Many Christians pass over the word She'ol in the Bible without realizing what they're reading. Do we nag our children with, "You are bringing my gray head down to She'ol?" What would we tell someone who asked where She'ol was?

Despite the fact that She'ol isn't a part of our vocabulary the way heaven and hell are, it still has — or should have — a place in our theology. She'ol is one of the concepts that links the presence of God to a place, the place of non- and anti- worship, the place of no peace and no joy.

In the Bible, the word She'ol, occurs most often in the context of righteous people seeking against opposition to worship in the temple. She'ol is the place antithetical to the place of worship, which is the temple.

The first two Psalms introduce us to the nature of this struggle. They describe two paths: the "way of the righteous" and the "way of the wicked." The way of the righteous is meditating on the Torah (Ps. 1:2). The way of the wicked is meditating against the Lord and against the Messiah (Ps. 2:1). Throughout the Psalms, these two ways lead to two different places. The way of the righteous leads to the presence of God, while the way of the wicked leads away from the presence of God — to She'ol, where they will perish (Ps. 2:12). The Psalms mark a spiritual path with physical footprints.

In Psalm 89, the wicked of Psalm 1 become "the enemies," and they seem to have the upper hand over the righteous speaker, seemingly, the Messiah. He cries out, "How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?" (Ps. 89:46). He describes his sense of forsakenness in terms of death and the hand or power of She'ol (Ps. 89:48).

She'olis a place name for death — but here, it seems to extend to forsakenness.

The ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.