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Psalm 116:3,4 – Pains of Sheol

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Psalm 116:3,4 – The cords of death surrounded me, The pains of Sheol got a hold on me. I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, I beg you, deliver my soul.” — World English

This scripture is often said to mean that sheol is a place, not of oblivion as described in Ecclesiastes 9:10, but of conscious sorrow and pain. Such depends on a surface reading of the verse while additionally taking the words out of context. We should, however, use the spirit God has given us to examine closely what was being said.

If the pains, sorrow and trouble spoken of here happen in a conscious place of suffering after death, then the Psalmist must have went to this place and returned to tell about it. This, of course, is not what the Psalmist is saying.

The trouble and sorrow that the Psalmist experienced is while he was yet alive, right here on earth, not in sheol. David was expressing how the pains he was experiencing was bringing him to the gates of death, and the painful experience of dying which leads to sheol. He is not saying that he experienced pains in sheol, nor that he expected to experience pains in sheol when he died. Here the prophet is narrating his narrow escape from death at the hands of his enemies and his rejoicing that Yahweh has spared his life. Such anticipation of death does produce a pain with such anticipation, which is being described as the “pains of sheol.”

Futhermore, David, a man of faith (Hebrews 11:32,33), was NOT anticipating to be condemned to suffer eternal torture, thus what he expressed as the “pains of sheol” cannot be read to mean such. And if David expected to go to a section called of sheol called “paradise” would we expect that he would be speaking of there being pains there? There is actually nothing in his words that would contradict Solomon’s words of Ecclesiastes 9:5,10.


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