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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Gehenna

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Nature and Situation.

The place where children were sacrificed to the god Moloch was originally in the "valley of the son of Hinnom," to the south of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8 , passim 2 Kings 23:10 Jeremiah 2:23 7:31-32 19: For this reason the valley was deemed to be accursed, and "Gehenna" therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for "hell." Hell, like paradise, was created by God (Soṭ ah 22a) according to Gen. R. 9:9 , the words "very good" in Genesis 1:31 refer to hell hence the latter must have been created on the sixth day. Yet opinions on this point vary. According to some sources, it was created on the second day according to others, even before the world, only its fire being created on the second day (Gen. R. iv., end Pes. 54a). The "fiery furnace" that Abraham saw ( Genesis 15:17 , Hebr.) was Gehenna (Mek. 20:18b, 71b comp. Enoch, 98:3, 103:8 Matthew 13:42,50 ' Er. 19a, where the "fiery furnace" is also identified with the gate of Gehenna). Opinions also vary as to the situation, extent, and nature of hell. The statement that Gehenna is situated in the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, in the "accursed valley" (Enoch, 27:1 et seq. ), means simply that it has a gate there. It was in Zion, and had a gate in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9 ). It had three gates, one in the wilderness, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem (' Er. 19a). The gate lies between two palm-trees in the valley of Hinnom, from which smoke is continually rising (ib. ). The mouth is narrow, impeding the smoke, but below Gehenna extends indefinitely (Men. 99b). According to one opinion, it is above the firmament, and according to another, behind the dark mountains (Ta' an. 32b). An Arabian pointed out to a scholar the spot in the wilderness where the earth swallowed the sons of Korah (Numbers 16:31-32 ), who descended into Gehenna (Sanh. 110b). It is situated deep down in the earth, and is immeasurably large. "The earth is one-sixtieth of the garden, the garden one-sixtieth of Eden [paradise], Eden one-sixtieth of Gehenna hence the whole world is like a lid for Gehenna. Some say that Gehenna can not be measured" (Pes. 94a). It is divided into seven compartments (Soṭ ah 10b) a similar view was held by the Babylonians (Jeremias, "Hö lle und Paradies bei den Babyloniern," pp. 16 et seq. , Leipsic, 1901 Guthe, "Kurzes Bibel-wö rterb." p. 272, Tü bingen and Leipsic, 1903).

Because of the extent of Gehenna the sun, on setting in the evening, passes by it, and receives from it its own fire (evening glow B. B. 84a). A fiery stream ("dinur") falls upon the head of the sinner in Gehenna (Ḥ ag. 13b). This is "the fire of the West, which every setting sun receives. I came to a fiery river, whose fire flows like water, and which empties into a large sea in the West" (Enoch, 17:4-6). Hell here is described exactly as in the Talmud. The Persians believed that glowing molten metal flowed under the feet of sinners (Schwally, "Das Leben nach dem Tode," p. 145, Giessen, 1892). The waters of the warm springs of Tiberias are heated while flowing past Gehenna (Shab. 39a). The fire of Gehenna never goes out (Tosef., Ber. 6,7 Mark 9:43 et seq. Matthew 18:8 , 25:41 comp. Schwally, l.c. p. 176) there is always plenty of wood there (Men. 100a). This fire is sixty times as hot as any earthly fire (Ber. 57b). There is a smell of sulfur in Gehenna (Enoch, 67:6). This agrees with the Greek idea of hell (Lucian, Α λ η θ ε ῖ ς Ι σ τ ο ρ ί α ι , 1:29, in Dietrich, "Abraxas," p. 36). The sulfurous smell of the Tiberian medicinal springs was ascribed to their connection with Gehenna. In Isaiah 66:16,24 it is said that God judges by means of fire. Gehenna is dark in spite of the immense masses of fire it is like night (Yeb. 109b comp. Job 10:22 ). The same idea also occurs in Enoch, 10:4, 82:2 Matthew 8:12 , 22:13 , 25:30 (comp. Schwally, l.c. p. 176).

It is assumed that there is an angel-prince in charge of Gehenna. He says to God: "Put everything into my sea nourish me with the seed of Seth I am hungry." But God refuses his request, telling him to take the heathen peoples (Shab. 104). God says to the angel-prince: "I punish the slanderers from above, and I also punish them from below with glowing coals" (' Ar. 15b). The souls of the sons of Korah were burned, and the angel-prince gnashed his teeth at them on account of their flattery of Korah (Sanh. 52a). Gehenna cries: "Give me the heretics and the sinful [Roman] power" (' Ab. Zarah 17a).

Sin and Merit.
It is frequently said that certain sins will lead man into Gehenna. The name "Gehenna" itself is explained to mean that unchastity will lead to Gehenna ( ' Er. 19a) so also will adultery, idolatry, pride, mockery, hypocrisy, anger, etc. (Soṭ ah 4b, 41b Ta' an. 5a B. B. 10b, 78b ' Ab. Zarah 18b Ned. 22a). Hell awaits one who indulges in unseemly speech (Shab. 33a Enoch, xxvii.) who always follows the advice of his wife (B. M. 59a) who instructs an unworthy pupil (Ḥ ul. 133b) who turns away from the Torah (B. B. 79a comp. Yoma 72b). For further details see ' Er. 18b, 101a Sanh. 109b Ḳ id. 81a Ned. 39b B. M. 19a.

On the other hand, there are merits that preserve man from going to hell e.g. , philanthropy, fasting, visiting the sick, reading the Shema' and Hallel, and eating the three meals on the Sabbath (Giṭ . 7a B. B. 10a B. M. 85a Ned. 40a Ber. 15b Pes. 118a Shab. 118a). Israelites in general are less endangered (Ber. 10a) than heretics, or, according to B. B. 10a, than the heathen. Scholars (Ḥ ag. 27a comp. Men. 99b and Yoma 87a), the poor, and the pious (Yeb. 102b) are especially protected. Three classes of men do not see the face of hell: those that live in penury, those suffering with intestinal catarrh, and those that are pressed by their creditors (' Er. 41b). It would seem that the expressions "doomed to hell" and "to be saved from hell" must be interpreted hyperbolically. A bad woman is compared to Gehenna in Yeb. 63b. On the names of Gehenna see ' Er. 19a B. B. 79a Sanh. 111b et al.

Bibliography : Winer, B. R. 1:491 Hamburger, R. B. T. 1:527-530 Hastings, Dict. Bible , 2:343-346 H. Guthe, Kurzes Bibelwö rterb . pp. 271-274, Tü bingen and Leipsic, 1903 G. Brecher, Das Transcendentale , etc. pp. 69-73, Vienna, 1850 A. Hilgenfeld, Jü dische Apocalyptik , Index, Jena, 1857 F. Weber, Jü dische Theologie , pp. 336 et seq. E. Stave, Der Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judenthum , pp. 153-192 et seq. , Haarlem, 1898 James, Traditional Aspects of Hell , London, 1903.K. L. B.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Gehenna'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/g/gehenna.html. 1901.

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