Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sheol - Numbers 16:30, 33

The 5th and 6th times the word Sheol is used in the Old Testament is in Numbers 16:30 and right afterward in Numbers 16:33.

Before we look at those passages, Numbers 16 details a story about how three men, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, along with 250 other influential leaders, were questioning Yahweh's appointment of Aaron and Moses as leaders. Moses humbled himself before his accusers and prayed to Yahweh publicly to show them His will.
Then Dathan and Abiram made some false accusations against Moses, who became angry and prayed to Yahweh.

Moses, after getting Yahweh's instructions, tells the congregation to get away from the tents of those three men. What happens next is very interesting.

Moses puts it on Yahweh to perform His will by showing a miraculous sign that Moses himself certainly could not produce. He says in v. 30, "But if YHVH creates a new thing and the ground opens her mouth and swallows them, and all that they have, and they go alive, to Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised YHVH."

This tells us that Sheol is in the ground. This makes sense because graves are in the ground. But what's interesting is that it says that these people will go alive to Sheol. Fortunately, v. 33 sheds more light on this.

And they sank, they and all they had, alive to Sheol, and the earth covered over them, and they perished from among the assembly.

So this tells us that the errant people were alive when they sank into the earth, and were destroyed in the process. The Hebrew word for perished in this verse is 'abad which means to be destroyed. It is used many times in the Old Testament.

Even though those people went down, alive, to Sheol, they didn't stay that way. Common sense tells us that if the ground were to open up, swallow us, and cover us up, that our chances of survival in such an event would be slim to none.

In any case, there is no reading of suffering, torment or any other continuing consciousness or existence, in these passages.

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