Page images
PDF
EPUB

The last passage in which Sheol is translated grave, is Hosea xiii. 14,—“I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death ; O death I will be thy plague; O grave, or hell, I will be thy destruction." On this text I beg leave to make the following remarks.

1st, If Sheol, translated grave, and in other places hell, means a place of eternal misery, it is evident from this

passage, that men are to be ransomed from it, and it destroyed. “I will ransom them from the power of hell,” and, “O hell, I will be thy destruction.” It will be easily perceived, that those who believe Sheol to be the place of endless misery, ought to give this up, for if they do not, they must admit, that neither the place nor its punishment are to be of eternal duration.

If Sheol, translated pit, grave, and hell, is relinquished, as referring to such a place, it follows, that no such doctrine as this was known under the Old Testament, as taught by the inspired writers. Dr. Campbell, and others, as we have seen in the foregoing extracts, give up Sheol, and contend that Gehenna is the place of eternal punishment for the wicked.

2d, In the passage under consideration, there seems to be a double kind of proof, that Sheol does not signify hell, but the grave or state of the dead. In the first clause of the verse,_“I will ransom them from the power of the grave,” is explained by the second, “I will redeem them from death." Death, in this last clause, answers to, or is synonimous with, grave in the first. But again, it is equally evident, that death in the third clause, is equivalent to grave in the fourth. This kind of parallelism is common in the Old Testament; attention to which is of importance in understanding the precise import of many expressions there used. As this text is

quoted in the New Testament, and must again be brought to view, we shall for the present dismiss it.

These are now all the passages fairly before us, in which Sheol is rendered grave in the common version. Some may be disposed to ask, and it is a very proper question to be asked why did not our translators render Sheol hell in all these texts, as they have done in many others, which we shall presently introduce ? The answer to this question is of easy solution. It would have been absurd, nay, shocking to all our best feelings, to have rendered Sheol hell in many of the above passages. For example, it would not do to represent Joseph as in hell, or a place of endless misery. No one could bear to hear, that Jacob expected soon to go to the same place. And surely it would never be believed that Job ever prayed, "O that thou wouldest hide me in hell.” In short, it never could be admitted, that David, Hezekiah, and others, could have spoken about Sheol as they did, if they attached the same ideas to this word as we do to the word hell. No man can dispute this, who will take the trouble to read all the texts in which the Old Testament writers use the word Sheol, rendered pit, grave, and hell, in the common version.

Had our translators rendered Sheol uniformly by the words pit, grave, or hell, we would have been less liable to mistaken views on this subject. Let us, for example, suppose that they had always translated it hell. We, in reading our bibles, must have seen from the context of the places, from the persons spoken about, and other cirstances, that a place of eternal punishment could not be meant by this word. The Old Testament saints expected to go to Sheol, yea, prayed for it; but what would we think, to hear Christians now speaking about hell, as 1hey did about Sheol. For example, would it not aston

ish us to hear a professed saint, pray,—“O that thou wouldest hide me in hell, or in the place of endless misery." But why should it astonish us, if they meant by Sheol, what we now do by the word hell ? Take only a single example of this. If Jacob meant by Sheol what we now mean by the word hell, why ought the following statement to surprise us.

A Christian loses a son, and refuses to be comforted by his family. He says, “I will go down to the place of endless misery unto my son mourning.” Concerning another beloved child he says,—“ if mischief befal him by the way in which yego, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the place of endless misery.” This would be strange language in the mouth of a Christian in our day. But it ought not, if we indeed contend, that Sheol or hell, in the Old Testament, had any reference to such a place of misery.

3d, Let us now turn our attention to all the texts in which Sheol is rendered by the word hell, in the common version. It ought to be observed generally, in the outset, that in several of the places where the word Sheol is rendered hell in the text, the translators put grave in the margin. The man who does not perceive that grave in many places, at least, is much more suitable to the text and context, must read his bible very carelessly. Who, for example, does not perceive this in Psalm xvi. 10. "for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” This is quoted, Acts ii. and applied to the resurrection of our Lord. It may surely be asked, -was our Lord ever in hell, the place of eternal misery? When he said, “ father into thy hands I commend my spirit,” did his father send him to hell? This, I presume, will not be pretended. Where, it may be said then, was our Lord's soul not left? He was not left in the state of the dead, or in Sheol or Hades, which are only

two names for the same place. The Lord did not suffer his Holy One to see corruption, but raised him again from the dead.

But again: was Jonah in hell, when he said, chap. ii. 2,—“out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou hearedst my voice.” I

I have always understood, that in hell prayers were unavailing. But if Jonah was in hell, this is not true, for he not only prayed there, but was heard and delivered out of it.

It deserves notice, that our translators, Gen. xxxvii. 35. aware that it would not do to send Jacob to hell, translate the word Sheol grave; and here, thinking it rather strange to represent Jonah as praying in hell, they put grave in the margin.

But again ; are we to conclude, when it is said, Psalm Iv. 15,4" let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell,” that David prayed that the persons of whom he spoke, might go down quick, or alive, into a place of endless misery? As this was not a prayer very suitable for the man after God's own heart, we find our translators again put grave in the margin.

Having seen from Psalm xvi. 10. that the Saviour is represented as having been in hell, we need not be much surprised at what is said in the following passages, which refer to him. Thus, Psalm xviii. 5. it is said," the sorrows of hell compassed me about ; the snares of death prevented me.” See also 2 Sam. xxi. 6. and Psalm cxvi. 3. where the same language is used. In this text, “ sorrows of hell," and "snares of death," are convertible expressions, and seem evidently to refer to the Saviour's sufferings. I am aware, that it hath been held as an opinion, that our Lord actually went to hell, and suffered its pains for a season. This opinion was probably founded on these passages. In the present day, I presume the man

is not to be found, who would risk his reputation in defending it.

That Sheol, translated hell, means the grave, or state of the dead, is, I think, obvious. Thus, Solomon, speaking of a lewd woman, says, Prov. vii. 27,—“ her house is the way to hell;" which he immediately explains, by adding, “ going down to the chambers of death." This is, if possible, still more evident from chap. v. 5,-“her feet go

down to death,” which is explained by the next words,“her steps take hold on hell.” The same remarks apply to Prov. xxiii. 13, 14.

As the state of the dead was concealed from the eyes, or knowledge of all the living, its being known to God, is stated as a proof of his perfection in knowledge. Thus it is said, Job xxvi. 6,-“hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.” And again, Prov. xv. 11. “hell and destruction are before the Lord, how much more then the hearts of the sons of men."

Sheol, whether translated pit, grave, or hell, is represented as below, beneath, and as a great depth. Persons are always spoken of as going down to it. It is contrasted as to depth, with heaven for height, the extent of both being alike unknown. Thus it is said, Prov. xv. 24,“ the way of life is above to the wise, that they may depart from hell beneath.” And," it is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?” Job. xi. 8. See also, Amos ix. 2. And Psalm cxxxix. 8. where similar language occurs. See also Dr. Campbell's dissertation quoted above, on all these texts. But not only is Sheol, hell, represented as a great depth, but we read of the lowest hell. Thus in Deut. xxxii. 22. it is said,—" for a fire is kindled in mine anger and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the

« EelmineJätka »