The History of Hell


By: William Jackson

Did you know that “Hell” does not exist in the Tanakh (Old Testament)?  Yet, the world’s major religions all have a Hell. So begs the question, when did Hell come into existence and how was its very concept shaped? In this study, we will view those cultures that cohabitated with Israel in chronological order. You will see how many of these influential civilizations have helped to shape our current day depiction of Hell. Additionally, this study will end with the truth, how the Tanakh spells out what really happens at our deaths.


Egyptian hell

The idea of Hell surfaced in Egypt through the religious cult of Osiris, about 1700 BC.  This was at a time that Jews lived in Egypt, after Genesis1 and before the Jewish Exodus.

In this cult, if you are found guilty of not being righteous, you are thrown into a “devourer” and condemned to the lake of fire. Some will be purified and experience spiritual rebirth others will be simply destroyed.  Nevertheless, there is no eternal damnation2.



The history of Zoroastrianism, the religion of Persia, extends back approximately 3,500 years. The Jewish culture would have been exposed to it during Persia’s occupation between 538 and 400 BCE3.

If your bad deeds outweighed your good, you were sent to Zoroastrian Hell.  This is a place of fire with a terrible stench.  However, it was not eternal and at the end of the world God will purify all souls4.



Where the other nations possibly influenced the Jewish culture through their religion, Greece did it with her philosophy.  Here we have born the term Hellenistic Jew.   Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism in the ancient world that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture.  We find many Greek concepts in the New Testament. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote two very influence pieces about the afterlife prior to Greece’s occupation of Israel in 312 BCE.

There was Plato’s book “The Myth of Er” which is a story about a man named Er who dies in battle.  He goes on a journey in the afterlife. The tale includes the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death.

Also, we have Plato’s book Republic which is a factious dialog between him and Socrates on Justice.  From this book is born our modern day concept of Hell.  The Christian writers would introduce it to their bible about 4 centuries after Plato spelt it out.


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Rabbinical Judaism is largely influenced by the Talmud.  The Talmud was written by Rabbis as a way for Jews to have continuity after the Temple was destroyed. They use the term Gehinnom5 as a place of damnation for the wicked.  Talmud Berachot 57b states that Gehinnom is sixty times as hot as a regular fire, thus we see another fiery Hell.  For those Jewish sects that believe in this hellish conclusion, the time sinners spend in Gehenna is not forever.  They longest time spent here is about 12 months.



Christianity also agrees with those follow-on religions regarding a fiery Hell. Unlike the other religions, in Christian Hell the wicked will suffer an eternal fire (Matthew 18:8, 25:41, Jude 7:1). In addition, one does not just get sent to Hell for living a wicked life, but will be sent there for not believing in their messiah (Mark 16:16, John 3:18-19, 36).  This is called exclusivism.


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Also Islam, which is the Muslim religion, believes sinners will go to Jahannam, a fiery Hell.  This will happen on judgement day when the world will be destroyed. On this day, all will be a resurrection and judged.  An exemption to this are those that have died earlier and are considered enemies of Islam.  They go straight to Hell.  Again, like Christianity, exclusivism.


The Torah does not talk of Heaven or Hell; it simply says all souls will be going to Sheol. Sheol is a likened to a dark pit, where we live a shadowy existence (Job 26:5, Psalm 88:10-12, Isaiah 14:9-10).  However, through the Prophets and the writings, the Tanakh reveals God’s ability to ransom the righteous from this underworld (Hosea 13:14, Psalm 16:10, 30:3, 49:15). Also, Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37:12 and Daniel 12 talk about a future point in which all souls will be resurrected, “…some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame…” (Daniel 12:2)   So, what about Hell?  Well the last prophet to speak, Malachi, does say that God will set ablaze sinners during His judgement in Malachi 3:19.  Earlier, in Malachi, He talks about using fire to purify (Malachi 3:2).  Also, Zechariah 13 talks about God’s people being purified through fire in the end.  It may be possible that sin will be purged with fire, since this appears to be a very popular theme amongst the prophets (Isaiah 48:10, Zechariah 13:9, Ezekiel 22:18-22, Malachi 3:2, Psalm 66:10).  If there is a fiery Hell in the Tanakh, this is more than likely it.


