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Deuteronomy 32:22 – Fire Burns to the Lowest Sheol


For a fire is kindled in my anger, Burns to the lowest Sheol, Devours the earth with its increase, Sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. — Deuteronomy 32:22, World English

Some claim that this scripture proves that there is fire in sheol. It is also claimed that the by lowest sheol, this refers to the Jewish philosophy that sheol contains several compartments, and this refers to the lowest compartment of sheol. Such ideas read a lot into what is said, and actually overlooks what is said. The fire is not speaking of some kind of life of torture after death, but refers to destruction here on the earth: it devours the earth, and sets on fire the foundation of the mountains. The phrase “burns to the lowest sheol” denotes the degree of the wrath; it is symbolic of the “uttermost wrath” of God, all of his fierce wrath. (1 Thessalonians 2:16; Zephaniah 3:8) Here certainly is a mention of fire, but not of literal fire. The entire context shows that it is the fire of God’s jealousy, and the statement follows, “[They shall be] wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat Bitter destruction; The teeth of animals will I send on them, With the poison of crawling things of the dust. Outside shall the sword bereave, In the chambers terror; [It shall destroy] both young man and virgin, The suckling with the man of gray hairs. I said, I would scatter them afar, I would make the memory of them to cease from among men.” (Deuteronomy 32:24-26) We are not left to conjecture respecting how this prophecy was fulfilled; for the Apostle Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the holy Spirit, refers to this passage, and applies it to fleshly Israel, and to the trouble which came upon them as a nation, when they rejected the Lord Jesus, and in turn were themselves rejected of the Lord. The Apostle declares that wrath came upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:16): divine anger burned against them and did continue to burn against them until, as a people, they had suffered for their national sins. After divine wrath has burned out their national transgression, even searching them out to the very lowest oblivion (sheol) he will then speak peaceably toward them, saying to the Church, “Comfort you, comfort you my people, says your God. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1,2) Then also shall come the deliverance of Jacob predicted by the Apostle Paul, on the strength of the divine statement, “This is my covenant to them, When I will take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26,27) The same thought that this burning of divine wrath against Israel, to the very lowest oblivion, will be followed by divine blessing, is shown in the context. See Deuteronomy 32:26-43.

We certainly find nothing in the verse about anyone consciously suffering for eternity in sheol. There is no reason to read into this verse the extra-Biblical hellenistic philosophy as adopted by the Jews, and later by the apostate Christians.

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