The Hebrew words mishchath, mashchath, mashchith, and their Greek equivalents, phthora, and diaphthora, with numerous derivatives and cognate verbs, imply primarily physical degeneration and decay (Job 17:14; Acts 2:27, etc.). The term shachath, which the King James Version translates with "corruption" in Jonah 2:6, ought to be rendered "pit,". as in Psalms 30:9; 35:7 et passim, while shachath beli in Isaiah 38:17 means the "pit of nothingness," i.e. of destruction.
At an early time we find the above-given words in a non-literal sense denoting moral depravity and corruption (Genesis 6:11; Exodus 32:7; Hosea 9:9; Galatians 6:8, etc.), which ends in utter moral ruin and hopelessness, the second death. The question has been raised whether the meaning of these words might be extended so as to include the idea of final destruction and annihilation of the spirit. Upon careful examination, however, this question must be denied both from the standpoint of the Old Testament and of the New Testament. Apart from other considerations we see this from the metaphors used in the Scriptures to illustrate the condition of "corruption," such as the "unquenchable fire," the "worm" which "dieth not" (Mark 9:43,18; compare Isaiah 66:24), and "sleep" (Daniel 12:2), where a careful distinction is made between the blissful state after death of the righteous and the everlasting disgrace of the godless. The later Jewish theology is also fully agreed on this point. The meaning of the words cannot therefore extend beyond the idea of utter moral degradation and depravity.
H. L. E. Luering
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