The English word “grave” is generally understood as applying to an excavation in the earth for use as a place of burial, though it may also apply to any place of interment. Since a common method of burial among the Hebrews and other Oriental peoples was by use of a natural cave or a rock-cut tomb or vault, the word “grave” may easily convey an inaccurate idea to the mind of the Occidental reader of the Bible accounts. The broader, more general term “burial place” may, therefore, be a preferable translation for the Hebrew word qeʹver, the common word used to designate a place of interment, a grave or graveyard. (Gen. 23:7-9; Isa. 22:16) The related word qevu·rahʹ similarly may refer to an earthen grave or to a tomb excavated in rock.—Gen. 35:20; Deut. 34:6.
In Greek the common word for grave is taʹphos (Matt. 28:1), related to the verb (thaʹpto), meaning “to bury.” (Matt. 8:21, 22) The words mneʹma (Luke 23:53) and mne·meiʹon (Luke 23:55) refer to a tomb or memorial tomb.
Since these Hebrew and Greek words refer to an individual burial place or grave site, they are often used in the plural as referring to many such graves. They are, therefore, distinct from the Hebrew sheʼohlʹ and its Greek equivalent haiʹdes, which refer to the common grave of all mankind or gravedom and hence are always used in the singular. For this reason many modern translations have not followed the practice of the Authorized Version, in which sheʼohlʹ and haiʹdes are alternately rendered by the words “hell,” “grave” and “pit,” but have instead simply transliterated them into English.—See HADES; SHEOL.
Nevertheless, since one’s entry into Sheol is represented as taking place through burial in an individual grave or at a burial site, words pertaining to such places of interment are used as parallel though not equivalent terms with Sheol. (Job 17:1, 13-16; 21:13, 32, 33; Ps. 88:3-12) The grave may also be represented by such figurative expressions as man’s “long-lasting house,” and, perhaps, “the land down below” (in contrast with “the land of those alive”), although these expressions may well refer to Sheol, which, standing for gravedom, is a term of greater magnitude and extent.—Compare Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 with Job 17:13; and Ezekiel 32:24, 25 with Ezekiel 32:21.
At Romans 3:13 the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 5:9, likening the throat of wicked and deceitful men to “an opened grave.” As an opened grave is to be filled with the dead and with corruption, their throat opens for speech that is deadly and corrupt.—Compare Matthew 15:18-20.
Although the grave is likened to a pit from which man rightly desires to be delivered, Job draws attention to the despair of those suffering persons who, lacking a clear hope or understanding of their Creator’s purposes, seek death and “exult because they find a burial place.” (Job 3:21, 22) Such attitude contrasts sharply with that of men who devoted their lives to their Creator’s service and confidently embraced the promise of a resurrection.—Ps. 16:9-11; Acts 24:15; Phil. 1:21-26; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Heb. 11:17-19; see BURIAL, BURIAL PLACES.