“So they and everything they owned went down alive into Sheol, the earth closed over them and their existence in the community ceased.”-Numbers 16:33
In Numbers 16:33, we’re told that when the ground opened up and swallowed the rebels, they went down to SHEOL.
SHEOL is the Hebrew word for the place of the dead or the grave.
SHEOL was viewed as an area lying below the surface of the ground but to the ancient Hebrew mindset it was NOT contemplated in the same way modern superstition views hell or Hades.
The prevalent image of SHEOL in our day and age is that it is a place of fire where Satan and his subordinate demons go around torturing people for all eternity.
The Hebrew mindset did not harbor such a notion.
The truth is they had no idea what happened to the NESHAMA (נשמה) or soul after the body breathed its last breath on earth.
However, just because they weren’t clear on what happened to the body (other than normal decomposition) after death doesn’t mean they weren’t concerned about it.
The Torah tells us in many places that the Israelites were plenty concerned about what happened to somebody after death.
Here’s the thing.
The Hebrews believed that BOTH the righteous and the wicked ended up in SHEOL after death.
SHEOL was viewed as the final destination for everyone.
So the big question that was one everybody’s mind was what happened to them after they arrived in SHEOL.
One horrible image the Hebrews did harbor was that worms would eat up the bodies of the those who had been unrighteous in this life.
However, that was just speculation.
The ancient Hebrews really didn’t know what happened to them after death, and I’ve said this before but a lot of their belief system in this area was rooted in Egyptian thought.
In terms of the afterlife, they believed pretty much as the Egyptians believed.
How could they not have been influenced by the Egyptians seeing they spent a good 430 years there which is much longer than even the United States has been around as a nation?
Egyptian culture was inordinately focused on death.
They spent their entire lives preparing for that inevitable time when the Grim Reaper would come knocking.
That’s why so much effort was spent to preserve the physical body through embalming.
They believed the body had to be protected after it died.
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here.
A lot of people seem to take issue whenever I mention that ancient Israel’s afterlife beliefs were rooted in Egyptian thought.
I’m not saying they practiced the death cult or body preservation methods the way the Egyptians did.
But what I am saying is that like all the other races of people in the world, the Israelites were deeply concerned about what happened to them after death and what they could do to prepare for it.
Getting back to the men who were swallowed up by the ground, to the Hebrew mindset, these rebels suffered the worst possible fate that could be suffered by a human being at God’s hand.
That is their lives were ended prematurely.
To the ancient Hebrew, there was nothing more feared than having one’s normal lifespan cut short.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
Yeshua said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live,
even though they die.”