When witnessing to Jewish people, it is not uncommon for them to claim that the Scriptures (specifically the Old Testament) do not talk about hell. While we must remember that the Bible is a progressive revelation—that is, more and more details and information are revealed over time—the Old Testament makes it clear that hell exists.
Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place of the dead. It can mean several things based on context: a grave or pit or the abode of the dead below the earth. Sheol is translated “grave” 31 times and is translated as “hell” 31 times in the Old Testament. Following is a sampling of verses that mention hell or describe the afterlife.
- “For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” (Deut. 32:22)
- “The dead tremble, those under the waters and those inhabiting them. Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction has no covering.” (Job 26:5,6)
- “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psa. 9:17)
- “Your hand will find all Your enemies; Your right hand will find those who hate You. You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; the LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them.” (Psa. 21:8,9)
- “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” (Psa. 139:8)
- “The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below.” (Prov. 15:24)
- “Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Prov. 27:20)
- “The strong shall be as tinder, and the work of it as a spark; both will burn together, and no one shall quench them.” (Isa. 1:31)
- “Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself and opened its mouth beyond measure; their glory and their multitude and their pomp, and he who is jubilant, shall descend into it.” (Isa. 5:14)
- “Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; it stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” (Isa. 14:9)
- “You shall conceive chaff, you shall bring forth stubble; your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be like the burnings of lime; like thorns cut up they shall be burned in the fire.” (Isa. 33:11,12)
- “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. 12:2)
- “Though they dig into hell, from there My hand shall take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.” (Amos 9:2)
While the Sadducees of the New Testament did not believe in the afterlife, the Pharisees believed in both heaven and hell and the resurrection of the dead (see Isa. 26:19).
It would be wise to memorize at least one of these verses so you can share it in your next witness encounter with a Jewish person. By Tod Friel
Amos 9:2 “Though they dig into hell, From there My hand shall take them; Though they climb up to heaven, From there I will bring them down;