|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
(Hebrews, "the all-demanding world" = Gr. Hades, "the unknown region"), the invisible world of departed souls. (see HELL.)
Noah Webster's Dictionary
(n.) The place of departed spirits; Hades; also, the grave.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. The Name
2. The Abode of the Dead
(1) Not a State of Unconsciousness
(2) Not Removed from God's Jurisdiction
(3) Relation to Immortality
3. Post-canonical Period
1. The Name:
This word is often translated in the King James Version "grave" (e.g. Genesis 37:35 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 7:9; Job 14:13 Psalm 6:5; Psalm 49:14 Isaiah 14:11, etc.) or "hell" (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:22 Psalm 9:17; Psalm 18:5 Isaiah 14:9 Amos 9:2, etc.); in 3 places by "pit" (Numbers 16:30, 33 Job 17:16). It means really the unseen world, the state or abode of the dead, and is the equivalent of the Greek Haides, by which word it is translated in Septuagint. The English Revisers have acted somewhat inconsistently in leaving "grave" or "pit" in the historical books and putting "Sheol" in the margin, while substituting "Sheol" in the poetical writings, and putting "grave" in the margin ("hell" is retained in Isaiah 14). Compare their "Preface." The American Revisers more properly use "Sheol" throughout. The etymology of the word is uncertain. A favorite derivation is from sha'al, "to ask" (compare Proverbs 1:12; Proverbs 27:20; Proverbs 30:15, 16 Isaiah 5:14 Habakkuk 2:5); others prefer the sha'al, "to be hollow." The Babylonians are said to have a similar word Sualu, though this is questioned by some.
2. The Abode of the Dead:
Into Sheol, when life is ended, the dead are gathered in their tribes and families. Hence, the expression frequently occurring in the Pentateuch, "to be gathered to one's people," "to go to one's fathers," etc. (Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8, 17; 49:33 Numbers 20:24, 28; Numbers 31:2 Deuteronomy 32:50; Deuteronomy 34:5). It is figured as an under-world (Isaiah 44:23 Ezekiel 26:20, etc.), and is described by other terms, as "the pit" (Job 33:24 Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:3 Proverbs 1:12 Isaiah 38:18, etc.), ABADDON (which see) or Destruction (Job 26:6; Job 28:22 Proverbs 15:11), the place of "silence" (Psalm 94:17; Psalm 115:17), "the land of darkness and the shadow of death" (Job 10:21 f). It is, as the antithesis of the living condition, the synonym for everything that is gloomy, inert, insubstantial (the abode of Rephaim, "shades," Job 26:5 Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 21:16 Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 26:14). It is a "land of forgetfulness," where God's "wonders" are unknown (Psalm 88:10-12). There is no remembrance or praise of God (Psalm 6:5; Psalm 88:12; Psalm 115:17, etc.). In its darkness, stillness, powerlessness, lack of knowledge and inactivity, it is a true abode of death (see DEATH); hence, is regarded by the living with shrinking, horror and dismay (Psalm 39:13 Isaiah 38:17-19), though to the weary and troubled it may present the aspect of a welcome rest or sleep (Job 3:17-22; Job 14:12 f). The Greek idea of Hades was not dissimilar.
(1) Not a State of Unconsciousness.
Yet it would be a mistake to infer, because of these strong and sometimes poetically heightened contrasts to the world of the living, that Sheol was conceived of as absolutely a place without consciousness, or some dim remembrance of the world above. This is not the case. Necromancy rested on the idea that there was some communication between the world above and the world below (Deuteronomy 18:11); a Samuel could be summoned from the dead (1 Samuel 28:11-15); Sheol from beneath was stirred at the descent of the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:9). The state is rather that of slumbrous semi-consciousness and enfeebled existence from which in a partial way the spirit might temporarily be aroused. Such conceptions, it need hardly be said, did not rest on revelation, but were rather the natural ideas formed of the future state, in contrast with life in the body, in the absence of revelation.
(2) Not Removed from God's Jurisdiction.
It would be yet more erroneous to speak with Dr. Charles (Eschatology, 35;) of Sheol as a region "quite independent of Yahwe, and outside the sphere of His rule." "Sheol is naked before God," says Job, "and Abaddon hath no covering" (Job 26:6). "If I make my bed in Sheol," says the Psalmist, "behold thou art there" (Psalm 139:8). The wrath of Yahweh burns unto the lowest Sheol (Deuteronomy 32:22). As a rule there is little sense of moral distinctions in the Old Testament representations of Sheol, yet possibly these are not altogether wanting (on the above and others points in theology of Sheol).
See ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
(3) Relation to Immortality.
To apprehend fully the Old Testament conception of Sheol one must view it in its relation to the idea of death as something unnatural and abnormal for man; a result of sin. The believer's hope for the future, so far as this had place, was not prolonged existence in Sheol, but deliverance from it and restoration to new life in God's presence (Job 14:13-15; Job 19:25-27 Psalm 16:10, 11; Psalm 17:15; Psalm 49:15; Psalm 73:24-26; see IMMORTALITY; ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT; RESURRECTION). Dr. Charles probably goes too far in thinking of Sheol in Psalms 49 and 73 as "the future abode of the wicked only; heaven as that of the righteous" (op. cit., 74); but different destinies are clearly indicated.
3. Post-canonical Period:
There is no doubt, at all events, that in the postcanonical Jewish literature (the Apocrypha and apocalyptic writings) a very considerable development is manifest in the idea of Sheol. Distinction between good and bad in Israel is emphasized; Sheol becomes for certain classes an intermediate state between death and resurrection; for the wicked and for Gentiles it is nearly a synonym for Gehenna (hell). For the various views, with relevant literature on the whole subject, see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; also DEATH; HADES; HELL, etc.
