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Page 588

In what sense can the term, "the place of the departed" refer to the grave, or to hell?


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.

-II Chronicles 28:3

And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards; he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.

-II Chronicles 33:6

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.

-Jeremiah 7:31-33


The word "hell" in our English Bible was "sheol" in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. The word "sheol" occurs more than sixty times in the Old Testament. It means "the place of the departed." As such it can refer to the body -the grave (for both the righteous and wicked), or to the soul -hell (for the wicked). Therefore, great carefulness is required in translation to select the word which correctly fits the meaning of the passage. The following examples illustrate this truth: "And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave (sheol)" (Genesis 44:29); "The wicked shall be turned into hell (sheol), and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17).

In the New Testament Greek, three words are used for "hell." The word "hades" replaces the Hebrew word "sheol," which can mean hell or grave. "Hades" is used ten times in Scripture. The word "tartarus" is used once; it refers to "imprisonment in torment." "For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (II Peter 2:4). The word "gehenna" is used twelve times in the New Testament. It refers to "everlasting burning," to the final state of the wicked. The word "gehenna" comes from "Ge-Hinnom," meaning the "Land of Hinnom." This land was a valley that was owned by the son of Hinnom in the Old Testament; it was located outside of the walls of Jerusalem. This area became the place where all the garbage from Jerusalem was burned. A perpetual fire, kindled by wood and brimstone, burned the rubbish there. The Jews also called the place "Tophet," meaning "place of spitting or abhorrence." Those worshipping "Moloch" made their children pass through the fire and burned incense in this valley (II Chronicles 28:3 and 33:6). Jeremiah prophesied that, due to God's terrible punishment upon the people's sin at this place, it would be named "the valley of slaughter" (Jeremiah 7:31-33). Due to its perpetual fire, wickedness, filthiness, abhorrence, judgment, slaughter, and location outside of Jerusalem, it served as a picture of the everlasting torment and shame of hell. "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it" (Isaiah 30:33). Jesus used the word "gehenna" ("Land of Hinnom") eleven times when referring


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