Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Death Swallowed Up

There is a fascinating Hebrew idiom associated with death, the pit and the grave. The concept is that the grave or death swallows up it's victims.

"Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:" (Proverbs 1:12).

"But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit..." (Num. 16:30).

Isaiah uses this idiom in reverse to speak of the reversal of death. Death becomes the thing that is "swallowed up." Later, in 1 Cor. 15:54, Paul quotes Isaiah.

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it" (Isaiah 25:8).

This is the only occurrence of a reversal of this them in the Bible. I find it interesting that it occurs several times in the Book of Mormon.

"But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ" (Mosiah 16:8).

"And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king" (Alma 22:14).

"And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it" (Alma 27:28).

"Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up" (Mormon 7:5).

This is beautiful imagery that would be most useful and beautiful to a Hebrew speaking person who understood the concept of "death swallowing up" people. In Christ, death itself is swallowed up! I appreciate this imagery first found in the Bible, and think the Book of Mormon does a wonderful job at expounding and building on that imagery.

Also, of note is this scripture:

"Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7).

With this understanding of the terminology, I think Abinadi is here saying that Christ's will (to "let pass this cup" of suffering and death), was swallowed up in the Father's will that he suffer and die. In other words, Christ killed his own will in preference to the Father's will.


chad said...

This is an interesting concept of Hebraisms in the BoM. I have reading Jeff Lindsay and some FAIR writings on it.

I hate to play "devils advocate" here but as an investigator I must say that these Hebraisms could just as easily have been put into the BoM because they were well known to J.S. from the KJV Bible...now I am not going so far as saying he copied from the text...I am wondering however if the prhase "swallowed up" could just be something (a familiar scripture) that Smith saw in the Bible or heard read etc...

What I find more compelling are the examples of chiasmus in BoM as I think they would be harder to trasscribe in English if the words weren't being translated from some other linguistic source.

Further...I wonder what relation did the reformed Egyptian writing of the plates have to Aramaic and biblical Hebrew that they would carry such similarities?

Andrew Miller said...

Oh yes, I'd agree. Out of all the Hebraisms, this is one he clearly could have lifted from the Bible. I suggest that's not extremely likely, but clearly possible.

Have you seen my article on Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon? In Internal Textual Evidences for Authenticity I discuss parallelisms (including chiasmus), grammatical features of the text (most notably the “if..and” clause), names, etc. I think you'd find it insightful and compelling. After you see such compelling things, adding the “swallowed up” concept to the list as a Hebraism seems more likely.

I think the Book of Mormon was essentially written in Hebrew with Egyptian-like characters. I also discuss that in the article briefly.

chad said...


Just had a chance to see your comment - I think I did read the post you reference but I am going to read it later again...half of the excitement of all of this for me is the research and the conversation thanks for being one source that facilitates that...there is also the added element of wonder and mystery as I try to examine with both heart and mind...I would be very uncomfortable talking with missionaries as I know (from research again) that they have a timeline and a goal (not implying that is bad) this is my better...so thanks for partnering with me in coversation.

chad said...

much better (not my better)....sorry

Andrew Miller said...


I understand the whole issue with the missionaries 100%. I'd encourage you to go to church sometime if you haven't just for the learning opportunity, however. My parents went to church for a couple of years but never talked with the missionaries. Anyway, I'm glad this blog has been helpful. I'll keep posting.

What would you say your biggest interests or questions are? Maybe I could look into those topics and address them in future posts.

chad said...


You're gonna open a floodgate with an offer like that...(btw the way I did utilize the Church's online ask a missionary feature but it was way too slow and limited to continue)

I do have further theological questions that would be great if responded to in a post ( I will work on presenting my list ) but i also have some questions of a "practical" nature as well.

For example the word of wisdom prohibition on 'hot drinks' interpreted as coffee and tea...does herbal tea count or just actual tea? What about coffee substitutes (and don't suggest Postum..it's horrible :) is it just a drink derived from the coffee bean?

I also have a question regarding the garments but it is somewhat intimate in nature and I wouldn't want it to be misconstrued by other reader as disrespectful (though the intention is not in the least) it might be better asked offline..

A post on origin of the word of wisdom like what provoked it (if that's the right word) and why tea and coffee were included would be good though...

Andrew Miller said...


Great questions. As far as the garment issue goes, feel free to email me about that as it's a little more private and less likely to cause any problems: dispensatormysteriorumdei@live.com

I'll do a post on the Word of Wisdom next. I'll try to answer:

1) What provoked the revelation?
2) How is "hot drinks" officially interpreted?
3) Does the revelation called "the word of wisdom" witness to Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet?

Any other questions you think would be useful to address as far as the word of wisdom question goes?