Hell in the Bible
The word “hell” is derived from the Saxon helan, meaning: to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place.
In Scripture, there are 3 words translated as “Hell.”
Hebrew: שְׁאוֹל —transliteration: sheol
This word occurs 65 times in the Old Testament. It is derived from a root-word meaning “to ask,” “demand;” hence insatiableness (Proverbs 30:15-16).
It is translated as “grave” 31 times (Genesis 37:35; Gen. 42:38; Gen. 44:29-31; 1 Samuel 2:6, etc.). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule.
In 31 cases the King James Version translates this word is as “Hell,” the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are “the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16).
Sheol is described as…
- the abode of the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalm 9:17; Psalm 31:17, etc.)
- deep (Job 11:8)
- dark (Job 10:21-22)
- barred by gates (Job 17:16 NKJV)
- The dead “go down” to it (Numbers 16:30; Ezek. 31:15; Ezek. 31:16; Ezek. 31:17).
- a temporary place of the good of Old Testament times (Psalm 16:10; Psa. 30:3; Psa. 49:15; Psa. 86:13, etc.)—from which God takes them to Heaven, based on the atonement and redemption of Christ
Greek: ᾍδης —transliteration: hadés
The Greek word Hades of the New Testament has the same scope of signification as sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1 Peter 3:19), with gates and bars and locks (Matthew 16:18; Rev. 1:18), and it is described as downward (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15).
The righteous and the wicked are separated. The blessed dead are in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
Greek: γέενναν —translitertion: Gehenna
The Greek name is transliterated from the Hebrew name Gêhinnōm, meaning “the valley of Hinnom”.
In most of its occurrences in the Greek New Testament, this word is used symbolically of the place of the lost (Hell) (Matthew 23:33).
The fearful nature of their situation there is described in various figurative expressions (Matthew 8:12; Matt. 13:42; Matt. 22:13; Matt. 25:30; Luke 16:24, etc.).
There is a real place near Jerusalem that was named Gehenna, southwest of the city.
- HELL: Fact or Fiction—Is it an actual place? Answer
- Why was Hell made? Answer
- Is there anyone in Hell today? Answer
- Will there literally be a burning fire in Hell? Answer
- What should you be willing to do to stay out of Hell? Answer
- How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer
- What if I don’t believe in Hell? Answer
- The Good News—How to be saved from Hell. Answer
Article Version: May 21, 2019