The Hebrew Word “Muth”
Premise: If a government enacts a law that involves punishment should said law be broken, then there is an obligation and responsibility upon the government to reveal the punishment prior to the law going into effect. Therefore one could expect that the possibility of spending eternity in hell would be revealed at the time the “law” necessitating such punishment was revealed to humanity.
Question: Where in the Bible and in particular, the Old Testament, and even more specifically, in the beginning of the Old Testament, did God reveal that the punishment for “sin” would be everlasting punishment in an eternal hell?
We start in Genesis 2:17 where we read:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”
Here we have the first mention of punishment for sin or disobedience of God’s commands. The punishment is stated to be death. Literally this verse says “dying you shall die” with the Hebrew word for dying repeated twice. I think it would be wise for us to find out what the Hebrew word that is translated as “die” really means. It would be ridiculous to think that the God of the Bible would be ambiguous when dealing with something that apparently has eternal consequences. If there ever was a need for a clear, straight to the point, impossible to misinterpret statement, this is certainly the time and place.
Again we can turn to James Strong for help. When we look up this word in the Strong’s Concordance we discover that the Hebrew word translated as die is “muth,” pronounced mooth.
Here is what we see when we open up our Strong’s Concordance to H4191.
H4191 twm mûth mooth
A primitive root; to die (literally or figuratively); causatively to kill: - X at all, X crying, (be) dead (body, man, one), (put to, worthy of) death, destroy (-er), (cause to, be like to, must) die, kill, necro [-mancer], X must needs, slay, X surely, X very suddenly, X in [no] wise.
Literally or figuratively this means to die or to kill. Strong’s tells us that it is translated as “crying” (which is rather weird), dead, to put to death or be worthy of death, destroy and destroyer, must die and so on. There is not one mention of hell or eternal punishment in regards to “muth” in the actual meaning or in the various ways the word is translated. I have heard many people, preachers included, state that the punishment in Genesis 2:17 is eternal separation from God in hell. Pardon my English, but a snow-ball has more chance of surviving in proverbial “hell” than those preachers have when it comes to proving an eternal hell based upon this verse or the Hebrew word “muth.”
Using E-Sword and the King James Concordance you can look up the Hebrew word, muth. You will find that it appears 790 times. Following is the number of times it is translated in various ways - die 257, died 154, dead 136, death 83, slay 44, slew 40, kill 24, slain 18, dieth 16, killed 6, put as in put to death 3, killeth 2, and crying, destroy, destroyers, diest, necromancer, slayeth and slaying one time each. See anything missing? Not a mention of everlasting punishment in some place called hell. The Etymological Dictionary of The Hebrew Language that I mentioned in a previous article confirms this definition.
Putting it very bluntly, the Hebrew word muth means the physical cessation of life, just like the word die means in English. Preachers etc. can tell you whatever they like about Genesis 2:17 and what the punishment was but their “inspired” Bible uses the Hebrew word “muth” and in the 790 times it is used in the Old Testament it NEVER ONCE means eternal punishment in hell. You are free to look at every verse in which “muth” appears but you will not find instance where it means such a thing.
After Adam and Eve have apparently earned a ticket to “hell” can you find one mention of eternal punishment in hell decreed by God in Genesis chapter 3 when he describes their punishment? Can you find one mention of it in Genesis 4 after Cain has killed Abel? Wouldn’t those be great places to include it? And yet, the Bible and/or God is absolutely silent regarding some place of everlasting punishment called hell in these chapters.
And what about the flood? God is so ticked at humanity that God apparently chooses to wipe out all of humanity saving just 8 souls. Is there any mention of hell awaiting all of those who perished? Again the answer is absolutely not!
Let’s turn to Paul, the apostle and see what he says in Romans 6:23 when it comes to the punishment for sin. He says “For the wages of sin is death.”
The Greek word that Paul uses is “thanatos.” Out of 118 times it appears in the New Testament, it is translated as death 115 times. The other 3 times it is translated as deadly twice and deaths once. It is NEVER translated as hell. In fact, in one of the more well-know verses in the Bible, Revelation 1:18, Jesus is said to possess the keys of “hell and death.” In the Greek the words are Hades and thanatos. I am certain that Paul was aware of the Greek word, hades, so he could have used hades if he had wanted to in Romans 6:23 but instead he chose thanatos.
Based upon Christianity’s assertion that the Bible is divinely inspired and infallible, one must wonder why the Spirit of God didn’t inspire Paul to say that the wages of sin was Hades, an eternal place of punishment in the eyes of fundamental Christianity. That of course would only work if Hades means an eternal hell. It doesn’t as you will see in another article. Let’s be honest, “death” is virtually meaningless as a punishment if one is going to be “resurrected” out of death and then punished in hell for eternity. That would be the true punishment and yet apparently Paul doesn’t mind the ambiguity that Romans 6:23 apparently creates.
The fact is that the man many recognize as the greatest Christian theologian, the apostle Paul, NEVER ONCE mentions hell in any of his New Testament writings. That is quite an omission considering most Christians believe that he wrote 13 or 14 books in the New Testament. You would think that he would be inspired to warn his readers at least once in those books about the possibility that they were going to burn forever in hell if they didn’t take the appropriate action. We will return to the apostle Paul in a future segment and see what he really saw as man’s punishment but for now we see that “death” was the wages of sin according to Paul, not everlasting punishment in hell.
We started out with the premise that it was really inconceivable that God would not warn humanity of its impending punishment in hell for all of eternity right at the beginning of the history of mankind but clearly that never occurred. The Bible is silent when it comes to the issue of eternal punishment, at least at the beginning of the Bible. Though it should have occurred immediately, perhaps it occurred later on in the Old Testament. We will cover that in our next segment.
Blessings, shalom, namaste