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The Curious Silence of The Old Testament Regarding 'Hell' Warrants The Question - What Kind Of Lawgiver Keeps The Worst Penalty A Secret?
What is more than telling is the fact that there is no OT record of God ever uttering a single word about hell being a place of punishment in the afterlife. For example,
Adam and Eve
God warned them that the penalty for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was death.
but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17 NASB)
Not a single word was breathed about them being forever suffering in the fires of Gehenna. Oh wait a minute. Could that possibly be because Gehenna didn't yet exist?
Even after Adam and Eve transgressed, God banished them from the garden (Genesis: 3:23). The man was cursed with having to work for food, the ground that was also cursed would hand him thorns and thistles (Genesis: 3:17-19). The woman was cursed with great pain in childbirth (Genesis: 3:16).
(Note also that not a word was said about the supposed consequence of Adam's descendants inheriting his sin, and consequently not being able to respond to God. See Original Sin.. Fact Or Fable?
Cain and Abel
Similarly after Cain killed Abel, the Lord told him...
Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. "When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth." (Genesis 4:11-12 NASB)
God said absolutely nothing about endless torment beyond this life, and certainly the concerns Cain expressed were confined to this life.
Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear! "Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." (Genesis 4:13-14 NASB)
Perhaps one of the best examples are the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28.
The Blessing and Curses
Deuteronomy chapter 28, verses 1-14 lists the blessings that would come to the nation of Israel if they obeyed the Lord's commandments. They would abound in prosperity - The Lord would give rain in its season to their land, bless their basket, their kneading bowls and the produce of their ground . He would also bless their offspring and the offspring of their beasts. They would be the head and not the tail. Their enemies would flee before them and they would lend to many nations, never borrow.
Then, from verse 15 on the rest of the chapter speaks about the curses that would come upon them if they did not keep His commandments. See What Arouses God's Wrath? These curses touched every facet of their lives. Everything that He promised to bless would be cursed, including their offspring, their health, their land, and their crops and herds. (Read the entire chapter).
They were warned that the heavens would not give them rain and they would be struck down with consumption, fever, the boils of Egypt, tumors etc. from which they would not be healed. They were told that they would be the tail and not the head - oppressed and robbed with none to save them. Their ox slaughtered before their eyes and their donkeys taken away.. and that a man would get engaged, but another would violate her. He would build a house, but another would live in it - plant a vineyard but not enjoy its fruit nor drink its wine. The stranger living among them would prosper as they themselves would not. They would suffer hunger, thirst, and the desolation of their country by their enemies. Finally, they would be scattered among the nations of the earth, but would find no rest, and never have assurance of safety.
Not only was every single penalty to be imposed on them here on earth, but this list of curses makes no mention of the worst one of all - eternal punishment in hell.
A Just Recompense
The entire history of Israel reflects that God was true to His word.
When the people were obedient they prospered and defeated their enemies. But numerous calamities befell them when they rebelled, including being taken captive by the Babylonians for seventy years. In fact, it doesn't matter which of the Old Testament books you read. Every transgression, be it by priest, king, or peasant was dealt with in the here and now. As the author of Hebrews said every transgression received "just recompense".
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, (Hebrews 2:2 NASB)
If they have already received "just" recompense then, quite obviously, a 'just' God will not give them any more punishment.
A Few Examples Of a "Just Recompense"
Aaron's Sons. Nadab and Abihu were Aaron's two youngest sons. Not only were they from 'good stock' as it were, but they seemed to have been in an especially privileged position with benefits and experiences that few in the history of mankind can ever imagine. Unfortunately, neither of these two men lived up to their position or potential. The two priests' brazenness (or sheer stupidity) cost them their lives - they came to a sudden and grisly death at the hands of the Father when fire from heaven consumed them. See Aaron's Sons
Eli's Sons. After Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas disgraced the priesthood without being restrained by their father, God prophesied that both of them would be killed in one day. This happened shortly thereafter in the battle with the Philistines That saw the Israelites completely routed, and the ark taken. See 1 Samuel 2:27 and 4:1-11.
King Saul. The first king's reign was marked by a continuous disobedience to God's instruction beginning with his failure to wipe out the Amalekites. When he instructed the medium of Endor to summon the prophet Samuel, Samuel told Saul that because of his disobedience he would die the next day.
"As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. "Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!" Then Saul immediately fell full length upon the ground and was very afraid because of the words of Samuel; also there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day and all night. (1 Samuel 28:18-20 NASB)
Ahab and Jezebel. When Ahab, king of Israel married Jezebel, he actually built an altar to Baal in Samaria, provoking God to more anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. (1 Kings 16:33). Jezebel killed numerous prophets except for those that Obadiah hid in a cave (1 Kings 18:13). For their assorted evil deeds Elijah told Ahab that the Lord would bring evil upon him, make his house like the house of Jeroboam, and the dogs would eat Jezebel by the rampart of Jezreel. (1 Kings 21:20-23)
Abimelech was one of the most cruel and most ambitious of the kings. To secure the kingdom he slaughtered 70 of his own brethren, except for Jotham the youngest, who escaped. Later on when the inhabitants of Thebez fled to a tower to escape him, Abimelech tried to burn the tower down. However, a woman threw a millstone down, breaking Abimelech's skull. We are told that it was thus that
Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. (Judges 9:56 NASB)
Belshazzar showed his utter contempt for the God of the Jews by drinking wine out of the sacred vessels of the Lord in honor of his idols of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone. While the party was in full swing, the fingers of a man's hand mysteriously appeared and wrote a few words on the wall. The words were interpreted by the prophet Daniel to mean the king had been weighed in the balance and found wanting and his kingdom would be divided between the Medes and Persians. As it turned out Belshazzar's kingdom was sacked that very night and Belshazzar himself was killed. (Daniel 5)
Haman was hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.
Noah and The Great Flood
The Bible tells us that when in Noah's day, God saw that "the wickedness of man was great on the earth" and his thoughts only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). So, with the exception of Noah and those that were with him aboard the ark, He blotted out every living thing on the planet (Genesis 7:23)
In all the above examples and the many more to be found in the Old Testament, death was virtually always the punishment of the transgressors- the silence deafening when it came to any punishment after that.
However, you may have noticed that two separate parties - king David and the nation of Israel as a whole were not eliminated as punishment for their transgressions for which there is a good reason. The Messiah was to be a 'son' or descendant of David born into the nation of Israel.
Both had to survive.
But make no mistake - they paid very dearly for their transgressions. The Northern kingdom of Israel was almost completely decimated by the Assyrians and the Southern kingdom carried away into a seventy year captivity by the Babylonians.
David, guilty of both adultery and murder, was specifically punished by the death of his firstborn. However, in the final analysis David suffered a tarnished reputation, a kingdom in shambles, a disgraced daughter, several disgraced concubines, and four dead sons.
Continue on To PART III - Gehenna
Gehenna (Ge-Hinnom), a valley outside Jerusalem was called "the valley of Benhinnom" in the Old Testament. Yet once again, a proper name was translated into... you guessed it - Hell! And, by the way, no one ever mentioned, much less warned the Gentiles about Gehenna. Never! Not Once! Thus if Gehenna really was a place of eternal torment, the Gentiles were hopelessly short changed. So why was Gehenna only spoken of to the Jews? Incidentally, the perpetually burning fires of Gehenna are also a myth. HERE