  1. “Bible Timeline.” Bible Timeline. Accessed May 15, 2016.


  1. Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt, Rosalie David, p. 158–159, Penguin, 2002, ISBN 0-14-026252-0


  1. Albertz, Rainer (1994) [Vanderhoek & Ruprecht 1992]. A History of Israelite Religion, Volume I: From the Beginnings to the End of the Monarchy. Westminster John Knox Press, pages 437-8


  1. By Contributing Writer. “Beliefs of the Zoroastrians on Hell.” People. Accessed May 14, 2016.


  1. Brawer, Naftali, Rabbi. “Should I Believe in a Jewish Hell?” The Jewish Chronicle. August 25, 2011. Accessed May 14, 2016.


  1. “Islamic Beliefs about the Afterlife”. Religion Facts. Retrieved 23 December 2014.

58 Weeks Past the Cross – The End

Looking Through a New Lens58 Weeks Past the Cross – The End
By Terrie C

I’d imagine that it might surprise you to learn that I’m a “gamer”. I am. I picked it up about 20 years ago, and find it a nice way to relieve stress and exercise my gray matter. My newest endeavor has me building settlements in a post-apocalyptic Boston. It’s a win-win for me; a game and an engagement of my imagination. I’ve always been interested in things “end of day”. It began when I was young, and I would “disappear” into the woods for hours on my horse. I would always pretend the world had ended, and that my imaginary pal and I were it. I don’t believe there is a movie that presents an “EOD” (Ending of Days) story-line that I haven’t seen. It’s just an interest of mine, seeing how others imagine the day when everything will change.


I didn’t pay much attention to what this time will look like When I was a Christian sitting under the “pre-trib rapture” doctrine. I just thought “Hmm, guess I won’t around for the “survival challenge”! Then, I saw that rapture doctrine be debunked by Tanakh. Not many Scriptures describe what those days will look like, but the descriptions we do get are vivid. The “end times” didn’t concern me much in my “Messianic” days, though, either. I still believed the sorting and sifting would be done according to the work of Jesus (Yeshua) and not according to my own deeds. Now I stand here without the shadow of the cross “covering” me. I stand without having taken a blood bath. I stand accountable and responsible. Perhaps even more so than someone who doesn’t read Scripture or call YHVH “Father”. A sobering thought, to be sure. One worth reflecting on. I’m accountable as an individual, as a member of my “bloodline” and  as a citizen in the nation in which I live. Above it all, though, I am accountable to uphold my part the covenant into which I entered freely in the Mt Sanai of my spirit.


Perhaps the most dangerous doctrine we sat under in Christianity is that there is “nothing we can do”. Ours is a God who demands the “doing” and has set a line of the consequences out for those who won’t “do”. That could be a post in itself. Perhaps it will be one day, but I’m going back to my game for today. In my game play, as I mentioned, I am prompted to think about the days in which everything will change. In my game travels, I come across skeletons still positioned where they were when the fictional bombs hit. Almost all are clutching something in their hand. I’ve seen them with a picture frame or a bottle of alcohol. A teddy bear or a handful of “pre-war” money. With drugs or a weapon. It made me wonder what someone might find clamped in my hand when who I am leaves this coat of flesh. Have you ever wondered what might be found in yours? I chuckle at my game sometimes for what I find them with, but am reminded that each of has our own “security blanket”. If it’s not already, may Scripture be yours and mine. My pretend people have lookout posts, food stockpiles and high security, but are ultimately raided by a group looking for those exact things. Will it be that way in our own world, which seems to be coming under a bigger shadow of darkness every day? Truly, I shudder to think. But I do not fear.


