Table of Contents

Notes on Revelation


27th of Av
August 28, 2000

The Hebrew word "Sheol" [07585] is rendered "hell" 31 times, "grave" 31 times and "pit" 3 times in the Old Testament (KJV) for a total of 65.

This verse tells us in which direction to look for sheol; it is located down.

Here we see that some went down to sheol that were still alive.

Sheol is divided into different parts. To get to the lowest you must go through other compartments.

There is traffic both ways in sheol.

The word "sorrows" above is sometimes translated as "cords" so this verse is translated by the Jewish Publication Society as: The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of Death confronted me. This can either mean sheol is a painful place or that it ties you down.

Sheol is deep/unsearchable.

Here the word "bars" is usually rendered "staves" (Webster's: 1. rung; 2. staff, 3. any of the narrow strips of wood or narrow iron plates placed edge to edge to form the sides, covering, or lining of a vessel [as a barrel] or structure) and connotes a different part of sheol.

There is no praising of God there.

The word "turned" here always denotes a turning back or returning to something.

Sheol is where your soul goes for a certain time with the hope of being delivered from there.

All men go there.

Sheol is never satisfied.

Sheol is unproductive.

In the New Testament the Greek words "Hades" [86], "Gehenna" [1067] and "Tartarus" [5020] are used 24 times.

Hades = 86

At the end of this age, souls will be released from hades and judged.

Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Hades is a "holding-cell" until the white throne judgment.

Starting here this word for hell (Gehenna) seems to emphasis both the body and soul.

5020 is the Greek word "Tartarus" and my Online Bible says it is "from Tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hell)." The angels are cast into the deepest compartment of sheol.


Gehenna refers to a specific locale near Jerusalem. John Gill sums this up by saying:

"into the fire that never shall be quenched.
"This is a periphrasis of hell, and is an allusion to the valley of Hinnom, from whence hell has its name, here and elsewhere; where a constant fire was kept, for the burning of polluted things: one of the Jewish writers says {i}, that it"

"was a place in the land near to Jerusalem, and was a place contemptible: where they cast things defiled, and carcasses; and there was there, 'a continual fire,' to burn polluted things and bones; and therefore the condemnation of the wicked, in a parabolical way, is called 'Gehinnom.'"

"And says another of them {k},"

"Gehinnom is a place known, near to Jerusalem, and a valley, 'whose fire is never quenched'; and in which they burn bones of defilement, and carcasses, and other polluted things."

"This whole clause is left out in the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; and the phrase, 'that never shall be quenched,' is not in the Arabic version."

{i} Kimchi in Psal. xxvii. 13.
{k} R. Isaac Saugari, Sepher Cosri, fol. 57. 2.


The valley of Hinnom is part of the pleasant wadi or valley, which bounds Jerusalem on the south. Josh. 15:8; 18:16.

Josh 15:8 And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:

Josh 18:16 And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi [Jerusalem] on the south, and descended to Enrogel,

Here, in ancient times and under some of the idolatrous kings, the worship of Moloch, the horrid idol-god of the Ammonites, was practiced. To this idol, children were offered in sacrifice. II Kings 23:10; Ezek. 23:37,39; II Chron. 28:3; Lev. 18:21; 20:2.

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.

08612 tpt Topheth to'-feth
AV-Tophet 8, Topheth 1; 9
Tophet or Topheth="place of fire"
1) a place in the southeast end of the valley of the son of Hinnom south of Jerusalem.

Eze 23:37-39 That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house.

2 Chron 28:3 Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.

Lev 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Lev 20:2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.

If we may credit the Rabbins, the head of the idol was like that of an ox; while the rest of the body resembled that of a man. It was hollow within; and being heated by fire, children were laid in its arms and were literally roasted alive. We cannot wonder, then at the severe terms in which the worship of Moloch is everywhere denounced in the Scriptures. Nor can we wonder that the place itself should have been called Tophet, i.e., abomination, detestation, (from toph, to vomit with loathing)." Jer. 7:32; 19:6; II Kings 23:10; Ezek. 23:36,39.

Jer 7:31-33 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.

Jer 19:6 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.

"After these sacrifices had ceased, the place was desecrated, and made one of loathing and horror. The pious king Josiah caused it to be polluted, i.e., he caused to be carried there the filth of the city of Jerusalem. It would seem that the custom of desecrating this place thus happily begun, was continued in after ages down to the period when our Savior was on earth. Perpetual fires were kept up in order to consume the offal which was deposited there. And as the same offal would breed worms, (for so all putrefying meat does of course), hence came the expression, 'Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.' " Stuart's Exegetical Ess., pp. 140-141.

"Gehenna, originally a Hebrew word, which signifies the valley of Hinnom, is composed of the common noun, Gee, valley, and the proper name Hinnom, the owner of this valley. The valley of the sons of Hinnom was a delightful vale, planted with trees, watered by fountains, and lying near Jerusalem, on the south-east, by the brook Kedron. Here the Jews placed that brazen image of Moloch, which had the face of a calf, and extended its hands as those of a man. It is said, on the authority of the ancient Rabbins, that, to this image, the idolatrous Jews were wont not only to sacrifice doves, pigeons, lambs, rams, calves and bulls, but even to offer their children. I Kings 9:7; II Kings 15: 3,4. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, (Ch. 7:31), this valley is called Tophet, from Toph, a drum; because the administrators in these horrid rites, beat drums, lest the cries and shrieks of the infants who were burned, should be heard by the assembly. At length, these nefarious practices were abolished by Josiah, and the Jews brought back to the pure worship of God.

II Kings 23:10. After this, they held the place in such abomination, it is said, that they cast into it all kinds of filth, together with the carcasses of beasts, and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed. Continual fires were necessary, in order to consume these, lest the putrefaction should infect the air; and there were always worms feeding on the remaining relics. Hence it came, that any severe punishment, especially a shameful kind of death, was denominated Gehenna." Schleusner.

