The Valley of the Shadow of Death
By John Bunyan
From "The Pilgrim's Progress"
ow, at the end of this valley was another, called the Valley
of the Shadow of Death, and Christian must needs go through it, because the way to
the Celestial City lay through the midst of it. Now, this valley is a very solitary
place. The prophet Jeremiah thus describes it: "A wilderness, a land of deserts
and of pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man"
(but a Christian) "passed through, and where no man dwelt." [Jeremiah 2:6]
Now here Christian was worse put to it than in his fight with Apollyon, as by the
sequel you shall see.
The children of the spies go back
I saw then in my dream, that when Christian was got to the borders of the Shadow
of Death, there met him two men, children of them that brought up an evil report
of the good land [Numbers 13], making haste to go back; to whom Christian spake as
CHRISTIAN: Whither are you going?
MEN: They said, Back! back! and we would have you to do so too, if either life or
peace is prized by you.
CHRISTIAN: Why, what's the matter? said Christian.
MEN: Matter! said they; we were going that way as you are going, and went as far
as we durst; and indeed we were almost past coming back; for had we gone a little
further, we had not been here to bring the news to thee.
CHRISTIAN: But what have you met with? said Christian.
MEN: Why, we were almost in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; but that, by good
hap, we looked before us, and saw the danger before we came to it. [Psalm 44:19;
CHRISTIAN: But what have you seen? said Christian.
MEN: Seen! Why, the Valley itself, which is as dark as pitch; we also saw there the
hobgoblins, satyrs, and dragons of the pit; we heard also in that Valley a continual
howling and yelling, as of a people under unutterable misery, who there sat bound
in affliction and irons; and over that Valley hangs the discouraging clouds of confusion.
Death also doth always spread his wings over it. In a word, it is every whit dreadful,
being utterly without order. [Job 3:5; 10:22]
"Let darkness and the shadow
of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify
~ Job 3:5 ~
"A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without
any order, and where the light is as darkness."
~ Job 10:22 ~
CHRISTIAN: Then, said Christian, I perceive not yet, by what you have said, but that
this is my way to the desired haven. [Jeremiah 2:6]
"Neither said they, Where is
the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness,
through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow
of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?"
~ Jeremiah 2:6 ~
MEN: Be it thy way; we will not choose it for ours. So, they parted, and Christian
went on his way, but still with his sword drawn in his hand, for fear lest he should
I saw then in my dream, so far as this valley reached, there was on the right hand
a very deep ditch; that ditch is it into which the blind have led the blind in all
ages, and have both there miserably perished. [Psalm 69:14,15]
"Deliver me out of the mire,
and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep
waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and
let not the pit shut her mouth upon me."
~ Psalm 69:14, 15 ~
Again, behold, on the left hand, there was a very dangerous quag,
into which, if even a good man falls, he can find no bottom for his foot to stand
on. Into that quag King David once did fall, and had no doubt therein been smothered,
had not HE that is able plucked him out.
The pathway was here also exceeding narrow, and therefore good Christian was the
more put to it; for when he sought, in the dark, to shun the ditch on the one hand,
he was ready to tip over into the mire on the other; also when he sought to escape
the mire, without great carefulness he would be ready to fall into the ditch. Thus
he went on, and I heard him here sigh bitterly; for, besides the dangers mentioned
above, the pathway was here so dark, and ofttimes, when he lift up his foot to set
forward, he knew not where or upon what he should set it next.
Poor man! where art thou now? thy day is night.
Good man, be not cast down, thou yet art right,
Thy way to heaven lies by the gates of Hell;
Cheer up, hold out, with thee it shall go well.
About the midst of this valley, I perceived the mouth of hell to be, and it stood
also hard by the wayside. Now, thought Christian, what shall I do? And ever and anon
the flame and smoke would come out in such abundance, with sparks and hideous noises,
(things that cared not for Christian's sword, as did Apollyon before), that he was
forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon called All-prayer.
"Praying always with all prayer
and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication for all saints"
~ Ephesians 6:18 ~
So he cried in my hearing, "O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver
my soul!" [Psalm 116:4]
"Then called I upon the name
of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul."
~ Psalm 116:4 ~
Thus he went on a great while, yet still the flames would be reaching
towards him. Also he heard doleful voices, and rushings to and fro, so that sometimes
he thought he should be torn in pieces, or trodden down like mire in the streets.
Christian put to a stand, but for a while
This frightful sight was seen, and these dreadful noises were heard by him for several
miles together; and, coming to a place where he thought he heard a company of fiends
coming forward to meet him, he stopped, and began to muse what he had best to do.
