Sheol Translated as Hell

Sheol is also translated as “hell” 31 times in the King James. However, it still has the same meaning even in these verses. Let’s start with Psalm:

Psalm 16:10 – For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (KJV, comment added)

David says that God will not leave his soul in sheol, just as he did in other Psalms. However, this time it is translated as hell instead of grave. Why? Because it is a mistranslation; it has nothing to do with context.

Psalm 139:8 – If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell (sheol), behold, thou art there. (KJV, comment added)

David says that God is both in heaven and in hell. That doesn’t make sense, since most Christians believe hell is a place where man is separated from God. Grave works better here.

Psalm 9:17 – The wicked shall be turned (shub) into hell (sheol), and all the nations that forget God. (KJV, comments added)

Psalm 9:17 – The wicked do turn back to Sheol, All nations forgetting God. (YLT)

Psalm 9:17 – The lawless shall return (shub) to hades (sheol), All nations forgetful of God. (Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, comments added)

This verse is a bit tricky, because in addition to sheol, it also mistranslates shub. Shub means to return or turn back, but the King James translates it as turned. “The wicked shall be turned into hell” does sound like that the wicked will suffer an eternal punishment. However the correct translation is “the wicked shall return to the grave.” This is confirmed in other translations as seen above. Remember that we are composed of body, soul, and spirit. When we die, the body returns to the dust from which it was made, the soul returns to the grave, and the spirit returns to God.

Jonah 2:2 – And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell (sheol) cried I, and thou heardest my voice. (KJV, comment added)

In this verse, sheol is used as a figurative grave, because Jonah was close to death, being in the belly of a whale. There was no literal fire inside of the fish torturing Jonah.

In conclusion, sheol can be defined in several ways: (1) a literal physical grave with a location where the body goes, (2) a figurative grave or death due to being in a bad situation, or (3) a spiritual grave where the soul goes which God will later resurrect. Therefore, grave and pit are good translations most of the time, and even hell with the meaning of to cover or to conceal, but never hell with the meaning of eternal punishment.

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