As we trace the history of the locality as it occurs in the Old Testament we learn that it should never have been translated by the word Hell. It is a proper name of a well-known locality, and ought to have stood Gehenna, as it does in the French Bible, in Newcome's and Wakefield's translations. In the Improved Version, Emphatic Diaglott, etc. Babylon might have been translated Hell with as much propriety as Gehenna. It is fully described in numerous passages in the Old Testament, and is exactly located...


Gehenna is the name given by Jews to Hell. Rev. H. N. Adler, a Jewish Rabbi, says: "They do not teach endless retributive suffering. They hold that it is not conceivable that a God of mercy and justice would ordain infinite punishment for finite wrong-doing." Dr. Dentsch declares: "There is not a word in the Talmud that lends any support to that damnable dogma of endless torment." Dr. Dewes in his "Plea for Rational Translation," says that Gehenna is alluded to four or five times in the Mishna, thus: "The judgment of Gehenna is for twelve months;" "Gehenna is a day in which the impious shall be burnt." Bartolocci declares that "the Jews did not believe in a material fire, and thought that such fire as they did believe in would one day be put out." Rabbi Akiba, "the second Moses," said: "The duration of the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is twelve months." Adyoth 3: 10. some rabbis said Gehenna only lasted from Passover to Pentecost. This was the prevalent conception. (Abridged from Excursus 5, in Canon Farrar's "Eternal Hope." He gives in a note these testimonies to prove that the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, did not regard Gehenna as of endless duration). Asarath Maamaroth, f. 35, 1: "There will hereafter be no Gehenna." Jalkuth Shimoni, f. 46, 1: "Gabriel and Michael will open the eight thousand gates of Gehenna, and let out Israelites and righteous Gentiles." A passage in Othoth, (attributed to R. Akiba) declares that Gabriel and Michael will open the forty thousand gates of Gehenna, and set free the damned, and in Emek Hammelech, f. 138, 4, we read: "The wicked stay in Gehenna till the resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it redeems them." See Stephelius' Rabbinical Literature.

(The Bible Hell, J.W. Hanson, D.D., 1888)


This cursed valley [Gey-Hinnom/Gehenna] is for those who are cursed forever...Here they will be gathered together and here will be their place of judgment. In the last days there will be upon them the spectacle of righteous judmgent in the presence of the righteous forever. (1 Enoch 27:1-3)


a. Did they who, notwithstanding their sins, lived in such security of carelessness and self-righteousness, really understand and fear the final consequences of resistance to the coming 'Kingdom'? If so, theirs must be a repentance not only in profession, but of heart and mind, such as would yield fruit, both good and visible. Or else did they imagine that, according to the common notion of the time, the vials of wrath were to be poured out only on the Gentiles,[39] while they, as Abraham's children, were sure of escape, in the words of the Talmud, that 'the night' (Is. 21:12) was 'only to the nations of the world, but the morning to Israel'? [Jer. Taan. 64 a.]

39. In proof that such was the common view, I shall here refer to only a few passages, and these exclusively from the Targumum: Jer. Targ. on Gen. 49:11; Targ. on Is. 11:4; Targ. on Amos 9:11; Targ. on Nah. 1:6; on Zech. 10:3,4. See also Ab. Z. 2 b, Yalkut i. p. 64 a; also 56 b (where it is shown how plagues exactly corresponding to those of Egypt were to come upon Rome).

For, no principle was more fully established in the popular conviction, than that all Israel had part in the world to come (Sanh. x. 1), and this, specifically, because of their connection with Abraham. This appears not only from the New Testament, [St. John 8:33,39,53.] from Philo, and Josephus, but from many Rabbinic passages. 'The merits of the Fathers,' is one of the commonest phrases in the mouth of the Rabbis.[40] Abraham was represented as sitting at the gate of Gehenna, to deliver any Israelite[41] who otherwise might have been consigned to its terrors. [Ber. R. 48; comp. Midr. on Ps. 6:1; Pirke d. R. Elies. c. 29; Shem. R. 19 Yalkut i. p. 23 b.] In fact, by their descent from Abraham, all the children of Israel were nobles, [Baba Mez. vii. 1; Baba K. 91 a.] infinitely higher than any proselytes. 'What,' exclaims the Talmud, 'shall the born Israelite stand upon the earth, and the proselyte be in heaven?' [Jer. Chag. 76 a.] In fact, the ships on the sea were preserved through the merit of Abraham; the rain descended on account of it. [Ber. R. 39.] For his sake alone had Moses been allowed to ascend into heaven, and to receive the Law; for his sake the sin of the golden calf had been forgiven; [Shem R. 44.] his righteousness had on many occasions been the support of Israel's cause; [Vayyikra R. 36.] Daniel had been heard for the sake of Abraham; [Ber. 7 b.] nay, his merit availed even for the wicked. [Shabb. 55 a; comp Beer, Leben Abr. p. 88.] In its extravagance the Midrash thus apostrophises Abraham: 'If thy children were even (morally) dead bodies, without blood vessels or bones, thy merit would avail for them!' [Ber. R. ed. Warsh. p. 80 b, par. 44.]

40. 'Everything comes to Israel on account of the merits of the fathers' (Siphre on Deut. p. 108 b). In the same category we place the extraordinary attempts to show that the sins of Biblical personages were not sins at all, as in Shabb. 55 b, and the idea of Israel's merits as works of supererogation (as in Baba B. 10 a).