The television news wants me to fear, but I won’t. Some people in my newsfeed are trapped in fear’s embrace, but I am not. When I turn to Scripture for answers, I find that my hope is in YHVH. He is my source and my substance, His word, my light in dark times. I will not fear. He Alone is my Strong Tower, I will abide in Him and go about “doing”. I still watch the “EOD” movies (YaY! Another one is coming out  soon) and I will still play “EOD” video games, but I will forever look at both through this “New Lens”! No matter what comes our way (and come it will) nothing will stop God’s appointed King from taking his throne and dealing out justice according to the outline of Torah. If we ever have to be found with something clutched in skeletal hands, may that be what is is for us….His Word!


“See” you soon, friends. Live like what you do matters, because it does!


Who Are God’s People?


Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William Jackson

Moses states in Deuteronomy 29:8 “…you shall observe the words of this covenant and fulfill them, in order that you will succeed in all that you do…”.  This certainly was meant for God’s people, but who is really Moses’ target audience, the “you”? He tells us directly after this statement, it is the tribes of Israel but if we skip down to verse 11 we find that it is also the “Gers” or non-Israelites.  The covenant Moses is talking about was given 40 years earlier at Mount Saini (Exodus 20 – 23).  As a side note, many get focused on God’s top ten list, the ten commandments, but if we continue our reading we see that there are at least 30 additional commandments beyond the ten.  I have broken them down into three parts below:

  1. Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 1, Intentional Crimes


  1. Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes


  1. Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 3, Unintentional Crimes


Many say that only the Israelites were at Mount Saini but we know there were others beyond Israel that were present when God spoke.  The Torah places these non-Israelites their before (Exodus 12:38) and after (Numbers 11:4) the law was given.  This group was called “rāḇ ‘ê·reḇ” or mixed multitude.  These were basically people that did not belong to any of the tribes of Israel.

When we read the Torah we need to understand that there are two different type of foreigners in relation to the Israelite1.  There was the “zarim” or “nokhrim”, these were outsiders that did business with Israel kind of how we look at somebody on a work visa. They are not Americans but are subject to our laws while in our community.  The other type of foreigner is a “Ger” this is somebody who follows the commandments given to Israel. This would be something like a legal alien to us.  Basically, somebody who is not indigenous but who belongs to our community.

Nonetheless, what is the true qualification to being God’s people?  Isaiah 50:10 and Malachi 3:20 is pretty clear, anyone who fears God’s name is His. The word for fear here is “yirah” and can also mean respect.  We must admit that we cannot fear or respect someone if we do not know them.  Knowing God’s laws and the consequences for not following them is a huge part of the reverence we need to have towards God to be His.  Proverbs 1:7 tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”.  Conversely, the knowledge of God is the beginning of our fear.  Ecclesiastes 12:13 states “…fear God, and keep his mitzvoth (commandments); this is what being human is all about”.  Here, King Solomon used the word “adam” to represent human or mankind in this statement.  This means not just Jews or Israelites but all people have the duty of following His commandments.  In Ezekiel 18:4 God states the “…ALL souls belong to Me…”.  God than in verses 5 through 32 talks about how we may save our souls.  God even took mercy on Nineveh (a non-Israelite people) after they turned from evil (Jonah 3:10), because they were His.  In summation Malachi 3:16 says it best by saying that those who feared God will have their name in His book of remembrance.  Verse 17 tells us those will be His, God’s.



  1. “Strangers and Gentiles.” Jewish Virtual Library, N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2016




Does God Answer Prayers?


Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William Jackson

“Does God answer prayers?”, this is a key question that has been kicked around theological circles for millenniums. We do know when reading the Torah, God answers the prayers of the Patriarchs (Isaac Genesis 25:21, Jacob Genesis 35:3) and Matriarchs (Leah Genesis 30:17, Racheal Genesis 30:22).  As we read further into the Tanakh (Old Testament) we also see Adonai responding to the prayers of both Kings (David; 2 Samuel 24:25, 1 Chronicles 21:28, Solomon; 1 Kings 9:3, 2 Chronicles 7:12, Jehoahaz; 2 Kings 13:4, Hizkiyahu; 2 Kings 19:20, 20:5, Isaiah 38:5) and Prophets (Elijah; 1 Kings 17:22, Ezra; Ezra 8:23, Nehemiah; Nehemiah 2:4-6), but what about us, the common person? We will delve into the Tanakh and bring forward three components that appear to be critical when answering prayers.  Also, we will talk about the prayers of the common person.

