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Amos 9:2 – They Dig Into Sheol

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Amos 9:2 – Though they dig into Sheol, there my hand will take them; and though they climb up to heaven, there I will bring them down. — World English Bible version

Many try to get his verse to harmonize with the Grecian philosophy by imagining that this speaks of the lowest realm of the Grecian concept of hades, in Greek mythology called tartarus. John Wesley states: “Hell – The center of the earth, or the depth of hell.” The NET renders sheol as “the netherworld,” as though Yahweh is speaking as though man could dig into the alleged world of the dead where the dead are not actually dead are claimed to be alive and conscious. In reality, this scripture is totally agreement with the description of sheol/hades as found in Ecclesiastes 9:10. There is no hint here of anyone being conscious in the Biblical concept of sheol/hades, nor is there is any reason to think that Yahweh is here speaking of digging into a spirit realm of ded souls in the “world of the dead” which are not really dead, but are living, conscious, etc. All such ideas have to imagined using the great spirit of human imagination, added to, and read into, what Yahweh said.

This verse is similar to Psalm 139:8. Sheol here certainly doesn’t depict a place where spirits or souls of the dead are alive, for no one has ever dug into such a place. The context shows that Yahweh is speaking of those who seek to avoid his wrath, and that there is no hiding from his wrath. Remembering that the basic meaning sheol is “hidden”, we can see that this verse is speaking pictorially of digging in Sheol to hide there from the wrath of Yahweh, in an attempt to escape death. Usually the body of a dead person is laid to rest in the earth, so sheol represents here hidden “in the earth.” With this the JFB Commentary agrees by saying concerning the phrase, “Though they dig into hell” (King James Version): “though they hide ever so deeply in the earth.”* The thought is that though any seek to hide themselves in the earth, Yahweh is still able to take them in death. Conversely, though they climb up on a mountaintop into the sky, they still cannot hide from his wrath.
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*Henry, Matthew. “Commentary on Amos 9”. “Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible”.
http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/MatthewHenryComplete/ mhc-com.cgi?book=am&chapter=009.
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