41. I will not mention the profane device by which apostate and wicked Jews are at that time to be converted into non-Jews.

b. It was common belief, that in the day of the Messiah redeemed Israel would be gathered to a great feast, together with the patriarchs and heroes of the Jewish faith. This notion, which was but a coarsely literal application of such prophetic figures as in Is. 25:6, had perhaps yet another yet another and deeper meaning. As each weekly Sabbath was to be honoured by a feast, in which the best which the family could procure was to be placed on the board, so would the world's great Sabbath be marked by a feast in which the Great Householder, Israel's King, would entertain His household and Guests. Into the painfully, and, from the notions of the times, grossly realistic description of this feast, it is needless here to enter. One thing, however, was clear: Gentiles could have no part in that feast. In fact, the shame and anger of 'these' foes on seeing the 'table spread' for this Jewish feast was among the points specially noticed as fulfilling the predictions of Ps. 23:5. [Bemid. R. 21, ed. Warsh. iv. p. 85 a 57 a.] On this point, then, the words of Jesus in reference to the believing Centurion formed the most marked contrast to Jewish teaching.

In another respect also we mark similar contrariety. When our Lord consigned the unbelieving to 'outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth,' he once more used Jewish language, only with opposite application of it. Gehinnom, of which the entrance, marked by ever ascending smoke, [Erub. 19 a.] was in the valley of Hinnom, between two palm trees, lay beyond 'the mountains of darkness.' [Tamid 32 b.] It was a place of darkness, [Targ. on 1 Sam. 2:9, Ps 87:12.] to which in the day of the Lord, [Amos. 5:20.] the Gentiles would be consigned. [Yaklkut ii. p. 42 c.] On the other hand, the merit of circumcision would in the day of the Messiah deliver Jewish sinners from Gehinnom. [u. s. nine lines higher up.] It seems a moot question, whether the expression 'outer darkness outside the lighted house of the Father, and even beyond the darkness of gehinnom, a place of hopeless, endless night. Associated with it is 'weeping and the gnashing of teeth.' In Rabbinic thought the former was connected with sorrow,[11] the latter almost always anger,[12] not, as generally supposed, with anguish.

11. In Succ. 52 a it is said that in the age to come (Athid labho) God would bring out the Yetser haRa (evil impulse), and slaughter it before the just before the wicked. To the one he would appear like a great mountain, to the other like a small thread. Both would weep, the righteous for joy, that they had been able to subdue so great a mountain; the wicked for sorrow, that they had not been able even to break so small a thread.

12. This is also the meaning of the expression in Ps. 112:10. The verb is used with this idea in Acts 7:54, and in the LXX, Job. 16:9; Ps. 35:16; 37:12; and in Rabbinical writings, for example, Jer. Keth. 35 b; Shem. R. 5, &c.

To complete our apprehension of the contrast between the views of the Jews and the teaching of Jesus, we must bear in mind that, as the Gentiles could not possibly share in the feast of the Messiah, so Israel had claim and title to it. To use Rabbinic terms, the former were 'children of Gehinnom,' but Israel 'children of the Kingdom,' [St. Matt. 8:12.] or, in strictly Rabbinic language, 'royal children,' [Shabb. xiv. 4.] children of God,' 'of heaven,' [Ab. iii. 14 comp. Jer. Kidd. 61 c middle.] 'children of the upper chamber' (the Aliyah) [Sanh. 97 b; Succ. 45 b.] and 'of the world to come.' [Jer. Ber. 13 d, end.] In fact, in their view, God had first sat down on His throne as King, when the hymn of deliverance (Ex. 15:1) was raised by Israel, the people which took upon itself that yoke of the Law which all other nations of the world had rejected. [Pesiqta 16b; Shem. R. 23.]

Never, surely, could the Judaism of His hearers have received more rude shock than by this inversion of all their cherished beliefs. There was a feast of Messianic fellowship, a recognition on the part of the King of all His faithful subjects, a joyous festive gathering with the fathers of the faith. But this fellowship was not of outward, but of spiritual kinship. There were 'children of the Kingdom, and there was an 'outer darkness' with its anguish and despair. But this childship was of the Kingdom, such as He had opened it to all believers; and that outer darkness theirs, who had only outward claims to present. And so this history of the believing Centurion is at the same time an application of the 'Sermon on the Mount', in this also aptly following the order of its record, and a further carrying out of its teaching. Negatively, it differentiated the Kingdom from Israel; while, positively, it placed the hope of Israel, and fellowship with its promises, within reach of all faith, whether of Jew or Gentile. He Who taught such new and strange truth could never be called a mere reformer of Judaism. There cannot be 'reform,' where all the fundamental principles are different. Surely He was the Son of God, the Messiah of men, Who, in such surrounding, could so speak to Jew and Gentile of God and His Kingdom. And surely also, He, Who could so bring spiritual life to the dead, could have no difficulty by the same word, 'in the self-same hour,' to restore life and health to the servant of him, whose faith had inherited the Kingdom. The first grafted tree of heathendom that had so blossomed could not shake off unripe fruit. If the teaching of Christ was new and was true, so must His work have been. And in this lies the highest vindication of this miracle, that He is the Miracle.

c. That war, which seems a continuation of that Gog and Magog, would close the Messianic era. The nations, who had hitherto given tribute to Messiah, would rebel against Him, when He would destroy them by the breath of His mouth, so that Israel alone would be left on the face of the earth. [Tanch. ed. Warsh ii. p. 115 a, top.] The duration of that period of rebellion is stated to be seven years. It seems, at least, a doubtful point, whether a second or general Resurrection was expected, the more probable view being, that there was only one Resurrection, and that of Israel alone, [Taan, 7 a.] or, at any rate, only of the studious and the pious, [Kethub. 111 b.] and that this was to take place at the beginning of the Messianic reign. If the Gentiles rose at all, it would only be immediately again to die. [Pirked. R. Eliez. 34.][20]

20. It is, of course, not denied, that individual voices would have assigned part in the world to come to the pious from among the Gentiles. But even so, what is the precise import of this admission?

