What is the “well” mentioned so often in the Bible?
This is not as easy as you might suspect. Many words, a bit of Hebrew and Greek. Attention to context.
I am using the King James Bible and the Concordance based on it by another “James”, James Strong. Different translations may have used different English words, but Hebrew is pretty straightforward.
Let’s start in the Old Testament and trace the meaning carefully, because there is a lot of false teaching built on a false understanding of “the Abyss.” There are three Hebrew words that are translated “hole.” I give you Strong’s article number for your own research:
953. Hole: Basically, a hole that is used as a cistern or prison. Cistern, dungeon, fountain, well, and well translated. Joseph, in Genesis, was thrown into a well. One of David’s mighty men killed a lion that was in a hole. David claims that God has delivered him from a horrible boredom, showing us that the word can also be taken figuratively.
Now there are times when the word is used to speak of death and the grave, and even possibly eternal punishment, as in Ezekiel 31. When the definite article is used with it, it can mean all of these latter things, and translators often put it in capital letters: “the well”.
7585. Sheol. The moat. Hell. The world of the dead. Including the inmates of the same. Translated by grave, hell, well. This is the word that is by far the most frequently used in Hebrew to convey the idea of something ongoing in the next world. Although it is not often translated as pit, it is translated as hell quite often. Much more than a hole in the ground, although that hole, a grave, is surely the entry point of the Well. When the righteous spirits go somewhere “up”, the lost also take a direction by leaving the body. Down. In a well. And, of course, their spirits disappeared long ago when they’re buried in the ground, so we don’t have to give a graveyard a creepy meaning. Necessarily. The destiny of his soul is a completely different world, where evil reigns and is punished for that reign. Very alive, in a deadly way.
Those who dared to go against Moses quickly went to Sheol. Numbers 16. David claims that the wicked will go to Sheol. The son of David says that false women and their clients will be in Sheol. But it is not always so clear. Jonah claims that he called to God from the belly of Sheol. And we know where it was. Also Jesus, according to David: God promised that he would not leave the soul of Jesus in Sheol. Definitely the place of the dead, but it is still a place from which one can be recovered. But still also, a well. It shows us how much the prophet was being punished and how far Jesus was willing to go for us.
7845. Shakhath. Pit, (figuratively): destruction. Translated by Corruption, destruction, ditch, grave, well. The uses of this word seem to overlap with the previous two words and have no specific meaning in our research. We also use different words to express basically the same idea. In the case of this study, we could say hell fire, hell, the well, the lake of fire, hell, and mean exactly the same thing in all cases.
In the New Testament, “hole” is translated by the Greek frehar, which brings us back to the Hebrew “bore.” A well, a hole in the ground, a cistern, a well. Jesus spoke of a certain donkey falling into a certain hole.
The only other time it is used in the New Testament (as “well”) takes on a completely different meaning, and not only does it have a definite article attached to it, but it also includes the word “bottomless.”
A hole in the ground. A cistern. A well. Bottomless. Possible? Of course. Through gravitational attraction, objects are transported through the bowels of the Earth, falling forever, without peace, without destination. Perhaps being dragged aside onto ledges on the way to torment, perhaps a dip in the lake of fire occasionally, and then falling again?
It is not until the end of the Bible that this truth comes to light. The well spoken of by the Old Covenant prophets and historians turns out to be a place of unspeakable horror, where Satan rallies his troops and sends them to the planet from time to time. The antichrist himself waits there, according to John, being fed poison and power to strut around the Earth for his few years, before his public demise. Oh, it has already been a long fall for Satan, from the top of Heavenly Mountain to the atmosphere of the earth, to the earth, and then under the earth, to a well whose bottom cannot be reached.
Although “well” is not translated otherwise in the New Testament (except where the woman at the “well” calls that “well” Jacob’s “well”), we do know that sheol has become Hades in the language. Greek. It also means the place of the dead, with all that it entails. But here we focus on the word “well.”
We must see all these words as a family (well, grave, pit, hell, well, cistern, prison) and review each context carefully to see what is said. The basic meaning of all of them is simply a hole in the ground. It can be a harmless hole filled with water. It can be a simple grave, where bodies, but not souls, are temporarily stored. Or it may be the biggest “hole” John saw at the end of God’s revelation of truth to his church, encompassing the full scope of the prison created for those who have rejected God and his Son.
We are told that Jesus went and preached to a prison company as a Spirit, while His body lay in a hole in the ground, which would soon be taken out of the underworld forever. While in the vicinity, He certainly announced His triumph to the evil spirits. We are not told that he suffered there. For which it seems that his suffering for sin was fulfilled on the cross, not in the grave.
The Abyss, from the point of view of eternity, is the prison of Satan. It is the place of the dead. It is the place of entry into eternal suffering without God, for those who so much wanted to be separated from Him. It is a place to be avoided. This evasion can only come from the blood shed by the immaculate Son of the Living God.