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The word “hell” is derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place.

In Scripture, there are three words translated as “hell”:

  1. Sheol, occurring in the Old Testament sixty-five times. This word “sheol” is derived from a root-word meaning “to ask,” “demand;” hence insatiableness (Proverbs 30:15,16). It is translated “grave” thirty-one times (Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 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 in the King James Version, this word is translated “hell,” the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are “the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16). It is…

    1. the abode of the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalms 9:17; 31:17, etc.)

    2. of the good (Psalms 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13, etc.).

    Sheol is described as deep (Job 11:8), dark (10:21,22), with bars (17:16). The dead “go down” to it (Numbers 16:30, 33; Ezek. 31:15,16,17).

  2. 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 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).

  3. Greek: γέενναν -translitertion: Gehenna

    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 condition there is described in various figurative expressions (Matthew 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 16:24, etc.).

    There is a real place near Jerusalem that was named Gehenna, southwest of the city.

    The Greek name is transliterated from the Hebrew name Gêhinnōm, meaning “the valley of Hinnom”.

    See: HINNOM