Then the final Judgment would commence. We must here once more make distinction between Israel and the Gentiles, with whom, nay, as more punishable than they, certain notorious sinners, heretics, and all apostates, were to be ranked. Whereas to Israel the Gehenna, to which all but the perfectly righteous had been consigned at death, had proved a kind of purgatory, from which they were all ultimately delivered by Abraham, [Erub. 19 a.] or, according to some of the later Midrashim, by the Messiah, no such deliverance was in prospect for the heathen nor for sinners of Israel. [As to the latter, a solitary opinion in Moed K. 27a.] The question whether the fiery torments suffered (which are very realistically described) would at last end in annihilation, is one which at different times received different answers, as fully explained in another place.[21] At the time of Christ the punishment of the wicked was certainly regarded as of eternal duration. Rabbi Jose, a teacher of the second century, and a representative of the more rationalistic school, says expressly, 'The fire of Gehinnom is never quenched.' And even the passage, so often (although only partially) quoted, to the effect, that the final torments of Gehenna would last for twelve months, after which body and soul would be annihilated, excepts from this a number of Jewish sinners, specially mentioned, such as heretics, Epicureans, apostates, and persecutors, who are designated as 'children of Gehenna' (ledorey doroth, to 'ages of ages'). [Rosh haSh. 17 a.] And with this other statements agree, [Sanh. x. 3; 106 b.] so that at most it would follow that, while annihilation would await the less guilty, the most guilty were to be reserved for eternal punishment.

21. See Appendix 19. [see below]

(The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim)

Excerpts from Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg

1. Hell

a. In the beginning, two thousand years before the heaven and the earth, seven things were created: the Torah written with black fire on white fire, and lying in the lap of God; the Divine Throne, erected in the heaven which later was over the heads of the Hayyot; Paradise on the right side of God, Hell on the left side; the Celestial Sanctuary directly in front of God, having a jewel on its altar graven with the Name of the Messiah, and a Voice that cries aloud, "Return, ye children of men."

Matthew 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

b. The second day of creation was an untoward day in more than the one respect that it introduced a breach where before there had been nothing but unity; for it was the day that saw also the creation of hell. Therefore God could not say of this day as of the others, that He "saw that it was good." A division may be necessary, but it cannot be called good, and hell surely does not deserve the attribute of good. Hell[55] has seven divisions,[56] one beneath the other. They are called Sheol, Abaddon, Beer Shahat, Tit ha-Yawen, Sha'are Mawet, Sha'are Zalmawet: and Gehenna. It requires three hundred years to traverse the height, or the width, or the depth of each division, and it would take six thousand three hundred years to go over a tract of land equal in extent to the seven divisions.

55. In rabbinic sources the word ordinarily used for "hell" is Gehinnom, although this is at the same time the name of one of the parts of hell...The Rabbis, of course, knew that Gehinnom originally was the name of the valley near Jerusalem (Jer 7.32),

Jer 7:31,32 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place.

where Moloch had been worshipped in ancient times, and they therefore explained the meaning of this word, as well as its synonym Tofet, from its connection with the worship of Moloch...The relation between Gehenna and Jerusalem is, however, of a closer nature, for one of the three gates of hell (the one is found in the inhabited land, the other in the wilderness, and the third at the bottom of the sea) is located in Jerusalem; 'Erubin 19a (where the exact place of this gate is given)

Talmud - Mas. Eiruvin 19a
(some footnotes incorporated into the text)

R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: Gehenna has three gates; one in the wilderness, one in the sea and one in Jerusalem. 'In the wilderness', since it is written in Scripture: So they, and all that appertaineth to them, went down alive into the pit.(Num. 16.33) 'In the sea', since it is written in Scripture: Out of the belly of the nether world cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.(Jonah 2.3) 'In Jerusalem', since it is written in Scripture: Saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem,(Isa. 31.9) and the school of R. Ishmael taught: 'Whose fire is in Zion' refers to Gehenna, 'And His furnace in Jerusalem' refers to the gate of Gehenna.

Are there, however, no more [gates]? (in Gehenna) Has not R. Meryon in fact stated in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi (or, as others say: Rabbah b. Meryon learned [in a Baraitha of the compilation] of the school of R. Johanan b. Zakkai): There are two palm-trees in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and between them smoke rises, and it is [in connection with] this [spot] that we have learnt: 'The stone-palms of the iron mountain are fit' (for the lulab), and this is the gate of Gehenna? It is possible that [this gate] is the same as the one in Jerusalem'. (The valley of Ben Hinnom lies immediately behind the wall of Jerusalem.)

R. Joshua b. Levi stated: Gehenna has seven names, and they are: Nether-world (or 'Sheol'), Destruction, Pit (or, 'pit of destruction'), Tumultuous Pit, Miry Clay, Shadow of Death and the Underworld. 'Nether-world', since it is written in Scripture: Out of the belly of the nether-world cried I, and Thou heardest my voice (Jonah 2.3); 'Destruction', for it is written in Scripture: Shall Thy Mercy be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction (Psa 88.12); 'Pit', for it is written in Scripture: For Thou wilt not abandon thy soul to the nether-world; neither wilt Thou suffer Thy godly one to see the pit (Psa 16.10); 'Tumultuous Pit' and 'Miry Clay', for it is written in Scripture: He brought me up also out of the tumultuous pit, out of the miry clay (Psa 40.3); 'Shadow of Death', for it is written in Scripture: Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death (Psa 107.10); and the [name of] 'Nether-world' is a tradition.

But are there no more [names]? (to Gehenna) Is there not in fact that of Gehenna? [This means,] a valley that is as deep as the valley of Hinnom and into which all go down for gratuitous acts. Is there not also the name of Hearth, since it is written in Scripture: For a hearth is ordered of old? (Isa 30.33) That [means] that whosoever is enticed by his evil inclination will fall therein.

comp. note 39.

39. ...We are here confronted with a legend which is composed of various elements. Palestine, God's favorite land, was created before all other parts of the world...Instead of Palestine in general, Jerusalem (Yoma 54b; Tehillim 50, 279; Targum Psa 50.2), or the site of the temple (comp. the following note)is designated as the beginning of creation.