First off, in scripture the Hebrew words used for prayer are “hitpallel”, “siach” and “tefilah”.  Interestingly, each has its own meaning.  Hitpallel1 means to judge yourself, siach2 means to meditate and finally tefilah3 means to beg, beseech or implore.  Thus, a prayer to our Maker should combine these elements; offering praise, repentance and requesting.  As for tefilah, the requesting aspect, we have examples of these in God’s Word.  Some of these are prayers were answered and others were not. We will determine the “why”.  Here are three factors that appear to impact on a prayer request (tefilah).



God has actual closed Himself off to certain people’s prayers (Lamentations 3:8, 44).  Isaiah 29:13 tells us He will not listen to prayers that are “lip service” and “empty words”.  Another way of saying this is that he does not entertain “rote” prayers. Rote means mechanical or unthinking routine or repetition4. If we read Psalm 55:17-21 we have an excellent blueprint that expresses the passion desired in God’s prayer.

A major part of earnestness is sincerity. With the Prophets, we have several cases of sincerity in prayer.  In Jonah 3:6-10, Ezra 8:23 and Daniel 9:3 we see fasting and sitting in ashes with sack cloth.  This definitely showed the earnestness of these people, consequently their prayers were answered.  In Isaiah 38 Yesha‘yahu the prophet told King Hizkiyahu that God told him to get his affairs in order because he was going to die.  In response, the King turned to the wall and prayed to God through bitter tears to live.  In reply God said “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; therefore I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:5). Contrariwise, in 1 Samuel 15 we have a King Saul whose prayers were irrelevant because he lacked sincerity. Prayers should be sincere and fervent to be heard.



Proverbs 28:9 sum it up nicely by saying “If a person will not listen to Torah, even his prayer is an abomination.”  Psalm 66:18, 109:7, Isaiah 1:15 and Zechariah 7:11-13 echo the same sediments.  On the other hand, Proverbs 15:8, 29 tells us God does listen to the prayers of those who are righteous.  There is one thing to remember here, righteousness does not mean perfection5.

There is a saving hope for the non-righteous in prayer. Although Adonai may not hear the prayers of those that broke His commandments, we see in Zechariah 1:12-16, 12:10 that after the sentence has been served He will listen.  We know this because He is an honorable and just God (Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 30:18, 61:8)



Moses pleads with God to pardon Israel’s sins, and God responded, “I have pardoned, just as you say” (Numbers 14:20). Also in Exodus 32:9-14 Moses beseeched God and “The Lord reconsidered the evil He had said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14). This was Moses, no wonder God granted his requests.  Yet, in Exodus 32:30-35 and Deuteronomy 3:23-27 God did not honor Moses requests. In the first request, Moses wanted to intercede for Israel’s sins. Conversely, God wanted to hold the accountable parties responsible. The second example was Moses’ plead to enter into the promise land.  Sadly, God stood firm on His previous sentencing, and did not concede to Moses’ request.  Although we can empathize with Moses in both instances, we can also see the big picture, God’s point of view.

God thinks “Macro” (Big Picture), we think “micro”. We see this in Proverbs 20:24, 16:9 and Jeremiah 10:23 where God says that He is in control not humans.  Think in terms of our relationship with God as being that of a child to a parent. Could you imagine if your child got everything they wanted?  You would have all the animals in the neighborhood as your family pets and Junior probably wouldn’t have to do much work for his $1,000 weekly allowance.  Importantly, there would be no reason for maturing, there would be no consequences. None the less, like you, I have been bothered by bad things happening to good people. Some things are beyond our realm of understanding. This is best answered by Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous person perishes, and nobody gives it a thought. Godly men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous person is taken away from the evil yet to come.”

