Spiritual Realms (Sheol)

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Spiritual Realms

Sheol

The Term

Sheol is a Hebrew term, found, of course, in the Old Testament.  The term sheol literally means “the grave” or “the world of the dead.”  It is frequently translated into English as “the grave” and at times, “Hell,” though “Hell” is not the best translation for modern English thought.

Sheol occurs over 60 times in the Old Testament.

Conclusions

Sheol is a place occupied by both the righteous and the unrighteous

o   The Righteous in Sheol

§  Psalms 49:15 (NIV) But God will redeem my life from the grave [Sheol]; he will surely take me to himself. Selah

·         Psalms 49, written by the “Sons of Korah,” the offspring of a chief Levitical (priestly) family.  The righteous, in worship, note God’s redemption from Sheol

§  Psalms 139:8 (NIV) If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [Sheol], you are there.

·         Written by David, the man “after God’s own heart”

§  Jonah 2:2 (NIV) He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave [Sheol] I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

·         Written by Jonah, God’s prophet

§  Hosea 13:14 (NIV) “I will ransom them from the power of the grave[Sheol]; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

·         Here God declares that he will ransom his (righteous) people from Sheol (grave)

o   The Unrighteous in Sheol

§  Proverbs 7:27 (NIV) Her house is a highway to the grave[Sheol], leading down to the chambers of death.

·         Spoken of an adulteress, tempting a young man to be unfaithful

§  Psalms 9:17 (NIV) The wicked return to the grave [Sheol], all the nations that forget God.

§  Isaiah 57:9 (NIV) You went to Molech with olive oil and increased your perfumes. You sent your ambassadors far away; you descended to the grave [Sheol]  itself!

·         Spoken to the evil sons of a sorceress

§  Ezekiel 32:21 (NIV) From within the grave [Sheol]  the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’

·         Spoken of the evil “uncircumcised” of Egypt

Sheol is compartmentalized

Deuteronomy 32:22 (NASB) For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.

The NASB is used here instead of the NIV because of the more accurate translation

·         “lowest” is Heb. Tachti, which means “lower” or “lowest”

o   NIV translates it “the realm of death” which is less accurate

o   KJV translates it “lowest”

o   YLT translates “unto Sheol – – the lowest”

·         Thus, Sheol has a “lower” or “lowest” level

o   This indicates something higher than the lowest level must also exist

o   Thus, Sheol is compartmentalized

Psalms 86:13 (NIV) For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

·         Here, NIV translates “depths” of the grave

o   Again, the underlying Hebrew term is tachti, or “lowest”

§  Again, KJV translates the term “lowest”

§  NASB – “depths” with a footnote “lit lowest”

·         Once again, tachti informs us of the “lowest” or “lower” levels of Sheol, indicating a compartmentalization exists in Sheol

Sheol is more harsh for the unrighteous than for the righteous

·         The Righteous in Sheol

o   Hosea 13:14 (NIV) “I will ransom them from the power of the grave[Sheol]; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave [Sheol], is your destruction?

o   Psalms 49:15 (NIV) But God will redeem my life from the grave [Sheol]; he will surely take me to himself. Selah

§  The righteous are promised rescue from Sheol

o   Psalms 139:8 (NIV) If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [Sheol], you are there.

§  The righteous (David) promised God’s presence in Sheol

·         The Unrighteous in Sheol

o   Psalms 49:14 (NIV) Like sheep they are destined for the grave, [Sheol], and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave [Sheol], far from their princely mansions.

o   Deuteronomy 32:22 (NIV) For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death [Sheol] below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

§  Spoken of idolaters.  God promises his wrath upon them to follow them into Sheol.

o   Job 24:19 (NIV) As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow, so the grave snatches away those who have sinned.

§  “snatch away” is Heb. gazal, lit. “spoils” or “consumes”

·         KJV “drought and heat consume the snow”

·         NASB “drought and heat consume the snow”

§  Thus, this text denotes heat consuming snow, just as it consumes those who sinned in Sheol

Sheol is always downward from Earth

Genesis 37:35 (NIV)
35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “in mourning will I go down to the grave[Sheol] to my son.” So his father wept for him.

1 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)
6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave [Sheol] and raises up.

Job 7:9 (NIV)
9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave[Sheol] does not return.

1 Kings 2:6 (NIV)
6 Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave[Sheol] in peace.

 

Sheol is a place of consciousness

Isaiah 14:9 (NIV)
9 The grave[Sheol] below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you– all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones– all those who were kings over the nations.

·         In Sheol, these former kings know their identities

·         They rise to greet newcomers and gloat over their shared fate

Ezekiel 32:21 (NIV)
21 From within the grave[Sheol]  the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’

·         Here, God prophesies through Ezekiel to make this statement to Egypt; thus it is God’s statement

·         the dead leaders have conversations with one another

·         They ponder the fates of others

Sheol (as everywhere else) is under God’s jurisdiction

Job 26:6 (NIV)
6 Death [Sheol] is naked before God; Destruction lies uncovered.

·         Here is noted that even Sheol lies fully exposed to God

Psalms 139:8 (NIV)
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths[in Sheol], you are there.

·         David speaks of God’s presence with his people even in Sheol

Deuteronomy 32:22 (NIV)
22 For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death [Sheol]* below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

·         Once again, this text is rendered a bit strangely in NIV… it would more accurately render “the lowest part of Sheol”

·         Here, God’s anger is given out in Sheol’s lowest parts, demonstrating his authority there

Concluding synopsis:

·         Sheol is a compartmentalized place of the spirits of the dead:

o   A compartment for the righteous

§  This compartment is peaceful, and bears a promise of those present being redeemed from it

§  This compartment is higher than the compartment for the unrighteous

o   A compartment for the unrighteous

§  This compartment is one of agony

·         It is a place of fire and heat

·         It is a place said to “feed” upon those present

§  This compartment is lower than the compartment for the unrighteous

·         Sheol is a place of consciousness, where those who dwell there have awareness and are able to communicate and ponder their former lives

·         Sheol is always noted to be in a downward direction from Earth.  Thus, the idea of “the underworld” is a biblical concept

Series Navigation<< Spiritual Realms (Introduction)Spiritual Realms (Hades) >>

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