40. is said that also the destruction of this world as well as the creation of the new world will begin with Zion

The widespread popular notion that the earth came into being as a result of a stone which God had thrown into the water...was subsequently brought into relation with the view that creation began with the site of the temple; hence the legend that creation began with the stone found in the holy of holies...Independent of, and partly contradictory, to this view is the opinion which maintains that Palestine is situated in the centre of the earth...Gehenna is likewise located in the centre of the earth, because an entrance thereof is found in Jerusalem, the centre of Palestine; see 'Erubin 19a; Preuschen, Adamschriften, 27, which is not anti-Jewish)...Yoma, loc. cit., on the contrary, distinguishes between the centre of the earth and Jerusalem...Since it was assumed that the ark was placed in the centre of the holy of holies upon the Eben Shetiyyah [the foundation stone of the Temple], the legend, desirous of finding creation centres...quite naturally saw in this stone the centre of the earth. In view of the belief that the creation of the earth (and of everything; comp. Yoma 85a) began with its centre, the Eben Shetiyyah also became the beginning of creation. The oldest source (Yoma 5.2), where this stone is mentioned, leaves no doubt that it is considered to have come down there at the time of the first prophets (i.e., Samuel and David...), and it is therefore impossible to assume that the Mishnah identified it with the stone with which creation began. It is accordingly probable that [shetiyyah] is to be translated "fire-stone," i.e., meteor. We have here, therefore, a tradition based upon 2 Sam 24.16, seq., and 1 Chron 21.26, according to which a meteor fell down at this place where subsequently the holy of holies was situated. (Please see Wormwood) ...In all these passages it is stated that the stone was called Eben Shetiyyah because the foundation of the world had been laid with it. A later development of the Eben Shetiyyah legend transferred to this stone all that which had originally been said concerning the foundation of the temple. It is therefore asserted that the "Ineffable Name" was engraved on this stone, whose power checks the Tehom from overflowing the earth...This legend is further enlarged upon in Jewish Jesus tales. Since the knowledge of this name enabled anyone to accomplish all one desired, a device was necessary to prevent misuse. At the gate of the temple two brazen dogs were that whenever a person who had acquired the knowledge of the Name would pass, they began to bark. Frightened by this sound, the person would forget the knowledge of the Name. Jesus, however, had written the Name on paper, which he hid under his skin. He forgot the Name while passing the dogs, but later learned it again from the paper which he pulled out from under his skin. By means of the Name he was able to perform all the miracles...The view that the Name of the Messiah is engraved upon a stone of the heavenly temple belongs likewise to the Eben Shetiyyah legend cycle.

Tamid 32b cites two opinions: according to one, hell is found above the firmament (but not in heaven), while the other maintains that it is "beyond the mountains of darkness." There is a widespread view that hell and paradise are situated side by side, so that it is possible to look from one place into the other...On the enormous size of hell...(the size of the entire world bears the same relation to hell as a lid to its pot);...(hell expands according to its needs)...As to the intensity of the fire of hell...the heat of the hot springs of Tiberias is due to the fact that its waters pass the gates of Gehenna.


56. ...The place where Moloch was worshipped (comp. the preceding note), according to the description in the older Midrashim, consisted of seven compartments (Ge ben Hinnom is thus modelled after Gehinnom)...Rather strange is [a source] which speaks of fourteen compartments of hell...whereas the rabbinic sources...and the Babylonian myth concerning the descent of Ishtar into hell know only of seven compartments.

Each of the seven divisions in turn has seven subdivisions, and in each compartment there are seven rivers of fire and seven of hail. The width of each is one thousand ells, its depth one thousand, and its length three hundred, and they flow one from the other, and are supervised by ninety thousand Angels of Destruction. There are, besides, in every compartment seven thousand caves, in every cave there are seven thousand crevices, and in every crevice seven thousand scorpions. Every scorpion has three hundred rings, and in every ring seven thousand pouches of venom, from which flow seven rivers of deadly poison. If a man handles it, he immediately bursts, every limb is torn from his body, his bowels are cleft asunder, and he falls upon his face. There are also five different kinds of fire in hell. One devours and absorbs, another devours and does not absorb, while the third absorbs and does not devour, and there is still another fire, which neither devours nor absorbs, and furthermore a fire which devours fire. There are coals big as mountains, and coals big as hills, and coals as large as the Dead Sea, and coals like huge stones, and there are rivers of pitch and sulphur flowing and seething like live coals.

c. For many years Terah continued to live a witness of his son's glory, for his death did not occur until Isaac was a youth of thirty-five.[46] And a still greater reward waited upon his good deed. God accepted his repentance, and when he departed this life, he entered into Paradise, and not into hell, though he had passed the larger number of his days in sin.

d. Abraham's activity did not cease with his death, and as he interceded in this world for the sinners, so will he intercede for them in the world to come. On the day of judgment he will sit at the gate of hell, and he will not suffer those who kept the law of circumcision to enter therein.[318]

318. ...[In the Zohar] it is Duma, the door-keeper of Gehenna, who takes the place of Abraham

e. Isaac's alarm was caused by his seeing hell at the feet of Esau. Scarcely had he entered the house when the walls thereof began to get hot on account of the nearness of hell, which he brought along with him.

f. He [Jacob] also saw the angels of the four kingdoms ascending the ladder. The angel of Babylon mounted seventy rounds, the angel of Media, fifty-two, that of Greece, one hundred and eighty, and that of Edom mounted very high, saying, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High," and Jacob heard a voice remonstrating, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the uttermost parts of the pit." God Himself reproved Edom, saying, "Though thou mount on high as the eagle, and though thy nest be set among the stars, I will bring thee down from thence."

g. When Moses was on the point of departing from heaven, a celestial voice announced: "Moses, thou camest hither, and thou didst see the throne of My glory. Now thou shalt see also Paradise and hell," and God dispatched Gabriel on the errand of showing hell to him. Terrified by its fires, when he caught sight of them as he entered the portals of hell, Moses refused to go farther. But the angel encouraged him, saying, "There is a fire that not only burns but also consumes, and that fire will protect thee against hell fire, so that thou canst step upon it, and yet thou wilt not be seared."

