
2. (Psalm 9:17) "The wicked shall be turned into hell (Sheol), and all the nations that forget God."
3. (Proverb 7:27) "Her house is the way to hell (Sheol), going down to the chambers of death."
4. (Isaiah 14:15) "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell (Sheol), to the sides of the pit."
5. (Deuteronomy 32:22, "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell (Sheol), and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains."
This is all that the lost have to look forward to when they die. How grateful we are that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son (Christ) that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
At this point it should be noted that the Old Testament "Sheol" (Hell) and the New Testament "Hades" (Hell) are the same place. It was located in the center of the earth and had two compartments; one was Paradise for the saved and the other was Torment for the lost. This will be qualified later in the book. Read Luke 16:22-26. Here we find in Hades a great gulf separated Torment for the lost and Paradise for the saved. Paradise is also known as "Abraham's Bosom."
Let me illustrate the importance of recognizing the two compartments of Sheol, as translated Hell in the Old Testament. In Psalm 139, David is praising God for his attributes of omniscience and omnipresence. Notice Verses 7 and 8, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in HELL (Heb. "Sheol") behold, thou art there." The word "heaven" here is in the plural (Heb. "shamayim"). The "im" is the plural and should read "If I ascend up into the heavens." That is past the first heaven (our atmosphere), past the second heaven (the planets), and on to the third heaven. David is attesting to the fact that there is nowhere anyone can go to get away from the presence of God. Even if we should go past the planets, God is there.
Now if we will go the other direction from the surface of the earth, even to the center of the earth where Sheol (Hell) is located, God is there. This is the basic point David is making, that no one can escape the presence of God.
Now the statement of David made that we are interested in, is this, "If I make my bed in Hell (Sheol)..." I have heard some say that David was lost and if he died then, his bed would be in Hell (Torment). I know I may be "splitting a hair"; but, this is why it is so important to understand that Sheol (Eng. "Hell") had two compartments, Torment and Paradise. David here was a saved man, a
"man after God's own heart," and if he was thinking deeper than the basic facts he would have been thinking of making his bed in the Paradise side of Sheol, not the Torment side of Sheol (Hell).
In the New Testament the word "hell" appears some 23 times and is translated from three Greek words. The three Greek words are "Hades," "Geenna," and "Tartaroo." Each one denotes a different or separate place of punishment. When the translators came to these three words in the Greek (all are referring to a place of torment), they used our one English word "Hell" which is the equivalent. It is equivalent as far as torment is concerned, but not as far as their location is concerned. This will be illustrated in Diagram 1.
The three Greek words translated as "Hell" and where they appear in the Bible are as follows:
1. "Hades" translated Hell appears 10 times in the New Testament in the following places: Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14.
2. The Greek word "Geenna" is translated Hell 12 times in the New Testament in the following places: Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; and James 3:6. Of these 12 items, it is spoken of 11 times by the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels and once by James in Chapter 3, Verse 6.
3. The Greek word "Tartaroo" appears only once in the whole New Testament and is translated Hell in 2nd Peter 2:4. This is a separate place where the most wicked angels are kept and reserved unto judgment. They will be brought out of Tartaroo and cast into the Lake of Fire where they will remain in torment forever.
4. "Hades" is translated once as grave in 1st Corinthians 15:55 and is a mistranslation.
With this basic information, we are now ready for Diagram 1.
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