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Scripture Reading: Psalm 16:9-11

Hell in the Old Testament



1.  Recently asked: “What do/did the Jews believe about hell?”

2.  Brief look at Judaism today, Old Testament, and New Testament.



  A. Variety of Views on Hell in Judaism.

    1.  “Jewish tradition contains a variety of opinions on the subjects of heaven and hell. And modern Jewish thinkers have generally shied away from the topic.” (“Heaven and Hell in Jewish Tradition,” Rabbi Abbi Or N. Rose,

    2.  “There is no one thought among Jewish people about any topic, including heaven and hell. Some Jews believe in hell; most don’t. Most Jews have been more influenced by Eastern mysticism and liberal secularism than by the tenets of Judaism.” ("Do Jews believe in hell?,"

    3.  Some: Hell is “the expression of a great kindness,” a “Supernal Washing Machine” (“Do Jews Believe in Hell?,” Rabbi Aron Moss,

      a.  This resembles Catholic purgatory; Refinement, cleansing.

“Some Jews, not all, believe in a type of hell, but the Jewish mystics call it ‘Gehinnom,’ but it’s nothing like we might imagine hell is. To them, it’s like a deep cycle of cleansing activity, much like puttingclothes in a washing machine, where they are washed clean from their unrectified grievances in life, and then their soul is flung across the vast universe, passing through an intense spiritual heat to rid them of any further ‘residue,’ and only then, the cleansed ones will be gathered together and be able to enter into Heaven.” (“Do The Jews Believe In An Eternal Hell?,” Jack Wellman, 2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 7:31 (burnings, Valley of the Son of Hinnom)

      b.  Others: Hell is only for “utterly wicked” (Hitler).

    4.  Secular Jews deny the existence of hell and heaven.


II.  HELL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, Prov. 15:11; 27:20.

  A.  We Should Not Expect to Find Full, Final Revelation and Understanding of Hell (eternal punishment) in the OT.

     -The word “hell” is an Anglo-Saxon word (possibly of Norse origins) that is used to translate Heb. sheol (Psa. 9:17) and Greek gehenna (Matt. 5:22). “The term originally seems to have been associated with mythological rulers of the Germanic underworld.”1

  B.  Hebrew: Sheol, Psa. 9:17.

    1.  Realm of the dead (in general), departed from this life (cf. NT Hades), Psa. 16:10 (Christ, Acts 2:25-27).

    2.  Place of no return, 2 Sam. 12:23.

    3.  Translated “grave” (Gen. 37:35; Psa. 6:5), “pit” (Num. 16:30, 33), “hell” (Prov. 7:27).

•  It is the place of great equity; all are equal, from kings to slaves.

•  It is the place where both the wicked and the just reside.

•  It is “located under the earth” (Num 16:30–33).

•  It has bars to prevent escape (Job 17:16).

•  Only God can rescue His people from Sheol (Psa 49:15 LXX).

•  It is a place where no one can praise God (Psa 88:10 LXX).

•  There is no understanding in Sheol (Prov 9:18; 21:16 LXX).2

  C.  O. T. Prophets Spoke of Judgment as Everlasting Fire and Shame.

     1.   Jerusalem (Zion), Isa. 33:14.

     2.   Sinful, fleshly Israel, Isa. 66:22-24. Fleshly Israel contrasted with spiritual Israel (church), never fully consumed (Jer. 30:11).]

     3.   Cause of righteous dead vindicated in rise of the Messianic kingdom, Dan. 12:1-3.



  A.  Everlasting Fire Prepared for Devil and His Angels, Matt. 25:41.

     -An eternal furnace of fire and outer darkness into which the wicked are cast (Matt. 13:50; 25:30; Mk. 9:43-44).

  B.  Jesus Said Hell is Real:

    1.  Sinners face hell fire, Matt. 5:22, 29-30.

    2.  God destroys soul and body in hell, Matt. 10:28.

    3.  Outer darkness, sorrow, and suffering, Matt. 8:12.

    4.  Place of destruction and condemnation, Matt. 10:28; 23:33).

    5.  Eternal duration (Matt. 25:46).

      a.  Everlasting fire (Matt. 25:41).

      b.  Everlasting pain and punishment (Mk. 9:43-44; Matt. 25:46).

  C.  Gospel Saves Souls from Eternal Death, Rom. 6:23; 1:16; 2:4-11.



1.  Jews rejected Jesus, the only Savior, Acts 4:11.

2.  Only when their eyes (and ours) are opened to the truth of the gospel will they escape the certainty of sin’s judgment of hell, Jno. 12:48-50.



1 Kilcrease, J. (2018). Hell. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

2 Neal, D. A. (2016). Sheol. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.



By: Joe R. Price

Posted November 4, 2020