As Moses entered hell, the fire withdrew a distance of five hundred parasangs, and the Angel of Hell, Nasargiel, asked him, "Who art thou?" and he answered, "I am Moses, the son of Amram."

Nasargiel: "This is not thy place, thou belongest in Paradise."

Moses: "I came hither to see the manifestation of the power of God."

Then said God to the Angel of Hell, "Go and show hell unto Moses, and how the wicked are treated there." Immediately he went with Moses, walking before him like a pupil before his master, and thus they entered hell together, and Moses saw men undergoing torture by the Angels of Destruction: some of the sinners were suspended by their eyelids, some by their ears, some by their hands, and some by their tongues, and they cried bitterly. And women were suspended by their hair and by their breasts, and in other ways, all on chains of fire. Nasargiel explained: "These hang by their eyes, because they looked lustfully upon the wives of their neighbors, and with a covetous eye upon the possessions of their fellow-men. These hang by their ears because they listened to empty and vain speech, and turned their ear away from hearing the Torah. These hang by their tongues, because they talked slander, and accustomed their tongue to foolish babbling. These hang by their feet, because they walked with them in order to spy upon their fellow-men, but they walked not to the synagogue, to offer prayer unto their Creator. These hang by their hands, because with them they robbed their neighbors of their possessions, and committed murder. These women hang by their hair and their breasts, because they uncovered them in the presence of young men, so that they conceived desire unto them, and fell into sin."

Moses heard hell cry with a loud and a bitter cry, saying to Nasargiel: "Give me something to eat, I am hungry."-- Nasargiel: "What shall I give thee?"--Hell: "Give me the souls of the pious."--Nasargiel: "The Holy One, blessed be He, will not deliver the souls of the pious unto thee."

Moses saw the place called Alukah, where sinners were suspended by their feet, their heads downward, and their bodies covered with black worms, each five hundred parasangs long. They lamented, and cried: "Woe unto us for the punishment of hell. Give us death, that we may die!" Nasargiel explained: "These are the sinners that swore falsely, profaned the Sabbath and the holy days, despised the sages, called their neighbors by unseemly nicknames, wronged the orphan and the widow, and bore false witness. Therefore bath God delivered them to these worms."

Moses went thence to another place, and there he saw sinners prone on their faces, with two thousand scorpions lashing, stinging, and tormenting them, while the tortured victims cried bitterly. Each of the scorpions had seventy thousand heads, each head seventy thousand mouths, each mouth seventy thousand stings, and each sting seventy thousand pouches of poison and venom, which the sinners are forced to drink down, although the anguish is so racking that their eyes melt in their sockets. Nasargiel explained: "These are the sinners who caused the Israelites to lose their money, who exalted themselves above the community, who put their neighbors to shame in public, who delivered their fellow-Israelites into the hands of the Gentiles, who denied the Torah of Moses, and who maintained that God is not the Creator of the world."

Then Moses saw the place called Tit ba-Yawen, in which the sinners stand in mud up to their navels, while the Angels of Destruction lash them with fiery chains, and break their teeth with fiery stones, from morning until evening, and during the night they make their teeth grow again, to the length of a parasang, only to break them anew the next morning. Nasargiel explained: "These are the sinners who ate carrion and forbidden flesh, who lent their money at usury, who wrote the Name of God on amulets for Gentiles, who used false weights, who stole money from their fellow-Israelites, who ate on the Day of Atonement, who ate forbidden fat, and animals and reptiles that are an abomination, and who drank blood."

Then Nasargiel said to Moses: "Come and see how the sinners are burnt in hell," and Moses answered, "I cannot go there," but Nasargiel replied, "Let the light of the Shekinah precede thee, and the fire of hell will have no power over thee." Moses yielded, and he saw how the sinners were burnt, one half of their bodies being immersed in fire and the other half in snow, while worms bred in their own flesh crawled over them, and the Angels of Destruction beat them incessantly. Nasargiel explained: "These are the sinners who committed incest, murder, and idolatry, who cursed their parents and their teachers, and who, like Nimrod and others, called themselves gods." In this place, which is called Abaddon, he saw the sinners taking snow by stealth and putting it in their armpits, to relieve the pain inflicted by the scorching fire, and he was convinced that the saying was true, "The wicked mend not their ways even at the gate of hell."

As Moses departed from hell, he prayed to God, "May it be Thy will, O Lord my God and God of my fathers, to save me and the people of Israel from the places I have seen in hell." But God answered him, and said, "Moses, before Me there is no respecting of persons and no taking of gifts. Whoever doeth good deeds entereth Paradise, and he that doeth evil must go to hell."

h. From the infliction of the first of the plagues until the passing of the last, after which the Egyptians yielded all that Moses and Aaron demanded, there elapsed a whole year, for twelve months is the term set by God for the expiation of sins. The deluge lasted one year; Job suffered one year; sinners must endure hell tortures for one year, and the judgment upon Gog at the end of time will be executed for the length of one year.

i. Pharaoh never died, and never will die. He always stands at the portal of hell, and when the kings of the nations enter, he makes the power of God known to them at once, in these words: "O ye fools! Why have ye not learnt knowledge from me? I am denied the Lord God, and He brought ten plagues upon me, sent me to the bottom of the sea, kept me there for fifty days, released me then, and brought me up. Thus I could not but believe in Him."

j. Moses: "Wilt thou, perchance, go into Hell when I am dead?" The soul: "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." When Moses heard these words, he permitted his soul to leave him, saying to her: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee."

k. In hell Micah is the first in the sixth division, which is under the guidance of the angel Hadriel, and he is the only one in the division who is spared hell tortures.

l. God will turn to David with the words: "Take the cup and say the blessing, thou the sweetest singer in Israel and Israel's king. And David will reply: 'Yes, I will pronounce the blessing, for I am worthy of the honor.'" Then God will take the Torah and read various passages from it, and David will recite a psalm in which both the pious in Paradise and the wicked in hell will join with a loud Amen. Thereupon God will send his angels to lead the wicked from hell to Paradise.


