The Spirit World: Chapter Four (The Pit)

This entry is part 6 of 23 in the series The Spirit World

The Pit

(This is a continuation of The Spirit World book series. This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts in the series.)

The term

“The Pit,” is to be described in this work using its English rendering because two different Hebrew terms are translated “the pit” in the Old Testament.  Both terms, when used metaphorically, clearly speak of the same place, however.  Additionally, both terms translate into English as “the pit,” so are grouped together in this section.

The first term translated, “the pit,” is the Hebrew term, Shachath.  Shachath means “destruction, the pit, or corruption” in its literal usage.  The second term is the Hebrew word, Bowr.   Bowr translates literally, “a pit or dungeon.”

Shachath and bowr appear more than twenty times in the Old Testament.  As with many terms, these may be used literally or figuratively in scripture.  When they are used literally, they mean simply a pit; a hole in the ground.  When used metaphorically, they render the conclusions of this section.  Several times Job used shachath figuratively and spoke of “the soul” going there to ensure proper understanding.  Obviously, a dwelling of the soul cannot be relegated to a literal hole in the ground, as the spirit world is already understood to be held within the confines of Sheol for the dead of humanity.

Job used shachath, however, both literally and metaphorically.  Job 9 demonstrates a literal usage of the term.

Job 9:30-31 (NIV) [a literal usage]
30 Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with washing soda, 31 you would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me.

In this case, Job speaks of a physical pit, containing literal slime which would cover his clothes.  However, Job uses the same term in metaphorical usages as well.

Job 33:22 (NIV) [a metaphorical usage]
22 His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death.

In this case, Job speaks of the soul entering the pit, indicating a symbolic usage of the text.  In this case, one’s soul enters the pit and his life goes to the messengers of death.

While there are too many symbolic usages of “the pit” to list them all, deductions are conclusive throughout which establish the nature of this spiritual location.

“The pit” is a spiritual place

The first necessary deduction to establish is that indeed, “the pit” refers to a spiritual realm when used metaphorically.  This can be observed in several manners, the first of which is to once again examine its use in parallelism.

Proverbs 1:12 (NIV)
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave (Sheol), and whole, like those who go down to the pit(bowr);

Proverbs parallels “the pit” with Sheol, indicating a similarity with Sheol to exist, as does Psalm 30.

Psalm 30:3 (NIV)
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave (Sheol); you spared me from going down into the pit (bowr).

Likewise, Isaiah utilizes parallelism in chapter 14.

Isaiah 14:15 (NIV)
15 But you are brought down to the grave (Sheol), to the depths of the pit (bowr).

Isaiah is not a poetic book, yet he uses the poetic device of parallelism in numerous texts.  In this case, “the pit” is in parallel with Sheol.

It can also be determined that the metaphorical use of “the pit” refers to a spiritual location from its contextual usages.  Ezekiel notes,

Ezekiel 26:20 (NIV)
20 then I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit (bowr), to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit (bowr), and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living.

The context of Ezekiel informs the reader that the pit is a place “in the earth below” and that those who go there “will not return or take your place in the land of the living.”  This text clearly utilizes “the pit” symbolically as a place of the dead; a spiritual abode.

Similarly, Isaiah 38 notes the spiritual element of the pit.

Isaiah 38:18 (NIV)
18 For the grave (Sheol) cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit (bowr) cannot hope for your faithfulness.

Isaiah equates the pit with death and the grave.  In his usage, death and Sheol are referenced together as the essence of the pit.

The Pit is a place of the righteous and the unrighteous

“The pit” can also be determined to refer to the abodes of both the righteous and the unrighteous.  While the preponderance of the references to the pit are oriented toward the unrighteous, there are some references which allude to the righteous, such as David.  In Psalm 30, David gives a song of praise to the Lord for having saved him from death.  In this song he proclaims,

Psalm 30:2-3 (NIV)
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. 3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave (Sheol); you spared me from going down into the pit (bowr).

Clearly David’s parallelism demonstrates that he equates his being saved from Sheol as very much related to his being saved from “the pit.”  David was the man after God’s own heart.  He is one of only a few “righteous” references to the abode of “the pit.”  He makes a similar assertion later in the same chapter:

Psalm 30:9 (NIV)
9 “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit (shachath)? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

In this text, “destruction” is not rendered from the Hebrew term, Abaddon, but dam, literally meaning “blood.”  David understands the shedding of his blood as that which would lead him to “the pit.”

