Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sheol (שׁאול) is neither hell, grave nor pit.

A "Grave" Error

Those who are familiar with oriental languages can make a very good guess as to what should be the Hebrew word for grave. We will come back to it in a moment!

[All the scripture references are from KJV, unless specified]

It is popularly believed that the Hebrew word Sheol (שׁאול, H7585 in Strong's) means grave or pit, which can be proved as a grave error (pun is intentional)!

This word is used 65 times in 63 verses in the Old Testament.

31 times as hell.
31 times as grave.
  3 times as pit.
65 times

Here we do not consider those verses where it is translated as hell, because most of us know that it is not hell.

For me the key lies in the three verses where it is translated as pit. I welcome you to read Num 16:30 and Num 16:33. The passage is about the punishment of Korah, Datan and Abiram and the people who followed them. Also read Job 17:16. Unlike the verses where the word is translated as "grave", here the characters that are going into the Sheol are not one, but many. The translators might have thought it odd to place many people into one grave! So, the difference between grave and pit, with regard to the word Sheol, is the number of occupants.

If Sheol be grave, I welcome you to show me a verse which says that someone was interred in Sheol. No, not Abraham, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, ... David ... none, not even one person mentioned in the Old Testament is buried in Sheol.

The real Hebrew words for Grave.

There are Hebrew words which indisputably mean grave. The real grave or tomb where dead men and women were interred.

Gen 50:5 My father made me swear, saying, Lo,I die: in my grave<H6913> which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me ...

There are 62 more verses where H6913 is translated as grave or sepulcher.

Gen 35:20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave<H6900> that is the pillar of Rachel's grave<H6900> unto this day.

There are 13 more verses where H6900 is translated as grave or sepulcher.

Grave and the oriental connection.

As I have stated earlier, if you are familiar with oriental languages like Hindi, Urdu or Arabic you can make a very good guess as to what (or at least how) should be the Hebrew word for grave. For those who are familiar with Hindi, it is: कब्र (read as qabar or kabar). In Urdu it is: قبر  (read as qabar).

Now let us see the definition of  H6913:

Original Word: קָ֫בֶר
Transliteration: qeber
Phonetic Spelling: (keh'-ber)
Short Definition: grave

If you cannot see the connection between the words for grave in oriental languages, I think I have failed miserably in convincing you!

H6900 is supposed to be the feminine participle of H6912 from which H6913 also has derived. (I am not convinced that it is the feminine participle, though I am not a Hebrew scholar. This I say because the word is used several times in masculine contexts.)

Sheol is not pit either!

If Sheol is translated 3 times as pit, there is Bowr (H953) which is translated 36 times as pit (and a few times as dungeon, well or cistern - most of them being mistranslated)! The Holy Spirit which inspired the writing of the scriptures could have used Sheol instead of Bowr, if the former word really meant pit! The simplest fact is Sheol is not pit.

What is Sheol?

If you have come this far, you will be disappointed to know that I have not yet concluded as to what Sheol is!

You will agree with me that by punishing my son I cannot save my son from grave, he has to enter some sort of a sepulcher when he dies!

Pro 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol/Grave<H7585 >.

At this point of time (10.31am 2011.July.10) , my best guess is that Sheol means the state of dead, which may change as I study more!

Your brother in Christ,