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To investigate what Opinion the antient Hebrews entertained with respect to the Place of departed Spirits, under the Appellation of Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades in the New.
EVIDENCE of this nature, as being direct and home, must be viewed as possessing a weight superior to that which is indirect and circumlocutory.
It is exceeding unsatisfactory that our translators should, without the assignment of a reason why, tell us, that Sheol sometimes denotes a grave or cavity dug in the earth; at other times Hell. In the ordinary way of understanding these, there cannot be two things in nature more remote. The consequence arising from this is, that the ideas of the reader are at times confused. When the term Hell occurs, he is ready to attach to it his idea of the place of the damned; and where it is rendered the grave, he will think of nothing farther than the repository of the body formed in the earth. It is singular that when our translators found the term Sheol clothed with circumstances which prevented them from rendering it the grave, how, when it occurred divested of these, they should Kk 2 render
render it by a term as opposite to Hell as light is
Betwixt an antient Hebrew and a modern inhabitant of Europe, there would, from a view of the original Sheol, and the translation grave, be this difference, that the latter would think only of a cavity dug in the earth; whereas the former would have in his eye the abode of the departed spirit. But it might be urged, would not the Hebrew have the grave also in his idea? Doubtmeless, but not under the name Sheol, but Keber, the common term in that language for the grave. Gen. 37.35. When the patriarch Jacob says, "I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning," our translators, as it would seem, found the term Hell here would not suit the public ear that had been so much inured to the ordinary acceptation, and on this account they render it the grave. But this is rather missing than giving the sense of the original to the extent intended. Joseph was, as understood by Jacob, now dead: but this patriarch could not have the grave in his idea, as the place where the body of his son was deposited, after he had learned from his other sons that Joseph was torn in pieces by a wild beast, and of
course in no grave at all. On the other hand, when in the following sentences it is said, "Sheol Pr. 15.11. and destruction are before the Lord, how much more the hearts of the children of men?. It is deep Job.11.8. as Sheol, what canst thou know?" they saw the circumstances here, viz. its invisibility and immensity of depth, would not permit it to be rendered a grave, they have therefore turned it by the termHell. Here there would again be a wide chasm between the ideas of the Hebrew, and those of the modern. As this latter, in the former instance, fell far short in taking up the full extent of the original, he would now in his conception outstep it, and clothe it with those circumstances of horror which properly belong to that place of torment, which the antient Jews term Gehenna, and to which the reprobate part of mankind are to be consigned after the last judgment.
Understanding Sheol to signify only a grave, there is a feebleness introduced which takes off very much from the threatenings of scripture, so as to render them of little or no effect. For example, we are told in the book of Proverbs, 15.24 that the way of life to the wise is above, that he may depart from Sheol below. But from this, if it mean only grave, who is it that can deliver himself, let him be ever so famed for wisdom? From the lower, he may by taking heed to cleanse his way according to the divine word. Solomon
directs to beat a child with the rod, that he may not die; but what father is it that can, by any mode of correction, save his son from death, or from Sheol, if signifying the grave? He may, however, save him from the lower Sheol, or, what the antient Hebrews termed, as being synonymous with it, the second death. Prov. 23.13,14.
Solomon, that master of wisdom, gives it as an apothegm, deserving to be remembered and acted Eu9upon, "that whatever our hands find to do, to do it with our might, for," adds he, " there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge in Sheol, whether we are going." In our version, it is in the grave. But why should Solomon tell us, with so much the air of wisdom and important discovery, what would draw the smile from the untutored Indian? Was this latter to learn, for the first time, that a corpse in the grave neither acts nor thinks? Or if Solomon had merely the grave in his eye, why did he not express it by its usual term Keber? But the sentiment rises, when he would put us on medi tating on the destination of the departed spiritthat in that world, although there is a rest for the souls of the pious, yet there are also awaiting the impious, mansions of despair, in which they shall, after death, lift up their eyes and be in tormentthat the period of exertion is now past, to retur no more that whatever the disembodied spirit may know, will now be of no avail, it being in
that state, utterly incapable of doing any thing towards a change or melioration of abode.
Before I come to notice particularly, what the antients understood to be designated by the term Sheol, I shall dwell for a little on that marked distinction that is kept up so accurately in the Hebrew original between Keber, the grave; and Sheol, the invisible state; a distinction, which, in our version, is very much neglected. From a want of attention to this, and seeing no other meaning in Sheol or Hades than that of a grave, Beza has translated this sentence thus, Acts, ii. 27. Thou wilt Ps 16.10. not leave my soul in Hell. "Thou wilt not leave my carcase in the grave." He could not see any thing in Hades but a grave, and knowing that souls do not lie in graves, he conceived himself warranted to turn the term soul by cadaver, dead body. "From this translation," says Castellio, a pernicious error might spring, for when he turns the soul of Christ into a carcase, there is a danger least the soul of Christ should be thought by some to be nothing else but a carcase.”
The only relation which seems to connect these two, Sheol and Keber is that which arises from the point of time in which the separation from soul and body, and the funeral rites, take place: the latter, for the most part, being a consequence of the former. The moment a person dies, the spirit goes to its assigned abode, expressly termed