We have received an inquiry concerning the word She’ol, often interpreted in English bibles as hell, but which finds itself being set forth in the Eth Cepher some 128 times as She’ol. Let us begin with a passage from the cepher Chanoch (the Book of Enoch):
Chanoch (Enoch) 62:1-16
In those days the kings who possess the earth shall be punished by the angels of his wrath, wheresoever they shall be delivered up, that he may give rest for a short period; and that they may fall down and worship before YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, confessing their sins before him. 2 They shall bless and glorify YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, saying, Blessed is YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, YAHUAH of kings, YAHUAH of princes, YAHUAH of the rich, YAHUAH of glory, and YAHUAH of wisdom. 3 He shall enlighten every secret thing. 4 Your power is from generation to generation; and your glory forever and ever. 5 Deep are all your secrets, and numberless; and your righteousness cannot be calculated. 6 Now we know, that we should glorify and bless YAHUAH of kings, him who is King over all things. 7 They shall also say, Who has granted us rest to glorify, laud, bless, and confess in the presence of his glory? 8 And now small is the rest we desire; but we do not find; we reject, and do not possess. Light has passed away from before us; and darkness our thrones forever. 9 For we have not confessed before him; we have not glorified the name of YAHUAH of kings; we have not glorified YAHUAH in all his works; but we have trusted in the sceptre of our dominion and of our glory. 10 In the day of our suffering and of our trouble he will not save us, neither shall we find rest. We confess that our ADONAI is faithful in all his works, in all his judgments, and in his righteousness. 11 In his judgments he pays no respect to persons; and we must depart from his presence, on account of our deeds. 12 All our sins are truly without number. 13 Then shall they say to themselves, Our souls are satiated with the instruments of crime; 14 But that prevents us not from descending to the flaming womb of She’ol. 15 Afterwards, their countenances shall be filled with darkness and confusion before the Son of Adam; from whose presence they shall be expelled, and before whom the sword shall remain to expel them. 16 Thus says YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, This is the decree and the judgment against the princes, the kings, the exalted, and those who possess the earth, in the presence of YAHUAH TSEVA’OT.
While this passage may be a bit difficult to understand, we see that the kings who possess the earth trust in the scepter of their dominion and their own glory – to their destruction, because their sins are without number and their souls are satiated with the instruments of crime. They are therefore destined to descend to the flaming womb of She’ol.
So, She’ol is described as a flaming womb. But this may not be a complete description, as She’ol appears to have levels, the lowest of which is on fire:
Devariym (Deuteronomy) 32:15-29
But Yasharon waxed fat, and kicked: you are waxen fat, you are grown thick, you are covered with fatness; then he forsook ELOAH which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his Yeshu’ah. 16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to ELOAH; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten EL that formed you. 19 And when YAHUAH saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not EL; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn unto the lowest She’ol, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
In addition to levels, She’ol also has a mouth which swallows up sinners:
Chanoch (Enoch) 54:12
In those days shall the mouth of She’ol be opened, into which they shall be immerged; She’ol shall destroy and swallow up sinners from the face of the elect.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 5:14
Therefore She’ol has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall descend into it.
In addition to being repeatedly referred to as a place of condemnation, and a place of no peace, it is also described as a place of the darkness of the deep.
Yovheliym (Jubilees) 7:29
And there shall not be left any man that eats blood, or that sheds the blood of man on the earth, nor shall there be left to him any seed or descendants living under heaven; for into She’ol shall they go, And into the place of condemnation (also see Yov 22:22) shall they descend, And into the darkness of the deep shall they all be removed by a violent death.
Yovheliym (Jubilees) 24: 31
For though he ascend unto heaven, there shall he be brought down, and though he make himself strong on earth, there shall he be dragged forth, and though he hide himself among the nations, even from there shall he be rooted out; and though he descend into She’ol, there also shall his condemnation be great, and there also he shall have no peace.
However, let’s take a look at the word She’ol itself. We begin with the three letter root (שָׁאַל) which is the word sha’al (Strong’s H-7592), commonly interpreted to mean “to inquire; by implication, to request; by extension, or to demand”; however, it is probably better understood as to challenge the validity of, because the sod meaning of the word in its tedusha would follow from its three letters: shin (ש) to eat, consume, or destroy; aleph (א) the spiritual head; and lamed (ל), the shepherd’s staff. The sod meaning is therefore the shepherd’s staff of the spiritual head is destroyed. This may also be understood in the form of a question: May the shepherd’s staff of the spiritual head be destroyed?
Therefore, given this underlying meaning of the word as expressed in the meaning of the letters which compose the word, the better meaning of sha’al is to make inquiry if the shepherd’s staff of the spiritual head may be destroyed?
Let us now consider She’ol, using the Hebrew analytic often called PaRDeS. First, look at the word:
שְׁאוֺל She'ol from 7592; (Strong’s H-7585): Hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates:—grave, hell, pit.
Pshat: We know the pshat meaning is the name of a place, which is described as a fiery womb, into which the soul descends, and is a place of condemnation and no peace.
Remez: We also know that the place may also mean the grave or the pit into which the living body descends.
Derash: She’ol is compared by Strong’s as Hades. See Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luc 10:15; 16:23; Ma’aseh (Acts) 2:27; 2:31; 1Cor 15:55; Chizayon (Rev) 1:18; 6:8; 20:13; 20:14. Hades is described as the place of Cedom (Sodom), Matt 11:23; a place with gates, Matt. 16:18; a place not exalted but down, Lucas 10:15; a place of torment, Lucas 16:23; a place where the soul sees corruption, Ma’aseh (Acts) 2:27; 2:31; a place which stings, 1Cor 15:55; a place with keys, Chizayon (Rev) 1:18; a place, the residents of which follow death, Chizayon (Rev) 6:8; a place where the dead are found, Chizayon (Rev) 20:13; a place that is not the lake of fire, Chizayon (Rev) 20:14.
Sod: Again, we have the letters shin (ש), which means to eat, consume, or destroy; aleph (א), which means the spiritual head; vav (ו), which means the nail; and lamed (ל), which means the shepherd’s staff. Using the root meaning to give furtherance to this sod meaning, we ask the question (make the inquiry): May the shepherd’s staff, as fixed by the nail, which is the spiritual head, be destroyed (consumed)?