2. Sheol

a. Corresponding to the seven heavens, God created seven earths, each separated from the next by five layers. Over the lowest earth, the seventh, called Erez, lie in succession the abyss, the Tohu, the Bohu, a sea, and waters. Then the sixth earth is reached, the Adamah, the scene of the magnificence of God. In the same way the Adamah is separated from the fifth earth, the Arka, which contains Gehenna, and Sha'are Mawet, and Sha'are Zalmawet, and Beer Shahat, and Tit ha-Yawen, and Abaddon, and Sheol, and there the souls of the wicked are guarded by the Angels of Destruction.

b. "What, ye give thanks unto me! Rather return thanks to your host, He who alone provides food and drink for all creatures." Then the people would ask, "Where is He?" and Abraham would answer them, and say: "He is the Ruler of heaven and earth. He woundeth and He healeth, He formeth the embryo in the womb of the mother and bringeth it forth into the world, He causeth the plants and the trees to grow, He killeth and He maketh alive, He bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up."

c. These words as well as the others, made know by God on Mount Sinai, were not heard by Israel alone, but by the inhabitants of all the earth. The Divine voice divided itself into the seventy tongues of men, so that all might understand it; but whereas Israel could listen to the voice without suffering harm, the souls of the heathens almost fled from them when they heard it. [214] When the Divine voice sounded, all the dead in Sheol were revived, and betook themselves to Sinai; for the revelation took place in the presence of the living as well as of the dead, yea, even the souls of those who were not yet born were present. Every prophet, every sage, received at Sinai his share of the revelation, which in the course of history was announced by them to mankind. All heard indeed the same words, but the same voice, corresponding to the individuality of each, was God's way of speaking with them. And as the same voice sounded differently to each one, so did the Divine vision appear differently to each, wherefore God warned them not to ascribe the various forms to various beings, saying: "Do not believe that because you have seen Me in various forms, there are various gods, I am the same that appeared to you at the Red Sea as a God of war, and at Sinai as a teacher."

214. In all these sources [cited] "the seven voices" (i.e., sounds or tones) which were heard on Sinai are referred to...The seven sounds of the trumpet at the resurrection...are modelled after the seven sounds on Sinai.

d. The sixth commandment said: "O My people Israel, be no slayers of men, do not associate with murderers, and shun their companionship, that your children may not learn the craft of murder." As a penalty for deeds of murder, God will send a devastating war over mankind. There are two divisions in Sheol, an inner and an outer. In the latter are all those who were slain before their time. There they stay until the course of the time predestined them is run; and every time a murder has been committed, God says: "Who has slain this person and has forced Me to keep him in the outer Sheol, so that I must appear unmerciful to have removed him from earth before his time?" On the Judgement Day the slain will appear before God, and will implore Him: "O Lord of the world! Thou hast formed me, Thou hast developed me, Thou hast been gracious unto me while I was in the womb, so that I left it unharmed. Thou in Thy great mercy hast provided for me. O Lord of all worlds! Grant me satisfaction from this villain that knew no pity for me." Then God's wrath will be kindled against the murderer, into Gehenna will he throw him and damn him for all eternity, while the slain will see satisfaction given him, and be glad.

e. The mouth of hell approached the spot upon which Dathan, Abiram, and their families stood, and the ground under their feet grew so precipitous that they were not able to stand upright, but rolled to the opening and went quickly into the pit. Not these wicked people alone were swallowed by the earth, but their possessions also. Even their linen that was the launderer's or a pin belonging to them rolled toward the mouth of the earth and vanished therein. Nowhere upon earth remained a trace of them or of their possessions, and even their names disappeared from the documents upon which they were written. They did not, however, meet an immediate death, but sank gradually into the earth, the opening of which adjusted itself to the girth of each individual. The lower extremities disappeared first, then the opening widened, and the abdomen followed, until in this way the entire body was swallowed. While they were sinking thus slowly and painfully, they continued to cry: "Moses is truth and his Torah is truth. We acknowledge that Moses is rightful king and true prophet, that Aaron is legitimate high priest, and that the Torah has been given by God. Now deliver us, O our teacher Moses!" These words were audible throughout the entire camp, so that all might be convinced of the wickedness of Korah's undertaking.

Without regard to these followers of Korah, who were swallowed up by the earth, the two hundred and fifty men who had offered incense with Aaron found their death in the heavenly fire that came down upon their offering and consumed them. But he who met with the most terrible form of death was Korah. Consumed at the incense offering, he then rolled in the shape of a ball of fire to the opening in the earth, and vanished. There was a reason for this double punishment of Korah. Had he received punishment by burning alone, then those who had been swallowed by the earth, and who had failed to see Korah smitten by the same punishment, would have complained about God's injustice, saying: "It was Korah who plunged us into destruction, yet he himself escaped it." Had he, on the other hand, been swallowed by the earth without meeting death by fire, then those whom the fire had consumed would have complained about God injustice that permitted the author of their destruction to go unpunished. Now, however, both those who perished by fire and those who were swallowed up by the earth witnessed their leader share their punishment.

This terrible death did not, however, suffice to atone for the sins of Korah and his company, for their punishment continues in hell. They are tortured in hell, and at the end of thirty days, hell again casts them up near to the surface of the earth, on the spot where they had been swallowed. Whosoever on that day puts his ear to the ground upon that spot hears the cry. "Moses is truth, and his Torah is truth, but we are liars." Not until after the Resurrection will their punishment cease, for even in spite of their grave sin they were not given over to eternal damnation.

