18 “Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me 19 and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. 20 Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer 21 before I go—and I shall not return— to the land of darkness and deep shadow, 22 the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.”
[Job 10:21-22 ESV]

10 But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? 11 As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, 12 so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.
[Job 14:10-12 ESV]

13 If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, 14 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ 15 where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? 16 Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?”
[Job 17:13-16 ESV]


19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
[Luke 16:19-31 ESV]

Job described Sheol as a place of darkness and deep shadow, where man is in a state of sleep, hopeless, with worms, in the dust.

In contrast, Jesus described Sheol as a place where there is both torment for the wicked and comfort for the righteous, with at least two compartments with a great chasm in between, where the dead are very awake and conscious, not asleep.


Is there a contradiction between Job's and Jesus' understanding of Sheol? Did Job and Jesus have different views on death and the afterlife?

Related BHSE questions

Related CSE questions

  • 2
    I cancelled the downvote with an up-vote and I flagged the three comments for Moderator attention. My own view is that Sheol is a broad concept covering both the grave (worms) and also disembodiment. The rich man and Lazarus needs careful handling as metaphors are used to convey states that we are unable to imagine. When Jesus says 'their worm dieth not', I believe he alludes to the indesrtuctibility of worms as a metaphor for the soul. (Every schoolboy knows that you can chop a worm in two and both parts survive). I don't think he is talking about worms in the carcass (myself).
    – Nigel J
    Feb 7, 2022 at 18:18
  • 1
    We are here again??? It is only a problem for those wanting to base an important doctrine upon a clearly metaphoric parable rather than the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture. Jesus often used metaphor and non-literal speech as previously documented. This can be shown if we suppose what people would believe if this one parable had not been recorded - it it to override all the other references in the Bible?
    – Dottard
    Feb 7, 2022 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


In both cases we have a notion that the one who goes to Sheol is conscious, that is to say, "going to Sheol" is not a metaphoric expression of annihilation of a human person and his consciousness (like in expression, "joined the majority", which also atheists can use in a metaphoric sense, without implying post-mortem existence of a dead person with the rest of the deceased humanity), but a real passing of someone to somewhere, and this somewhere looms as a gloomy place in Job, but as an ambivalent place in the Lord's parable on Lazarus and the rich man.

Now, Job is less exact than the Lord, of course, so the former's visions can be corrected by the Lord's teachings. Now, according to the Lord's teaching there is a gradation of conditions in Sheol - Lazarus is with Abraham, reposing in the latter's bosom, while the rich man whose only merit was his riches and that's why we know not his name, is tormented in another place, albeit he can still see from there Lazarus and Abraham.

But does not Abraham himself need something more than that what he is now? Even if he provides some repose to Lazarus, is he himself reposed? Not of course! Because before the Lord defeated death through dying on cross and resurrecting, also Abraham is in a way tormented by his expectation of this glorious, unprecedented metaphysical and also historical event, for Abraham indeed can be fully gladdened only when he will really experience what he saw in a prophetic vision, which is the resurrection of the Lord (John 8:56). Thus, Lazarus' repose in Sheol is only a relative repose, for even the one who provides him a repose, Abraham himself, is not reposed yet. Only the Lord Jesus Christ smashed and shattered the locks of Sheol and death and fully vanquished it, taking from there all the righteous men of the past, all prophets and all the godly people.

  • I believe 'Abraham' is a metaphor for 'Father'. The rich man knew not God as Father. (Lazarus did.) So in hades the rich man is conscious of memories, of thoughts, of regrets, of cravings. In his disembodied state he thinks of Lazarus in Abraham's bosom - the only religious fatherhood he can imagine. But to be 'in the bosom of the Father' means so much more than what he was able to envisage. Up-voted +1 : very balanced.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 7, 2022 at 18:31
  • 1
    @NigelJ Thanks, for reading and giving your feedback. The parable indeed has few layers, and of course the "bosom of Abraham" can go beyond a literal interpretation and Abraham can stand for God Himself, like the Melchisedech is both historical figure and also expresses the Lord Himself, as Paul says in Hebrews. The metaphorical exegesis does not exclude a more literal exegesis (in any case even in case of literal Abraham, his bosom on which Lazarus reposes hardly can be taken literally) but they can complement each other - a famous dichotomy between Alexandrian and Antiochian schools. Feb 7, 2022 at 19:16

This parable either relies on popular (non-biblical) stories of the time and shouldn't be taken as Jewish or Christian doctrine, or it tells of a time following the rich man's resurrection, when he is no longer unconscious in the grave (sheol).

Here's my answer to this similar question: parables - Does Luke 16:19-23 illustrate an immediate transition into either fellowship & joy (Abraham 's bosom) or eternal torment (Hades) after death?

I've heard two explanations for this parable:

  • At that time in Israel's history, popular beliefs included many corruptions from surrounding pagan religions, such as the afterlife as taught by Greek mythology. Jesus wasn't presenting literal Biblical truth, but simply using images and references that the Pharisees were familiar with.

  • The angels did carry Lazarus to where Abraham was, but notice that there is no mention of Heaven in this parable. Lazarus has died, been buried for centuries, and is finally resurrected and taken to Paradise, the Kingdom of God, here on Earth. This would either be in the first general resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium, when the few people that have been saved are resurrected as spiritual beings, or more likely, be in the second general resurrection at the end of the Millennium, when those that haven't had their opportunity for salvation are physically resurrected. The rich man on the other hand is possibly in the third general resurrection, when those that knowingly rejected God's way of life are briefly physically resurrected before being completely and permanently destroyed. (Note that "in hell" literally means "in the grave".)

In either case, remember that this is a parable, not a literal event. Jesus isn't teaching doctrine; he is presenting images and ideas to illustrate his point and to make people think. This parable is sufficiently ambiguous that its message can be understood the same way regardless of the beliefs of the listeners.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.