I was reading in a poem recently and the writer used the line “Hells freezing north no tempest can send out” and I found myself wondering about hell… the images of hell tend to lean toward the burning…but here was a poet using hell and freezing together…and I don’t mean the comedians using hell freezing over as an impossible ETA. We having burning fire – we have burning frost, and as far as the bible (KJV) is concerned we have about 54 references to hell. So, what is hell? I won’t presume to know – but from what I gather in scripture it is definitely not a place I want to end up. Hell and fire are used several times together in scripture. Hell is often referred to as deep, and in depths. Jesus used a dump outside of Jerusalem, which had continuous fire and worms as a handy descriptor for hell. In luke 16:24 the rich man (in hell) actually sought a dialogue with the beggar (who was in heaven) – and was wanting a drop of water to cool his tongue, and he does mention specifically being in torment in the flames. When we look at the etymology for hell it comes from the Hebrew ???? – sh?’owl.. the word means basically hollow, a hollow and subterranean place. Words like void and empty might help as well. The word is derived from ‘asking’ – asking for, or demanding all ad infinitum. Maybe a person could say hell is demanding everything and receiving nothing in return, forever. Sounds hellish to me. One more note is how rarely we hear hell being spoken of as a serious consequence in church (or anywhere for that matter). Clearly Jesus took this subject seriously – and spoke of it on several different occassions, as a warning.

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Mark Deisinger

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the central and worst part of hell is reserved for those who were traitors to countrymen, guests, family, and lords (including God). The area is a vast ice plain named Caina (after Cain). Sinners are buried up to their chests, necks, etc., in accordance with the severity of their sins.

Obviously, the Divine Comedy is allegorical and symbolic and not meant to be taken literally, but the idea in this section is that those who deny the warmth of human kindness and love to those closest to them are denied any warmth as their final judgment.

As to your point about ‘asking’, I recommend C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. The central theme and line in the book are: “In the end, either we say to God, ‘Thy will be done.’, or He says to us, ‘Thy will be done’.”


I have never read the Divine Comedy – but the more I hear about it the more likely it is I will need to put this on my to do list…I remember hearing an excerpt – I think it was an audio book and there was a description of some kind of whore / fornication beast in hell where everyone was interconnected and being drug ariound against their individual wishes – but they were forever a kind of ‘one’ because of their sexual sins…the image has never left me.

The Great Divorce is a very good book – and it certainly highlights the point of our choosing our condemnation.

Thanks for the feedback.

Mark Deisinger

I recommend the Divine Comedy translation by Dorothy Sayers. I have the first two volumes (Inferno and Purgatorio); you’re welcome to borrow them.

Also, what was the poem that sparked your post?


That would be great! The poem I was reading was Diary Of An Old Soul – you can download it free here:


BTW – Project Gutenberg is a great site for free e-texts.

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