Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sheol - Genesis 37:35

I've decided that I'm going to share some of my research on Hell, beginning with each instance where it is mentioned in the bible. Specifically, every place where the original language (in this entry, Hebrew) word is used.

The first place the word Sheol (which is commonly translated "grave" and "hell") is found is at Genesis 37:35.

Translated directly from Hebrew in an Interlinear Bible, it says:
And arose all his sons and all his daughters to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, "I will go down to my son, mourning, to Sheol. And his father wept for him."

The "he" in this passage is Jacob/Israel who was just informed that his favorite son, Joseph, had been mauled by wild animals. It was a setup by Joseph's brothers, but Jacob assumed they were telling the truth.

Now, just so we are clear on the construct of Jacob's statement, "I will go down to my son, mourning, to Sheol," note that there are two prepositional phrases there.

To my son, and;
To Sheol.

It doesn't really matter which one is taken first, because both point to Sheol. Jacob is saying that his son, Joseph, is in Sheol, because he is dead. Furthermore, he says that he will go there too, where his son already is. Even though Joseph wasn't really dead, Jacob believed he was, and uttered his statement based on that belief.

The fact that he said he would go mourning, means that he would die in sorrow. Clearly, that didn't happen, even though Joseph was dead to him for many years until they went to be reunited in Egypt.

Obviously, this Sheol is merely referencing the grave, and not some burning place of torment.


Alex said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.

JC Masters said...

Hi Alex,

I don't agree with his assessment because v37:18 is not ambiguous. I see no difference in Hebrew style that the author claims.

But thank you anyway, I always enjoy reading new and fresh ideas.

In Christ,

JC Masters