Friday, February 15, 2008

Sheol - Job 7:9

The twelfth time Sheol is mentioned in the Bible is in Job 7:9. Chapter 7 is one of the most anguishing parts of Job's discourse, as he pointedly questions the persistent trials he suffered.

As usual, translating from Hebrew, we get:

"The cloud fades - vanishes - so he who goes down to Sheol shall not come up." - Job 7:9

The KJV renders it this way: "As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more."

This compares the person who goes to Sheol to a fading, vanishing cloud. It is an apt description, since our bodies dissolve and turn to "dust" after death.
Here, like we've seen so far, Sheol clearly means the grave.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sheol - The book of Job

To recap, so far we have learned that Sheol is in the ground and very little more. Our examinations of the first 11 times it is mentioned have yielded "grave" as the best possible translation of this Hebrew word.

Now, we move on to the book of Job, which is a fascinating story of the nature of suffering and what we perceive as personal injustice. Sheol is mentioned 8 times in the Job alone!

Although the majority of Job is considered Hebrew poetry, we can still glean some insights on Sheol and how the Jews viewed it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sheol - 1 Kings 2:6 and 1 Kings 2:9

The tenth and eleventh time the word Sheol is used in the Old Testament is in 1 Kings 2:6 and 1 Kings 2:9 which are part of a very bloody chapter.

At this juncture, King David is near death and gives some commands to his son Solomon, who is next in line for the throne. He gives his command to Solomon to kill Joab, who was a rather wicked and bloodthirsty commander of the army.

"And do according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace." - 1 Kings 2:6

Obviously, this also refers to the grave. There is no way that Solomon could control whether Joab had a peaceful time in Sheol if it meant a place of torment.

Then King David tells Solomon to kill Shimei who also was a thorn in his side during his rule.

"And now, do not acquit him, for you are a wise man, and you know that which you shall do to him, and shall bring down his gray hair, with blood, to Sheol." - 1 Kings 2:9

This also is referring to the grave, just like the previous entry.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sheol - 2 Samuel 22:6

The 9th time we see the word Sheol in the Old Testament is in 2 Samuel 22:6.

This time, King David is singing a praise song to YHVH for deliverance from his enemies.

To put it in context, I'm including the whole sentence from v.5 to v.7
"When surround me the waves of death; the torrents of wickedness overwhelm me, the cords of Sheol are round about me; confront me the snares of death; in my distress I called on YHVH and to God."

The Hebrew here is a little choppy, so let's clean it up:
"When the waves of death surround me, the torrents of wickedness overwhelm me, the cords of Sheol are around me and the snares of death confront me, in my distress I called on YHVH and to God."

David was clearly alive when he wrote this, and had not been killed by Saul or any of his enemies, but surely believed that it was possible that he would be. The adjectives used - waves, torrents, cords, and snares - all describe a sense of being inexorably trapped. Waves and snares describe death, which pursue and eventually catch us all. "Torrents of wickedness" describe not only the people that tried to kill David, but also the lingering fear of death. Finally, cords of Sheol describe much the same as snares of death - it is not something we can escape.

No matter how we look at this one, Sheol means nothing more than the grave. You can't escape it. Only Jesus did!

Sheol - 1 Samuel 2:6

The 8th time we see the word Sheol in the Old Testament is in 1 Samuel 2:6. Note that neither Joshua, nor Judges (the 6th and 7th books of the Old Testament, respectively) give any mention of the word Sheol.

In this context, a young woman named Hannah is saying a prayer of thanksgiving to YHVH for giving her a son, Samuel, whom she "loaned" to YHVH for all of his life. Her prayer encompasses 1 Samuel 2:1 to 1 Samuel 2:10 and is a good example of a praise to God.

Of interest to us, when looking at Sheol, is the passage at 1 Samuel 2:6 which states:
"YHVH kills and keeps alive. He brings down [to] Sheol and brings up."

When we look at this passage it should be pretty clear what we've discovered already. Sheol is the grave - a place of death, and it is down beneath the earth.

Sheol - Deuteronomy 32:22

The 7th time we find the word Sheol used in the Old Testament is in Deuteronomy 32:22 which is also the final time we see it in the Pentateuch (or the Five Books of Moses).