Conclusion: We started by talking about how God answered the prayers of the Patriarchs, Matriarchs, Kings and Prophets but what about us?  Well we know that he answered the prayers of the some of the tribes of Israel (1 Chronicles 5:20), and all of Israel (Joshua 10:14, Hosea 14:8).  We even know He answered the prayers common people (Genesis 24:42, Judges 13:9, 1 Samuel 1:11,19-20, Job 42:9) but most importantly to us, He answers our prayers both then and now (1 Kings 8:38, Isaiah 56:7).


Additional Articles on Prayer:


  1. “Jewish Treats: Inside Prayer.” Jewish Treats: Inside Prayer. September 22, 2009. Accessed June 12, 2016.


  1. “Strong’s Hebrew: 7878. שִׂ֫יחַ (siach) — to Muse, Complain, Talk (of).” Accessed June 12, 2016.


  1. Mindel, Nissan, Dr. “The Meaning of Prayer.” – Prayer. Accessed June 12, 2016.


  1. Merriam-Webster. Accessed June 12, 2016.


  1. Jackson, William, Righteousness – Straight from Tanakh, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, January 26, 2016



Rise and Shine! Mundane

Rise and Shine
Rise and Shine! Mundane
By Terrie C

For Alice, the mundane is a five foot by five foot cubicle at the office. For Bill, it’s a highway paved with missing his family. For Steve, the mundane looks like dirty diapers and sippy cups, while for Julie, it’s going weeks on end without speaking to anyone except her cat, Hubert. The mundane may look different for each of us, but it’s the same long stretch of time in which we feel all of our days looks the same. That’s an incorrect assumption on our part, that each day is the same, because on the other end, we look back and wonder just when things changed. It can be easy to fall into the steady rhythm of the mundane. We can allow the familiar tick-tock of time dragging by to lull us into becoming lax, giving less than our all to the (same old) daily tasks set before us. As long as we live, dirty dishes aren’t going anywhere. The laundry is going to hang out, too. Groceries in, garbage out. Blah, mundane. If we begin to spin our heels in what feels like a rut beneath our feet, before we know it we are barely glowing with God’s light instead of shining it brightly. But take heart, we needn’t lose our “shine” because we are in a dull season! It’s on us to stay connected to The Source of our light, YHVH our God. We do this through repentance of willful sin, times of prayer and careful Scripture study.


If you have found yourself in the season called “mundane”, here are some tips to  help you “Rise and Shine”



  • Take it to The Father: Spend some prayer time on the subject of “mundane”. God is faithful to refresh us and show us beauty and joy in places where it doesn’t even make sense!
  • Take Care of Yourself: Personal health and hygiene are of utmost importance everyday, no matter the situation or circumstance. Diet, rest and cleanliness all contribute to a sense of well-being, and looking our best just feels good, doesn’t it?
  • Approach Scripture with Awe and Reverence: Remember that we find life, hope and faith through Scripture. Never approach it casually, or read it just to have your daily reading checked off your to-do list. Engage more than your eyes in the story that transforms you! Let the words inspire you, set the scene in your mind, enjoy your questions as much as the answers!
  • Change it up! There is almost always a variation that can be made to spice up the mundane. Good china can be used on a Tuesday, new hobbies can be discovered and date nights can be spur of the moment events. Pick flowers on your walk, drive a different route home, stop in at the ice cream parlour. Get creative and find ways to add color to your mundane seasons!
  • Check Your Thoughts: Everything you are and everything you do generates from your thought life. Mastering your thoughts takes discipline and practice, but will propel you through seasons of the mundane. Understand that each day matters, and that ruts are only ruts, they are not a permanent condition. Mastering your thoughts will also make it so much easier to accomplish the next tip…
  • Speak Life: Speak life to yourself, and to everyone you meet! Practice using words of affirmation and gratitude. Even our “day after day” tasks (like dirty dishes and dirty laundry) are reasons to be thankful! Without food, we’d have nothing to wash, and without clothes, well, we’d just be in a world of difficulty, LOL! Catch yourself if wrong words begin to tumble out of your mouth, and turn them around to make them words of light instead of shadows.
  • Decide: We hear a lot about our “authority” in some religious circles. Here is a place where we really do have some! We decide if the mundane will be a rut we get stuck in, or a season with purpose, peace and joy in our lives. If we’re wavering in our decision to blossom through the mundane, then we need to start back at square one with repentance, prayer and careful Scripture study.



