Scholars and laypeople have engaged in significant debate about the precise meaning of the word/name “Sheol” in the Bible. At times it seems to be an underworld, at times simply the grave, and at times perhaps something else.
A student in my class on the Bible has actually solved the mystery and come up with a definitive answer to the question.
Sheol is the name of the big fish in the Book of Jonah.
The Biblical text which proves this is Jonah 2:2, where Jonah is depicted as saying “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (ESV).
Sheol, appropriately capitalized as one would expect, is clearly the name of the big fish, in whose belly Jonah found himself at the moment when he uttered those words.
I am grateful to my student – who wishes to remain anonymous, unless someone makes a YouTube video about this and it goes viral – for offering this creative – and entertaining – suggestion!