For a time Korah and his company believed that they should never know relief from these tortures of hell, but Hannah's words encouraged them not to despair. In reference to them she announced the prophecy, "The Lord bringeth low, to Sheol, and lifteth up." At first they had no real faith in this prophecy, but when God destroyed the Temple, and sank its portals deep into the earth until they reached hell, Korah and his company clung to the portals, saying: "If these portals return again upward, then through them shall we also return upward." God hereupon appointed them as keepers of these portals over which they will have to stand guard until they return to the upper world.

586. [Some sources state] 1: the view is also given that they were punished with eternal damnation; 2: Moses prayed for them that they should be saved from the torments of hell, with reference to Deut 33.6, the Reubenites being identified with the congregation of Korah, whose leaders belonged to the tribe of Reuben; 3: that they do not suffer torments of hell, but will not come to life at the time of the resurrection; 4: at the day of final judgment, Metatron, the holy Hayyot, as well as Korah and his congregation, will bear witness that there is only one God in heaven, on earth, and in hell.


3. Gehenna

a. While he was preparing these sacrifices, a vision of great import was granted to Abraham. The sun sank, and a deep sleep fell upon him, and he beheld a smoking furnace, Gehenna, the furnace that God prepares for the sinner; and he beheld a flaming torch, the revelation on Sinai, where all the people saw flaming torches; and he beheld the sacrifices to be brought by Israel; and an horror of great darkness fell upon him, the dominion of the four kingdoms. And God spake to him: "Abraham, as long as thy children fulfil the two duties of studying the Torah and performing the service in the Temple, the two visitations, Gehenna and alien rule, will be spared them. But if they neglect the two duties, they will have to suffer the two chastisements; only thou mayest choose whether they shall be punished by means of Gehenna or by means of the dominion of the stranger."

b. God caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind, the wind He always makes use of when He chastises the nations. The same east wind had brought the deluge; it had laid the tower of Babel in ruins; it was to cause the destruction of Samaria, Jerusalem, and Tyre; and it will, in future, be the instrument for castigating Rome drunken with pleasure; and likewise the sinners in Gehenna are punished by means of the east wind.

c. The four phenomena that God sent before His appearance wind, (29) earthquake, fire, and a still small voice were to instruct Elijah about the destiny of man. God told Elijah that these four represent the worlds through which man must pass: the first stands for this world, fleeting as the wind; the earthquake is the day of death, which makes the human body to tremble and quake; fire is the tribunal in Gehenna, and the still small voice is the Last Judgment, when there will be none but God alone.

d. In heaven he [Elijah] goes on living for all time. (34) There he sits recording the deeds of men and the chronicles of the world. He has another office besides. He is the Psychopomp, whose duty is to stand at the cross-ways in Paradise and guide the pious to their appointed places; (37) who brings the souls of sinners up from Gehenna at the approach of the Sabbath, and leads them back again to their merited punishment when the day of rest is about to depart; and who conducts these same souls, after they have atoned for their sins, to the place of everlasting bliss. (38)

34. See the full discussion on Elijah's immortality in note 32.

32. [Some sources] seem to oppose the popular view of Elijah's translation to heaven. Josephus, Antiqui., 9, 2.2, explicitly states: Elijah disappeared from among men...It is written in the Sacred Books that they (i.e. Elijah and Enoch) disappeared, but so that nobody knew that they died. R. Jose, living a generation after Josephus, definitely states that neither Moses (at the time of the revelation on Sinai_ nor Elijah ascended to heaven, and according to the Talmud, it is the opinion of this Tanna that the temporary abode of Moses and the permanent one of Elijah are to be looked for in the close vicinity of heaven but not in heaven itself. In 'Erubin 45a it is unqualifiedly assumed that Elijah "dwells on high," which refers to heaven, or the vicinity thereof. Paradise is often spoken of as the abode (permanent?) of Elijah, but in view of the confused notions of the location of paradise prevailing in the midrashic and talmudic writings, this does not give us any clue as to whether these passages assume Elijah's translation to heaven or not. That Elijah never "tasted death" but continued "to live for ever," is the almost unanimous opinion of the talmudic-midrashic literature and (disregarding a few rationalists) also of the medieval Jews...[Friedmann's] statement that some of the old sources refer to the translation of Elijah's soul, but not to his body, is a rationalistic conception entirely alien to the old sources, and there can be no doubt that Elijah was considered to have been translated, body and soul, to a place beyond the earth, that is, to heaven or paradise, or in the vicinity of heaven. Zohar II, 197aq, asserts that Elijah received a celestial body which enabled him to ascend to heaven; but when he descends to earth to reveal himself, he resumes his terrestrial body.

37. [One source] reads: Elijah sits at the crossways; one road is that of justice, the other of love. On the arrival of a righteous person, Elijah calls out: "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation that keepeth faithfulness may enter in."

38. [One source says] that Elijah is seated under the tree of life and records the good deeds of those who observe the Sabbath.

e. When leviathan observed the sign of the covenant on Jonah's body, he fled affrighted, and Jonah and the fish were saved. To show his gratitude, the fish carried Jonah whithersoever there was a sight to be seen. He showed him the river from which the ocean flows, showed him the spot at which the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, showed him Gehenna and Sheol, and many other mysterious and wonderful place.


4. Tartarus

a. Beelzeboul reappeared on the scene, and in his conversation with Solomon declared that he alone survived of the angels who had come down from heaven. He reigned over all who are in Tartarus, and had a child in the Red Sea, which on occasion comes up to Beelzeboul and reveals to him what he has done.

Please see:
Azazel/Bottomless Pit
Lake of Fire

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim,
Appendix 19. On Eternal Punishment, According to the Rabbis and the New Testament


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