As long as we’re wearing these coats of flesh, there are going to be times that seem long and meaningless in our lives. In our Creator’s economy, though, nothing need be wasted. What seems mundane for us may play an important part of our “bigger picture”. Perhaps we are being prepared for something. Perhaps we are being given some solitude for introspection, or maybe we’re being tested to see how brightly we still shine when there is no spotlight on us. The book of Ecclesiastes says there is a time and a season for everything. Being believers, we can #BeStillandKnow this includes seasons of the mundane. Let’s Rise and Shine right through them! ~Terrie C


Are there Ghosts?

Are there Ghosts Pic A
Are there Ghosts?
By: William J Jackson

One of our readers had an interesting question “Are there such things as ghosts?”. We will answer this, as we do everything, by using the word of G-d as an immovable guidepost.

1. Ghosts in Tanakh:

As we see in Ecclesiastes 12:7, Psalm 104:29 and 146:4 when people die G-d’s spirit returns to Him. In Hebrew this spirit is called the ruach*. Another Hebrew word often used when talking about spirits or ghosts is “gava”. Gava (gä·vah’) means breath out, which is literally “giving up the ghost” (death). In Tanakh the Patriarch’s and other forefathers are cited as giving up their ghosts; Abraham in Gen 25:8, Ishmael in Gen 25:17, Isaac in Gen 35:29, Jacob in Gen 49:33 and 5 times in the Book of Job. I suggest G-d’s ruach returning and people “giving up their ghost” are one in the same.

Another word in Hebrew for ghost is “rapha” (raw-faw’). In Tanakh it chiefly speak about going down to the grave (Job 26:5, Isaiah 14:9, 26:14 Psalm 88:11 Proverbs 2:18, 9:18, 21:16) at no time does it refer to a spirit walking the earth or a haunting. Even in Isaiah 26:19 the term rapha is used referring to the resurrection, not a ghostly visits.

2. Traditional ghosts as we know them:

Now about haunting people and houses. In Job 7:9-10 it tells us the dead will not return to their houses nor will they be recognized again. Also both Ecclesiastes 9: 5-6 and Psalm 146:4 explain that the dead have no thoughts about their past. Now lets think about this;

A. Not being able to return to your earthly home

B. Not being noticed by passed loved ones

C. and not having any memories of past events

…these factors would certainly impede any ghost’s ability to do his job.

Two additional words commonly used for ghost in Hebrew are ovoth and dybbuk (1). Surprisingly G-d’s word are void of these two terms.

3. Seeking ghosts is wrong:

In comparison to other ancient religions, in which demons play a central role, the Bible is nearly silent about the existence of supernatural beings such as ghosts (2). Much of this reason could be because the Tanakh warns against using mediums (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; Isaiah 8:19). We are to seek the word of the Lord in counsel not that of mediums and/or the dead (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, 2 Kings 23:24, Isaiah 8:19). Anyway you look at it Divination and sorcery are forbidden (3).

4. The Ghost of Samuel:

In 1 Samuel 28 there is a story where King Saul goes to a medium to summons the deceased Prophet Samuel. He wants Samuel’s advice before going into battle with the Philistines.

