Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent 2019, day twenty-two

Having surveyed death, judgement, and heaven, the last of the four great Advent themes is HELL. The biblical authors employ various words to convey hell, the one most commonly used in relation to humans and animals being Sheol, the Pit or grave. This is a morally neutral hell, a resting place — though, like heaven, not the final resting place — of all who have lived.

For on all this I set my heart to sort out all this—that the righteous and the wise and their acts are in God’s hand. Neither hatred nor love does man know. All before them is mere breath. As all have a single fate, the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, and the clean and the unclean, and he who offers sacrifice and he who does not sacrifice, the good and the offender, he who vows and he who fears the vow. This is the evil in all that is done under the sun, for all have a single fate, and also the hearts of the sons of man is full of evil, and mad revelry in their heart while they live, and afterward—off to the dead. For he who is joined to the living knows one sure thing: that a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, and the dead know nothing, and they no longer have recompense, for their memory is forgotten. Their love and their hatred as well, their jealousy, too, are already lost, and they no longer have any share forever in all that is done under the sun. Go, eat your bread with rejoicing and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already been pleased by your deeds. At every season let your garments be white, and let oil on your head not be lacking. Enjoy life with a woman whom you love all your days of mere breath that have been given you under the sun, all your days of mere breath, for that is your share in life and in your toil that you toil under the sun. All that your hand manages to do with your strength, do, for there is no doing nor reckoning nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

(Qohelet 9:1-10)

(Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, The Writings, pp. 699, 700)

In light of hell, for God’s sake, enjoy life. In eating bread with rejoicing and drinking wine with gladness of heart, you prove God’s pleasure; the pleasure proclaimed over his Son, who was without sin, yet descended into hell — even there, in God’s hand.

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