Sha’ul. She’ol. A person and a place. What’s the difference? Aside from the fact that one leads to the other—none, whatsoever.
In ancient Hebrew, they were the exact same word.
שְׁאוֹל is She’ol.
שָׁאוּל is Sha’ul.
The second word presented here, Sha’ul, has a hardly noticeable vowel point, and is nothing more or less than a straw-man argument. When Scripture was written, the distinguishing vowel points which we find today in Sha’ul were not accounted for. Therefore, whether speaking about the person or place, it was essentially just a play on words.
Consider the following interchange:
1 Then Dawiḏ spoke to יהוה the words of this song, on the day when יהוה had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Sha’ul שְׁאוֹל
2 And he said, “יהוה is my rock and my stronghold and my deliverer.
3 “My Elohim is my rock, I take refuge in Him, My shield and the horn of my deliverance, My high tower and my refuge. My Saviour, You save me from violence.
4 “I call on יהוה, the One to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.
5“For the waves of death surrounded me, Floods of Beliya‛al made me afraid,
6 “The cords of She’ol שְׁאוֹל were all around me; The snares of death were before me.
1 Shemu’el 22:1-6
In 1 Samuel 22:1-6, it is left to the modern translator to determine whether the text is speaking strictly of a person or a place; the person being either Israel’s first king or the thirteenth Apostle—the place being the underworld. In Germanic terms, hell. Again, a play on words.
Holy Scripture lays out for us a series of patterns. If we are left simply to Sha’ul’s teachings as something worthy of our devotion, then that pattern is broken. Knowing however what we do of שְׁאוֹל (She’ol/Sha’ul), then the pattern is quite easy to identify when the Prophet Yeshayah prophesied of such a man. Though Yahshua Messiah is our chief cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-23, Isaiah 8:14, 28:16, Daniel 2:44-45, Matthew 21:42-44, 1 Peter 2:4, 6-8), a coming people would repeat Israel’s error and make a covenant with death.
To this effect he wrote:
14 Therefore hear the Word of יהוה, you men of scorn, who rule this people who are in Yerushalayim,
15 because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sha’ul/She’ol we have effected a vision. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it does not come to us, for we have made lying our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
16 Therefore thus said the Master יהוה, “See, I am laying in Tsiyon a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a settled foundation. He who trusts shall not hasten away.
17 And I shall make right-ruling the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet. And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lying, and the waters overflow the hiding place.
18 And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your vision with Sha’ul/She’ol not stand. When an overflowing scourge passes through, then you shall be trampled down by it.
Israel wanted Sha’ul rather than Yahuah. He granted their wish and gave them She’ol. Christians wanted Sha’ul rather than Yahshua. He granted their wish and gave them She’ol.