Many people debate (4) about this event actually happening as a real séance. Since it is in the Tanakh we will respectfully give it the gravity it deserves. Let us remember that King Saul is seeking Samuel because G-d refuses to communicating with him (1 Sam. 28:6). Also Saul knows that it is against the Torah to speak with a medium. He, himself, is the one that had all the mediums removed from the region. In this interaction between man and ghost, Saul certainly is not blessed by seeking the advice of a medium. He is in fact cursed (1 Chronicles 10:13-14) . Some important notes to reflect on are these:

A. Samuel is summonsed, he is not a ghost roaming the earth.

B. Saul does not get the advice sought.

C. Samuel, instead, predicts Saul’s death.

5. Conclusion:

The Tanakh does not support our traditional notions of ghosts and hauntings. The only true event that casts a faint shadow that compared to our modern day understanding of the underworld is 1 Samuel 28. But, absent here is the haunting, the ghost with unfinished business or even a spirit trying to connect to loved ones. Actually, the dead Samuel appears disturbed when he answers King Saul with “Why have you disturbed me and brought me up?” (1 Sam. 28:15). Maybe we should take that one piece of advice from the one ghost that seems to speak up in the Tanakh.


(1) Ghosts in Judaism, Angels & Ghosts

(2) By Jay Michaelson, Demons, Dybbuks, Ghosts, & Golems, MyJewishLearning

(3) By Avodah Zarah ve-Chukos ha-Goyim, Idolatry and the Customs of the Nations (4c)


What Does the Name HaShem Really Mean?

HaShem 1

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William Jackson

Talking to a good friend, we became curious of the names used in referring to God.  Interestingly, we found that HaShem is used in scripture; but never refers to God.  This constituted a deeper study.  The question becomes “why is this word used for God’s name and what does it actually mean?”

In Chronicles 11:34, Hashem’s name is mentioned for the first (and only) time, 400 years after the exodus. In 1 Chronicles 11, it talks about the warriors that helped King David seize control of Jerusalem.  Of these 30 mighty warriors, some were the sons of “Hashem” the Gizzonite. Clearly though, this is not a reference to “Hashem” the Maker of the whole wide world. None the less, from this study of HaShem’s name in scripture, we don’t see any real connection to our Maker.  This begs the question, why is it used as a synonym for God’s name then?

The answer is found in Jewish tradition, where the name Hashem actually means “The Name”2.  As we know we are never to take God’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12, Deuteronomy 5:11), or our infraction will be meet with extreme circumstances (Leviticus 24:10-16, Deuteronomy 28:58-61). I suppose it’s a precaution to refer to God as “the name” instead of YHVH.  This helps to not run the risk of misusing God’s actually name in vain.

It is good that we place controls in place to not violate the Commandments.  God is also referred to in the Tanakh by seven different names (YHVH, El, Elohim, Elohai, El Shaddai, Tzevaot/Tza’ot and Yah)3. Some use Adonai; which is the plural for Lord, and in the Tanakh this name is only used in referring to God.  Also we see God being referred by His attributes like “Merciful”, “Gracious” and “Faithful”.  Sometimes He is referred to by His accomplishments such as “maker of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19, 22) or “Creator” (Isaiah 40:28, 43:15, Ecclesiastes 12:1).  If we are trying to be cautious, and we don’t want to use God’s name in a way that we’re not supposed to, why not use one of the more positive connotations mentioned above?

As with many of you, since leaving Christianity and moving to a more Tanakh (Old Testament) centric life. We have changed many of our ways.  Of the many things I have changed is my language, such as adopting words like Adonai and HaShem when referring to the Creator.  I have adopted most of my new attitude because I have researched things out in the effort of establishing grounded and sincerer mannerisms.  Regrettably, I have found myself, in cases, unintentionally assimilating.  This is in the form of adopting traditions over the Word of Adonai.  There is much harm in following a religion without asking the “whys”.  We need to measure everything.


  1. ” Lexicon: Strong’s H2044 – Hashem ” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed June 04,2016.


  1. Dabach, Jon. “Hashem: The Name.” Aishcom. Published: November 21, 2009, Accessed June 04, 2016.


  1. Translated by Eliyahu Touger. “Maimonides, ”Mishneh Torah”. Sefer Madda, Yesodei ha-Torah 6:2″. Retrieved 2014-05-21.