Sometimes he had half a thought to go back; then again he thought he might be half
way through the valley; he remembered also how he had already vanquished many a danger,
and that the danger of going back might be much more than for to go forward; so he
resolved to go on. Yet the fiends seemed to come nearer and nearer; but when they
were come even almost at him, he cried out with a most vehement voice, "I will
walk in the strength of the Lord God!" so they gave back, and came no further.
Christian made believe that he spake blasphemies, when it was Satan that suggested
them into his mind
One thing I would not let slip. I took notice that now poor Christian was so confounded,
that he did not know his own voice; and thus I perceived it. Just when he was come
over against the mouth of the burning pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him,
and stepped up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies
to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian
more to it than anything that he met with before, even to think that he should now
blaspheme Him that he loved so much before; yet, if he could have helped it, he would
not have done it; but he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know
from whence these blasphemies came.
"Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
~ Luke 11:4 ~
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is
faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will
with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ~
When Christian had travelled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time,
he thought he heard the voice of a man, as going before him, saying, "Though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art
with me." [Psalm 23:4]
"Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy
rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
~ Psalm 23:4 ~
Then he was glad, and that for these reasons:
First, Because he gathered from thence, that some who feared God were in this valley
as well as himself.
Secondly, For that he perceived God was with them, though in that dark and dismal
state; and why not, thought he, with me? though, by reason of the impediment that
attends this place, I cannot perceive it. [Job 9:11]
"Lo, he goeth by me, and I
see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not."
~ Job 9:11 ~
Thirdly, For that he hoped, could he overtake them, to have company by and by. So
he went on, and called to him that was before; but he knew not what to answer; for
that he also thought to be alone. And by and by the day broke; then said Christian,
He hath turned "the shadow of death into the morning". [Amos 5:8]
"Seek Him that maketh the seven
stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the
day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out
upon the face of the earth: The LORD is His name:"
~ Amos 5:8 ~
Christian glad at break of day
Now morning being come, he looked back, not out of desire to return, but to see,
by the light of the day, what hazards he had gone through in the dark. So he saw
more perfectly the ditch that was on the one hand, and the mire that was on the other;
also how narrow the way was which led betwixt them both; also now he saw the hobgoblins,
and satyrs, and dragons of the pit, but all afar off, (for after break of day, they
came not nigh;) yet they were discovered to him, according to that which is written,
"He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow
of death." [Job 12:22]
The second part of this valley very dangerous
Now was Christian much affected with his deliverance from all the dangers of his
solitary way; which dangers, though he feared them more before, yet he saw them more
clearly now, because the light of the day made them conspicuous to him. And about
this time the sun was rising, and this was another mercy to Christian; for you must
note, that though the first part of the Valley of the Shadow of Death was dangerous,
yet this second part which he was yet to go, was, if possible, far more dangerous;
for from the place where he now stood, even to the end of the valley, the way was
all along set so full of snares, traps, gins, and nets here, and so full of pits,
pitfalls, deep holes, and shelvings down there, that, had it now been dark, as it
was when he came the first part of the way, had he had a thousand souls, they had
in reason been cast away; but, as I said just now, the sun was rising. Then said
he, "His candle shineth upon my head, and by his light I walk through darkness."
In this light, therefore, he came to the end of the valley. Now I saw in my dream,
that at the end of this valley lay blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men,
even of pilgrims that had gone this way formerly; and while I was musing what should
be the reason, I espied a little before me a cave, where two giants, POPE and PAGAN,
dwelt in old time; by whose power and tyranny the men whose bones, blood, and ashes,
&c., lay there, were cruelly put to death. But by this place Christian went without
much danger, whereat I somewhat wondered; but I have learnt since, that PAGAN has
been dead many a day; and as for the other, though he be yet alive, he is, by reason
of age, and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger days,
grown so crazy and stiff in his joints, that he can now do little more than sit in
his cave's mouth, grinning at pilgrims as they go by, and biting his nails because
he cannot come at them.
A note from the editor of Acacia Vignettes:
John Bunyan depicts "POPE" and "PAGAN" here as being dead or
I am sorry to say that both are alive and well.
So I saw that Christian went on his way; yet, at the sight of the Old Man that sat
in the mouth of the cave, he could not tell what to think, especially because he
spake to him, though he could not go after him, saying, "You will never mend
till more of you be burned." But he held his peace, and set a good face on it,
and so went by and catched no hurt. Then sang Christian:
O world of wonders! (I can say no less),
That I should be preserved in that distress
That I have met with here! O blessed be
That hand that from it hath deliver'd me!
Dangers in darkness, devils, hell, and sin
Did compass me, while I this vale was in:
Yea, snares, and pits, and traps, and nets, did lie
My path about, that worthless, silly I
Might have been catch'd, entangled, and cast down;
But since I live, let JESUS wear the crown.
The Twenty-third Psalm
A Psalm of David
"The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to
lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my
soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art
with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth
over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will
dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."