Sheol (64 Occurrences)
Genesis 37:35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, "For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning." His father wept for him. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Genesis 42:38 He said, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he only is left. If harm happens to him along the way in which you go, then you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol." (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Genesis 44:29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.' (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Genesis 44:31 it will happen, when he sees that the boy is no more, that he will die. Your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant, our father, with sorrow to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Numbers 16:30 But if Yahweh make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain to them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then you shall understand that these men have despised Yahweh." (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Numbers 16:33 So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol: and the earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Deuteronomy 32:22 For a fire is kindled in my anger, Burns to the lowest Sheol, Devours the earth with its increase, and sets the foundations of the mountains on fire. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
1 Samuel 2:6 "Yahweh kills, and makes alive. He brings down to Sheol, and brings up. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
2 Samuel 22:6 The cords of Sheol were around me. The snares of death caught me. (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
1 Kings 2:6 Do therefore according to your wisdom, and don't let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
1 Kings 2:9 Now therefore don't hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down to Sheol with blood." (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 7:9 As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away, so he who goes down to Sheol shall come up no more. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 11:8 They are high as heaven. What can you do? They are deeper than Sheol. What can you know? (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 14:13 "Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would keep me secret, until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 17:13 If I look for Sheol as my house, if I have spread my couch in the darkness, (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 17:16 Shall it go down with me to the gates of Sheol, or descend together into the dust?" (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 21:13 They spend their days in prosperity. In an instant they go down to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 24:19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters, so does Sheol those who have sinned. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 26:6 Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Job 33:18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword. (See NAS)
Psalms 6:5 For in death there is no memory of you. In Sheol, who shall give you thanks? (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned back to Sheol, even all the nations that forget God. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 16:10 For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 18:5 The cords of Sheol were around me. The snares of death came on me. (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 30:3 Yahweh, you have brought up my soul from Sheol. You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 31:17 Let me not be disappointed, Yahweh, for I have called on you. Let the wicked be disappointed. Let them be silent in Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 49:14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol. Death shall be their shepherd. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. Their beauty shall decay in Sheol, far from their mansion. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 55:15 Let death come suddenly on them. Let them go down alive into Sheol. For wickedness is in their dwelling, in the midst of them. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 86:13 For your loving kindness is great toward me. You have delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 88:3 For my soul is full of troubles. My life draws near to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 89:48 What man is he who shall live and not see death, who shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 116:3 The cords of death surrounded me, the pains of Sheol got a hold of me. I found trouble and sorrow. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there! (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 141:7 "As when one plows and breaks up the earth, our bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol." (WEB ASV DBY NAS RSV)
Proverbs 1:12 let's swallow them up alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down into the pit. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 5:5 Her feet go down to death. Her steps lead straight to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 7:27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 9:18 But he doesn't know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 15:11 Sheol and Abaddon are before Yahweh- how much more then the hearts of the children of men! (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 15:24 The path of life leads upward for the wise, to keep him from going downward to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 23:14 Punish him with the rod, and save his soul from Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 27:20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied; and a man's eyes are never satisfied. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Proverbs 30:16 Sheol, the barren womb; the earth that is not satisfied with water; and the fire that doesn't say,'Enough.' (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, where you are going. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Song of Songs 8:6 Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death. Jealousy is as cruel as Sheol. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a very flame of Yahweh. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS)
Isaiah 5:14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its desire, and opened its mouth without measure; and their glory, their multitude, their pomp, and he who rejoices among them, descend into it. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 7:11 Make a request to the Lord your God for a sign, a sign in the deep places of the underworld, or in the high heavens. (See NAS RSV)
Isaiah 14:9 Sheol from beneath has moved for you to meet you at your coming. It stirs up the dead for you, even all the rulers of the earth. It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 14:11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, with the sound of your stringed instruments. Maggots are spread out under you, and worms cover you. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 14:15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the pit. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 28:15 "Because you have said,'We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol are we in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it won't come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and we have hidden ourselves under falsehood.'" (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 28:18 Your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol shall not stand. When the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 38:10 I said, "In the middle of my life I go into the gates of Sheol. I am deprived of the residue of my years." (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 38:18 For Sheol can't praise you. Death can't celebrate you. Those who go down into the pit can't hope for your truth. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Isaiah 57:9 You went to the king with oil, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your ambassadors far off, and debased yourself even to Sheol. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ezekiel 31:15 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: In the day when he went down to Sheol I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained its rivers; and the great waters were stayed; and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ezekiel 31:16 I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Sheol with those who descend into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the lower parts of the earth. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ezekiel 31:17 They also went down into Sheol with him to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were his arm, that lived under his shadow in the midst of the nations. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ezekiel 32:21 The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of Sheol with those who help him: they are gone down, they lie still, even the uncircumcised, slain by the sword. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Ezekiel 32:27 They shall not lie with the mighty who are fallen of the uncircumcised, who are gone down to Sheol with their weapons of war, and have laid their swords under their heads, and their iniquities are on their bones; for they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death! Death, where are your plagues? Sheol, where is your destruction? "Compassion will be hidden from my eyes. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Amos 9:2 Though they dig into Sheol, there my hand will take them; and though they climb up to heaven, there I will bring them down. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)
Jonah 2:2 He said, "I called because of my affliction to Yahweh. He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried. You heard my voice. (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV)