Ignoring vowelization, Sha-ul and She-ol is spelled the same way


We know that Shaul's name was derived from the root radical


= to question.

However, She-ol is pronounced like

ש - אול

belonging to/of "ol", but I am unable to find the word אול with any meaning.

Please explain (1)grammatically and (2) thro any rabbinic sources, any correlation, similarities and/or differences between the two instances of



שְׁאוֹל =Sh-ol not shee-ol

  • She-ol can also mean grave. – Ypnypn May 14 '14 at 2:32
  • "She-ol is pronounced like ש - אול belonging to/of 'ol'": no. The first letter in "שאול" has a sh'va vowel, whereas "of" usually is "ש" with a segol vowel. – msh210 May 14 '14 at 6:25
  • "I am unable to find the word אול with any meaning": consider perhaps google.com/…. – msh210 May 14 '14 at 6:27
  • To expand on msh210's comment: She-ol should really be Sh i -ol, whereas "of" is a sh eh - sound. – Shmuel May 14 '14 at 7:05
  • 1
    @BlessedGeek I think the space was only included because the bold won't format without it. – Scimonster May 14 '14 at 15:36

Saul's name is derived from שאל, meaning "ask, request," and probably means "requested from God" (as noted by Daat Mikra; refer to 1 Samuel 1:20).

Sheol, meaning "grave, underworld," is of unknown etymology, and does not appear to have a regular Hebrew root. It may be an Assyrian loan word, but this is disputed.

None of the ancient commentators say anything about the similarity of these words. However, R' S.R. Hirsch, a 19th-century German rabbi, compiled a Hebrew dictionary which includes such word-similarities. He writes that Sheol (grave) is from שאל (request), for "the grave requests the return of the body" (see Genesis 3:19).

According to the (Christian) "Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon," the root אול means "foolish," and is used in the form אויל. Hirsch translates this root as "vacilate, lack clarity of purpose." Neither dictionary nor any commentators (that I've found) connect this root to either Saul or Sheol.


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