The Old Testament. "Pit" denotes a large hole in the ground. Pits were used to catch wild animals ( Eze 19:1-8 ) or to collect water for drinking ("cisterns, " Deut 6:11 ). Sometimes they were used as dungeons or prisons ( Gen 37:24 ; Exod 12:29 ; Jer 38:6 ).
Very often, however, "pit" is used figuratively. For example, enemies seek to harm the psalmist by "digging a pit" for his life ( Psalm 35:7 ). Commonly it is a metaphor for Sheol ("the grave, " Psalm 16:10 ) or death ( Psalm 30:9 ). Since God did not reveal the hope of resurrection and the glories of heaven until late in Old Testament times, many expressions are quite negative. Everyone dies, so no one can avoid the pit ( Psalm 49:9 ). It is a place of destruction ( Isa 38:17 ), a dark and deep place where the dead are without strength, forsaken by the living, and forgotten by God ( Psalm 88:3-6 ). There is no thanksgiving, praise, or hope there ( Psalm 38:1-8 ).
The New Testament. In the New Testament "pit" is used literally of a place into which an animal ( Matt 12:11 ; Luke 14:5 ) or the blind ( Matt 15:14 ; Luke 6:39 ) might fall (the latter is also a figure for the spiritually blind Pharisees). In addition, it is used metaphorically for an underworld dungeon: a gloomy prison for the fallen angels ( 2 Peter 2:4 ) or a bottomless abyss for Satan during the millennium ( Rev 20:1-3 ).
William B. Nelson, Jr.
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a hole in the ground ( Exodus 21:33 Exodus 21:34 ), a cistern for water ( Genesis 37:24 ; Jeremiah 14:3 ), a vault ( 41:9 ), a grave ( Psalms 30:3 ). It is used as a figure for mischief ( Psalms 9:15 ), and is the name given to the unseen place of woe ( Revelation 20:1 Revelation 20:3 ). The slime-pits in the vale of Siddim were wells which yielded asphalt ( Genesis 14:10 ).
The word translates different Hebrew words of which the most important are:
(2) be'er, "pit" or "well" made by digging (Genesis 21:25);
(3) she'ol, generally rendered "hell" in the King James Version (see HELL);
(4) shachath, a pit in the ground to catch wild animals. (1), (2) and (4) above are used metaphorically of the pit of the "grave" or of "sheol" (Psalms 28:1; 30:3; Job 33:24). the King James Version sometimes incorrectly renders (4) by "corruption."
In the New Testament "pit" renders bothunos (Matthew 15:14), which means any kind of hole in the ground. In the corresponding passage Lu (14:5 the King James Version) has phrear, "well," the same as (2) above. For "bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:1, the King James Version, etc.).
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