Psalm 88:3 – For my soul is full of troubles. My life draws near to Sheol.
Psalm 88:4 – I am counted among those who go down into the pit. I am like a man who has no help — World English
The psalmist, probably David, was expressing sorrow that, as it appeared to him, his troubles was going to kill him. Nevertheles, the psalmist does not seem to think of his drawing near to Sheol as though he were drawing near to paradise, for in verse four he likens it to going down into the pit. He does not give support to the tradition that would have paradise as a compartment in Sheol. If the writer is David, who was counted of those of faith (Hebrews 11:32); most would certainly not think that he had gone into eternal torture in sheol. Nevertheless, expressions of the psalmist do fit the Biblical truth that sheol is the oblivious realm of death. — Ecclesiastes 9:5,10.
Indeed, this Psalm, like some other scriptures, parallels sheol with the pit (Hebrew, bowr, Strong’s #953) and the grave (Hebrew, Qeber, Strong’s #6913 — it is from this parallelism that many refer to sheol as “gravedom”, as referring to the common grave, not to a single grave), and describes the dead in sheol as as going down into Sheol as those who lie in the grave, whom Yahweh remembers [as in blessing, his lovingkindness — Psalm 88:11] no more and who are cut off from his hand [of blessing]. (Psalm 88:5) It is described as being in the “darkest depths.” Verse 10 confirms the condition of those in sheol, where the psalmist asks Yahweh: “Do you show wonders to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Is your lovingkindness declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders made known in the dark? Or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10-12) Notice the terms used in verse 12, “in the dark” and “the land of forgetfulness”. This confirms Ecclesiastes 9:5,10, which shows that those in sheol are not conscious. It also confirms Psalm 6:5, where David speaks of those in sheol as being unable to give thanks (praise) to Yahweh. The fact that the when the righteous go to sheol, they cannot praise Yahweh, definitely shows that paradise was not an “alleged” compartment of sheol, as some of the Hellenized Jewish leaders claimed, and as many professed Christians have claimed.
In Psalm 88:6, the psalmist states: “You have laid me in the lowest pit, In the darkest depths.” This relates back to verse 4, in which the psalmist stated, “I am counted among those who go down into the pit. I am like a man who has no help.” This indicates that the psalmist was referring to “the lowest pit” and the “darkest depts” as meaning that the psalmist felt that he had reach a point wherein he had no hope; evidently, it appeared that there was no way that he would escape death. The psalmist was not literally in a pit, nor was he literally in sheol, thus his words are figurative of what he was feeling, or it is possible that he was expressing what his enemies counted him to be.
While the psalmist is speaking pictorially, he does speak in harmony the rest of the Bible concerning the condition of those in sheol; those in sheol are not conscious, and thus they cannot feel hope, nor can they offer praise to Yahweh while in sheol. And, yet, Jesus died and went to sheol so that all who are in sheol may be released in the day of judgment, that they may be tried individually by their own works, according to the truths that are revealed to them in that “last day”. – Psalm 6:6,10; Isaiah 2:2-4; John 5:28,29; 12:47,48; Acts 2:27-32; Romans 5:12-19; Revelation 20:11-13.