This time, it is in the context of a song that Moses gave the congregation of Israel shortly before his death. (cf. Deut 31:30)
This song begins from Deut 32:1 until Deut 32:43 and is typical of Hebrew poetry in that God is portrayed as a loving God, then it shows His anger at the betrayal of His people and their subsequent punishment and finally ends with redemption and hope. It is a recurring theme in the Old Testament.

However, our study is about Sheol and Hell. Deuteronomy 32:22 says (translated directly from Hebrew):
"For a fire is breaking out in My anger, and it shall burn to lowest Sheol, and it shall devour the earth and its produce, and it shall scorch the foundations of the mountains."

Clearly the "it" refers to the fire, except the obvious place of "its" produce, which refers to the earth.
This passage describes the totality of God's wrath at some future time period, since the earth has not been devoured by fire, nor have the mountains been scorched in human history.

Bear in mind that this is not only a poetic description of God's wrath to Israel for their idolotry, but also a glimpse of end-time prophecy where all nations will be punished.

But does this tell us that Sheol, the grave, is a place of burning? Clearly not in this context. God's wrath, manifested in fire, has not taken place yet. So, Sheol, at least in this passage is not burning, yet.

There is something else interesting about this passage, in that it uses an adjective "lowest" to describe Sheol. This has the implication that there are different "depths" of Sheol. Let's keep that in mind as we continue on with the remaining 57 instances of Sheol in the Old Testament.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Young Man Named Levi

I saw a special on TV a few weeks back called "Jesus Camp" for the first time.

Now, I want to say up front that I didn't really care much for the "documentary" because I thought it portrayed Christianity in an almost cult-like fashion. And, I will readily admit that my perception is primarily influenced by the fact that I am not a Pentacostal/Charismatic type of believer.

That aside, I was smitten by the sincerity and zeal of one of the youngsters portrayed in the film, a young man by the name of Levi. How apt, I thought - Levi, named after the Israelite tribe responsible for the care and feeding of the Lord's flock.

Festooned with a ponytail and sincere, boyish face, Levi fearlessly articulated and opined about Jesus in front of a sea of rapt faces. His family, equally zealous to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, took the lad all over the country as part of his missionary work. Levi was seen, unplussed and unafraid, in Washington D.C. at the steps of the Supreme Court building demonstrating his cause.

My fascination with young Levi prompted me to look him up on the Internet and email him and his parents. Interestingly, he replied to me, and we've been sharing our thoughts on Jesus, suffering, and other Christian topics.

And as I read Levi's words, I am left wondering if he will one day be one of the great Evangelists who fearlessly step forward to feed the flock and convince the unbelievers of the Saving Grace and Salvation that comes from Jesus alone. He's a teenager now, and I'm hoping that the pressures of the world, and all the temptations therein, will not sway this young man from a very noble destiny.

Only time will tell.

JC Masters

Wow, it's February, and I'm way behind...

Being a writer has its own challenges. It's not like we punch a clock or anything, or have a boss who stands over us while we bang out words for you to consume.

No, a writer lives on his own time schedule. Beats his own drum, so to speak.

I have to admit, I have stepped off the cliff of activity into the oblivion of procrastination and unmotivation. And, if I were working for anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ, I might have been alright with that.

But no. I *am* doing this for Him, and I'm ashamed at the late night TV watching and overall slacking. When I have a "real" job, I am often heard saying, "Work as if you are working for the Lord." Well, now I'm working for the Lord, and I've been caught napping.

Oh, sure, I can come up with all kinds of reasons, legitimate and not. But, in the end, it's just excuse making at it's finest.

Well, no more. It's time to get back on track. Even though I will miss my (albeit self-imposed) deadline, I will continue to move forward to produce my new book, "What the Hell? Simple Answers to Life's Most Burning Questions" for Christians and non-Christians alike.

But it will not be available in mid-February like I promised. Probably mid-March.

Thankfully, my Boss is infinitely forgiving and I fall upon the throne of grace humbly accepting His forgiveness and encouragement to move forward.

Thank you for understanding, Jesus. I love you, my friend, Lord, and Savior.

JC Masters