Sheol

The temporary abode of the wicked in the Old Testament, or generally refers to the grave or death.


The word Sheol occurs 65 times in the Old Testament (Genesis (4), Numbers (2), Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings (2), Job (9), The Psalms (15), Proverbs (9), Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah (10), Ezekiel (5), Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Habbakuk).  The KJV renders sheol as “hell” 31 times, “grave” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times.(1)  Thus Sheol can refer either specifically to the abode of the wicked (cf. Ps. 9:17; 55:15), or generally to the grave or death (cf. Isaiah 38:10; Hosea 13:14).  It is even used of the belly of the fish in Jonah 2:2, or of a deep pit in Numbers 16:30, 33. Scholars generally have a difficult time deciding when to interpret as “hell,” which is why the newer translations either transliterate the word (NASB ’95, NRSV), or translate it as “grave,”  “death,” “depths,” “destruction” or “pit” (NIV).


1. sheoòl” in Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, ([CD-ROM], Cedar Rapids: Parsons Technology, 1999).