For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Psalm 16:10 (KJV)
Hell – Our minds can get pretty creative with this word conjuring up thoughts of fire, torment, anguish, and suffering. We might imagine a red guy with goat legs and horns ruling this realm we call hell found deep in the earth. But as the common saying goes… “It’s all Greek to me”. Yes, our version of hell is far removed from the Hebrew understanding, and definitely not what David was thinking. Our idea is correct in one way though, hell is in the earth, but every other description is mythology.
Let’s start here: in order for David’s soul to be “left” in hell, it would first have to be placed there. But with our preconceived notion of hell, who among us believed David was going there when he died? This was God’s chosen! He was a man after God’s own heart. Surely David wasn’t going to hell, was he? Isn’t hell a place of torment for the wicked, or the unbelievers? David was neither wicked, nor an unbeliever. So how could he confidently claim that God would not “leave” his soul in hell?
The Hebrew word for hell is shĕ’owl and is used quite differently than we imagined. While there may be a lot of confusion around this word, the definition is very clear. Shĕ’owl is the grave, a pit, or a hole in the ground – nothing dramatic about it. This makes perfect sense in relation to David’s plea to God, “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell”. David knew that when he died, he was going to shĕ’owl, and had confidence in God’s resurrection.
Another Hebraic view of hell resides in Hosea’s prophecy.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
The word “grave” in the above verse is shĕ’owl. Interesting how God says He will ransom them from the power of shĕ’owl, redeeming them from death. He’s not saving them from a place of torment, rather He’s resurrecting them from death, from a hole in the ground.
This is the Hebrew understanding, not the Greek. In Greek we derive at the conclusion that hell is some sort of underworld. This is deceptively expounded upon in Dante’s Devine Comedy. While the origins of this theology date back to the Egyptians, it seems to be the Greeks that brought it to fame. As early as Homer, the idea that a soul continues within the underworld was brought to philosophical discussions. Pythagoreanism in the sixth century extended this view along with the notable philosophy of Plato. Being that history is taught from the Greek view perspective, most everything we learn is founded in Greek theology, philosophy, and education. It’s no wonder this concept of hell permeated our religious doctrine.
All education began somewhere. Are the doctrines we teach established in God and the Hebraic understandings, or rooted in Greek philosophy? In order to figure that out, you have to research, study, and prove all things to hold fast to that which is true.