The Hebrew word Sheol shows us Dead People are Dead

The Old Testament made it clear that when a person died, he went to sheol. Neither Greek or English has a good equivalent word for sheol, because it is not a “physical place” where dead people go, like the grave, but rather it is a “state of being;” it is the state of being dead (cp. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament; under “hell”). Perhaps a good English equivalent of sheol would be “grave-dom,” the “reign of the grave.” That sheol is the state of being dead can be easily confirmed by examining the uses of sheol in the Old Testament. It is undisputed that when a person dies, his body disintegrates and ceases to exist. But not only does the body cease to exist, the life (sometimes called “soul”) of the person does too. Thus, a person who is dead is dead in every way, not alive in heaven or “Hell.”

There are many verses that show that when the body died, the person, both body and soul, were totally dead. Death and being in sheol is compared to sleep in many verses (Job 7:21; 14:12-14; Psalm 13:3; 90:5; Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 5:10). The comparison is valid because just as there is no consciousness in sleep, there is none in death. Once a person dies, he does not remember God (Psalm 6:5). In fact, dead people “know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). They cannot praise God or speak of His goodness (Psalm 30:9; 115:17; Isa. 38:18), they cannot thank God or hope in Him (Isa. 38:18); and they have no knowledge or wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Obviously, these dead people are not rejoicing in heaven or suffering in “Hell.”

When a person dies he goes to sheol, which, as we have just seen, is the state of being dead where there is no knowledge, wisdom, memory, praise, or hope. Similarly, when a person dies in the lake of fire and experiences the “second death,” he will again be in sheol and have total non-existence. In that light, it is important that we notice that Psalm 9:17 (ESV) says, “The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.” Although this verse may have a couple of different meanings included in it, and may refer to the first death as well as the second death, the ESV translation is certainly correct that the verse does include the idea of the wicked making a “return” to sheol. Wicked people die the first time and are in sheol, then are resurrected to the Judgment. If they are judged unworthy of everlasting life, they are cast into the lake of fire and die again, thus returning to sheol, the state of death. Thus Psalm 9:17 is another verse that teaches the wicked do not suffer forever in the lake of fire. Eventually the wicked return to sheol and are totally dead.

One of the ways that some Jews came to believe in the “immortal soul” is that when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek in the version we call the Septuagint (done about 250 BC, a few generations after Alexander conquered Egypt), the Hebrew word sheol was translated as the Greek word hadēs. This created a huge error to occur among the Greek-speaking Jews, because in sheol everyone was dead, but in the Greek hadēs, everyone was alive. The Greek language, like English, had no word for “the state of being dead.” Given that fact, the Jews who translated the Septuagint should have transliterated sheol into Greek, like they did for Gehenna. Instead, they translated the Hebrew word sheol as the Greek word hadēs, and by doing that they gave life to the dead. Then, after that time, the Jews who read the Septuagint naturally thought that the dead were alive, a belief that the Pharisees held at the time of Christ, and many of them brought their belief that the dead were alive into Christianity when they converted.


3 thoughts on “The Hebrew word Sheol shows us Dead People are Dead

  1. In hell, those who did not get saved by the suffering and she’d blood of Jesus Christ, will be alive forever, burning, gnashing their teeth. This is what the Bible teaches.

    1. Thanks for you comment. You have not stated any scriptures to support your belief.

      God is a just God and it does not make sense that someone who has just lived a normal life as a mum and committed the normal sins of sinful man has to burn forever. Then someone who has killed and done unthinkable things like Hitler have the same sentence on them.
      What pleasure or satisfaction does God get by doing all this. Anyone that is saved will not see or feel what the people in hell are experiencing.
      So what is the overall purpose and significance for everyone?
      The judgement has to fit the crime. Burning forever and ever does not make sense for a housewife and the same for Hitler.

      Maybe you would like to read this post


  2. The biblical teaching on hell is a reflection of the infinite worth of God and the outrage of scorning it

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