Watch / Insights / Vocab Insight: Gehenna / Valley of Wailing

Vocab Insight: Gehenna / Valley of Wailing

Watch a short, animated video that explains the meaning of the Greek word for hell (gehenna) in the story of the Bible.

Insights Apr 22, 2024



“It is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into gehenna.”1

The New Testament Greek word “gehenna,” usually translated as “hell,” refers to the way God’s justice will deal with evil in the world.

Gehenna comes from the Hebrew phrase “gey’ hinnom,” which means the “valley of wailing.” It’s an actual valley on the southwest side of Jerusalem.2

There, some of ancient Israel’s kings sacrificed children to other gods as burnt offerings.3 The prophets confronted this evil, saying that God would send enemy nations to conquer Jerusalem, and Israel’s leaders would be killed and their dead bodies thrown into the valley to be burned.4 The fires that those kings started to consume the innocent would one day turn and consume them.

Jesus used these images of fire and gehenna to describe God’s response to the horrible evils in our world. He won’t let them go unchecked. The fire of God’s justice will one day consume evil and remove it from his good creation once and for all.5

“Whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be guilty of the fire of gehenna.”6

1. Matthew 5:29
2. See Joshua 15:8
3. 2 Chronicles 28:1-3; 2 Chronicles 33:6
4. Jeremiah 7:30-33
5. See Revelation 21:1-4; 2 Peter 3:3-9
6. Matthew 5:22
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