As noted, in far more cases the pit references the abodes of the unrighteous, such as in Ezekiel. 

Ezekiel 32:18 (NIV)
18 “Son of man, wail for the hordes of Egypt and consign to the earth below both her and the daughters of mighty nations, with those who go down to the pit (bowr).

In this case, Ezekiel prophesies concerning the wicked of Egypt, using the pit clearly in a negative light.  Properly, it should be noted that “the pit” is always referenced in a negative light.  While it is clearly a place for the righteous and the unrighteous, this particular usage is relegated to negative connotations in scripture for the abode of the dead. 

Psalms 30:3 (NIV)
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave (Sheol); you spared me from going down into the pit (bowr).

In Psalms 30 it is a place to be “spared” from.  Likewise, in Psalm 69 it is a place which David prays to avoid.

Psalm 69:15 (NIV)
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.

Thus, “the pit,” although referenced for the wicked more often than for the righteous, is a place where both the wicked and the righteous are anticipating to go.

The direction is always downward

Similar to other realms noted thus far, the pit is likewise indicated to exist in a downward direction.

Psalms 30:3 (NIV)
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave (Sheol); you spared me from going down into the pit (bowr).

Isaiah 38:18 (NIV)
18 For the grave(Sheol) cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit (bowr) cannot hope for your faithfulness.

It is used in parallel with Sheol

The pit also finds its alignment with Sheol in its poetic parallels.

Proverbs 1:12 (NIV)
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave (Sheol), and whole, like those who go down to the pit(bowr);

Isaiah 38:18 (NIV)
18 For the grave(Sheol) cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit (bowr) cannot hope for your faithfulness.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, “the pit” has the same general characteristics of Sheol, when it is used metaphorically as an abode of the dead.  It is a place of the dead containing both the righteous and the unrighteous.  Thus, “the pit” is a term for Sheol which is not a proper name, but a general reference which holds a negative connotation.  “The pit” and Sheol are one and the same; the realm of the dead; both righteous and unrighteous.


A final conclusion about Sheol/Hades/The Pit

Categorically, Sheol, Hades and the pit refer to the abode of the spiritual dead in scripture.  Many have presumed these terms to refer to the lake of fire, but this is not a proper designation, as each also contain souls of the righteous, who are not relegated to such a sentence as Hell.  Rather, this location is a partitioned environment which separates the righteous and the unrighteous.  It is in essence a holding place for the dead.  The righteous are guaranteed a future redemption from this location which will be described later in this work.  The unrighteous, however, are not.  They are consigned to a location within Hades/Sheol called Abaddon, which is a place of hopelessness, fire and agony.  Yet, Abbadon and Hell are not synonymous, either, for Hades (or Sheol), which contains Abaddon, is demonstrated in Revelation to be a temporary place of containment which will in fact be relegated to a permanent location at a later time.

It is temporary

Revelation 20 speaks in detail about the final judgment and assignment of the unrighteous.  It speaks specifically about the final consignment of Hades.  Concerning this event it notes,

Revelation 20:13-15 (NIV)
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

With this understanding, Hades (Sheol), and Abaddon, which Hades contains, must be understood to be a place of containment which is separate from what most English speakers think of when they hear the term “Hell.”  Hell will be dealt with in chapter eight, but it should be noted at this time that the eternal lake of burning fire, which most people refer to as “Hell,” cannot be the same as the spiritual container of Hades/Sheol.  At the end of all human history, Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire.  Thus, Hades is a temporary place of holding until such a time as a more permanent judgment is revealed.

More will be developed on this proposition as this work continues.  Clearly there is work yet to do, as Sheol/Hades has been noted thus far to be a container which includes the righteous.  Surely the righteous will not end up in the lake of fire along with the unrighteous.  Indeed, the promised rescue from Sheol/Hades for the righteous will be demonstrated for the righteous.  They will not be in Hades at the time of the end, when it is cast into the lake of fire.  However, the unrighteous, bound in the habitation of Abaddon, will not be so fortunate.  When the end of time arrives, Abaddon will share the fate of Hades as it is cast into that permanent and final abode.

image The Spirit World series will continue weekly until the entire book is published online. If, however, you enjoy this series and do not wish to wait, you can purchase the paperback version of The Spirit World here.


Series Navigation<< The Spirit World: Chapter Three (Abaddon)The Spirit World: Chapter Five (Abraham’s Bosom) >>

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