Gradations of Degradation: Ezekiel’s Underworld as a Temple of Doom


Ezekiel, Underworld, Temple and Tabernacle, Priestly Literature, Mesopotamian literature, Gradations of holiness

How to Cite

Wells, S. ., & Hays, C. B. . (2020). Gradations of Degradation: Ezekiel’s Underworld as a Temple of Doom. Old Testament Essays, 33(3), 490 - 514. Retrieved from


Ezekiel’s underworld is characterised by hierarchy and gradation. Insofar as that is also true of sacred spaces in the Bible, Ezekiel’s underworld can also be imagined, heuristically, as a kind of unholy temple. Each of the three primary descriptions of holy space in the Hebrew Bible (the Priestly tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, and Ezekiel’s temple) has three primary graded spaces (inner sanctum, outer sanctum, and court). Ezekiel’s underworld has three primary graded spaces: Sheol, the Pit, and the extremities of the Pit. In each case, the farther one moves in from the entrance, the more unholy the space. Like the tabernacle and temples, Ezekiel’s underworld also has further gradations within the primary space, and these finer gradations of unholiness are marked by factors such as the length of the passage dedicated to a nation and the presence of associates in the nation’s sphere of influence.


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