Sheol (Hebrew: שְׁאוֹל) is the Hebrew underworld and realm of the dead. It is mentioned multiple times in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament). It is variously translated into English as "the grave", "the pit", "the realm of the dead", and, in Christian translations, as "hell". In the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, Sheol is translated as Hades (ᾍδης), and this term is also used in the New Testament.
- וַיִּקְרַ֤ע יַעֲקֹב֙ שִׂמְלֹתָ֔יו וַיָּ֥שֶׂם שַׂ֖ק בְּמׇתְנָ֑יו וַיִּתְאַבֵּ֥ל עַל־בְּנ֖וֹ יָמִ֥ים רַבִּֽים׃ וַיָּקֻ֩מוּ֩ כׇל־בָּנָ֨יו וְכׇל־בְּנֹתָ֜יו לְנַחֲמ֗וֹ וַיְמָאֵן֙ לְהִתְנַחֵ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כִּֽי־אֵרֵ֧ד אֶל־בְּנִ֛י אָבֵ֖ל שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַיֵּ֥בְךְּ אֹת֖וֹ אָבִֽיו׃
- Genesis 37:34–35
- Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days. All his sons and daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, saying, "No, I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol." Thus his father bewailed him.
- And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
- Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." So his father wept for him.
- וּלְקַחְתֶּ֧ם גַּם־אֶת־זֶ֛ה מֵעִ֥ם פָּנַ֖י וְקָרָ֣הוּ אָס֑וֹן וְהֽוֹרַדְתֶּ֧ם אֶת־שֵׂיבָתִ֛י בְּרָעָ֖ה שְׁאֹֽלָה׃ וְעַתָּ֗ה כְּבֹאִי֙ אֶל־עַבְדְּךָ֣ אָבִ֔י וְהַנַּ֖עַר אֵינֶ֣נּוּ אִתָּ֑נוּ וְנַפְשׁ֖וֹ קְשׁוּרָ֥ה בְנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃ וְהָיָ֗ה כִּרְאוֹת֛וֹ כִּי־אֵ֥ין הַנַּ֖עַר וָמֵ֑ת וְהוֹרִ֨ידוּ עֲבָדֶ֜יךָ אֶת־שֵׂיבַ֨ת עַבְדְּךָ֥ אָבִ֛ינוּ בְּיָג֖וֹן שְׁאֹֽלָה׃
- Genesis 44:29–31
- If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to Sheol in sorrow. "Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us—since his own life is so bound up with his—when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will send the white head of your servant our father down to Sheol in grief."
- And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life; it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
- If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery. "So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy's life, sees that the boy isn't there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow."
- וַיֹּ֘אמֶר֮ מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּזֹאת֙ תֵּֽדְע֔וּן כִּֽי־יְהֹוָ֣ה שְׁלָחַ֔נִי לַעֲשׂ֕וֹת אֵ֥ת כׇּל־הַֽמַּעֲשִׂ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה כִּי־לֹ֖א מִלִּבִּֽי׃ אִם־כְּמ֤וֹת כׇּל־הָֽאָדָם֙ יְמֻת֣וּן אֵ֔לֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת֙ כׇּל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם יִפָּקֵ֖ד עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם לֹ֥א יְהֹוָ֖ה שְׁלָחָֽנִי׃ וְאִם־בְּרִיאָ֞ה יִבְרָ֣א יְהֹוָ֗ה וּפָצְתָ֨ה הָאֲדָמָ֤ה אֶת־פִּ֙יהָ֙ וּבָלְעָ֤ה אֹתָם֙ וְאֶת־כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֔ם וְיָרְד֥וּ חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֕ם כִּ֧י נִֽאֲצ֛וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה׃ וַיְהִי֙ כְּכַלֹּת֔וֹ לְדַבֵּ֕ר אֵ֥ת כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַתִּבָּקַ֥ע הָאֲדָמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּחְתֵּיהֶֽם׃ וַתִּפְתַּ֤ח הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ וַתִּבְלַ֥ע אֹתָ֖ם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְאֵ֤ת כׇּל־הָאָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְקֹ֔רַח וְאֵ֖ת כׇּל־הָרְכֽוּשׁ׃ וַיֵּ֨רְד֜וּ הֵ֣ם וְכׇל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָהֶ֛ם חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַתְּכַ֤ס עֲלֵיהֶם֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ מִתּ֥וֹךְ הַקָּהָֽל׃ וְכׇל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶ֖ם נָ֣סוּ לְקֹלָ֑ם כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵ֖נוּ הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְאֵ֥שׁ יָצְאָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת יְהֹוָ֑ה וַתֹּ֗אכַל אֵ֣ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֙יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מַקְרִיבֵ֖י הַקְּטֹֽרֶת׃
- Numbers 16:28–35
- And Moses said, "By this you shall know that it was יהוה who sent me to do all these things; that they are not of my own devising: if these people's death is that of all humankind, if their lot is humankind's common fate, it was not יהוה who sent me. But if יהוה brings about something unheard-of, so that the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, you shall know that those involved have spurned יהוה." Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah's people and all their possessions. They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation. All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, "The earth might swallow us!" And a fire went forth from יהוה and consumed the two hundred and fifty contestants offering the incense.
- And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
- Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt." As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!" And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
- יְהֹוָ֖ה מֵמִ֣ית וּמְחַיֶּ֑ה מוֹרִ֥יד שְׁא֖וֹל וַיָּֽעַל׃
- 1 Samuel 2:6
- לָכֵ֗ן הִרְחִ֤יבָה שְּׁאוֹל֙ נַפְשָׁ֔הּ וּפָעֲרָ֥ה פִ֖יהָ לִבְלִי־חֹ֑ק וְיָרַ֨ד הֲדָרָ֧הּ וַהֲמוֹנָ֛הּ וּשְׁאוֹנָ֖הּ וְעָלֵ֥ז בָּֽהּ׃
- Isaiah 5:14
- Assuredly, Sheol has opened wide its gullet and parted its jaws in a measureless gape; and down into it shall go, that splendor and tumult, that din and revelry.
- Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
- Therefore Death expands its jaws, opening wide its mouth; into it will descend their nobles and masses with all their brawlers and revelers.
- שְׁא֗וֹל מִתַּ֛חַת רָגְזָ֥ה לְךָ֖ לִקְרַ֣את בּוֹאֶ֑ךָ עוֹרֵ֨ר לְךָ֤ רְפָאִים֙ כׇּל־עַתּ֣וּדֵי אָ֔רֶץ הֵקִים֙ מִכִּסְאוֹתָ֔ם כֹּ֖ל מַלְכֵ֥י גוֹיִֽם׃
- Isaiah 14:9
- Sheol below was astir to greet your coming—rousing for you the shades of all earth's chieftains, raising from their thrones all the kings of nations.
- Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
- The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you—all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations.
- (יבלו) [יְכַלּ֣וּ] בַטּ֣וֹב יְמֵיהֶ֑ם וּ֝בְרֶ֗גַע שְׁא֣וֹל יֵחָֽתּוּ׃
- הָרְפָאִ֥ים יְחוֹלָ֑לוּ מִתַּ֥חַת מַ֝֗יִם וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶֽם׃ עָר֣וֹם שְׁא֣וֹל נֶגְדּ֑וֹ וְאֵ֥ין כְּ֝ס֗וּת לָאֲבַדּֽוֹן׃
- Job 26:5–6
- The shades tremble beneath the waters and their denizens. Sheol is naked before Him; Abaddon has no cover.
- Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
- The dead are in deep anguish, those beneath the waters and all that live in them. The realm of the dead is naked before God; Destruction lies uncovered.
- In the part lowest of the abysses is Sheol, the place where those dwell who have passed to the state of rephaim or "shades". This is the place lower than any other, which is described in the Book of Job (x. 21–2) as the land where the shadow of death reigns, where the shadows are scarcely broken by any glimmers of twilight, where there is no order, and whence there is no return—in short, as something very like the Hades and Avernus of the Greek and Latin classics, and the Aralu of the Babylonians. No Hebrew Dante has described this place; yet we already find in Ezekiel a part of Sheol distinguished as deeper, called the "pit" or "the lowest parts of the earth", where the uncircumcised descend and those who have fallen by the sword, causing terror in the land of the living. In course of time this distinction came to be more definite: the upper part of Sheol, destined for the just, was called "Abraham's bosom", and the lower part became Gehenna, where sinners were tormented in flames.
- Here the dead meet (Ezek. xxxii.; Isa. xiv.; Job xxx. 23) without distinction of rank or condition—the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave—if the description in Job iii. refers, as most likely it does, to Sheol. The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life. Jacob would mourn there (Gen. xxxvii. 35, xlii. 38); David abides there in peace (I Kings ii. 6); the warriors have their weapons with them (Ezek. xxxii. 27), yet they are mere shadows ("rephaim"; Isa. xiv. 9, xxvi. 14; Ps. lxxxviii. 5, A. V. "a man that hath no strength"). The dead merely exist without knowledge or feeling (Job xiv. 13; Eccl. ix. 5). Silence reigns supreme; and oblivion is the lot of them that enter therein (Ps. lxxxviii. 13, xciv. 17; Eccl. ix. 10). Hence it is known also as "Dumah", the abode of silence (Ps. vi. 6, xxx. 10, xciv. 17, cxv. 17); and there God is not praised (ib. cxv. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 15).
- "Sheol", Jewish Encyclopedia
- The Jewish scriptures contain a variety of views about what happens to a person at death. Most commonly, a person who dies is simply said to have gone to "death"—a term used some thousand times in the Bible. Better known but far less frequent, a person's ultimate destination is sometimes called "Sheol", a term whose meaning and etymology are debated. It occurs over sixty times in the Hebrew Bible, and there is unanimity among critical scholars that in no case does Sheol mean "hell" in the sense people mean today. There is no place of eternal punishment in any passage of the entire Old Testament. In fact—and this comes as a surprise to many people—nowhere in the entire Hebrew Bible is there any discussion at all of heaven and hell as places of rewards and punishments for those who have died.