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.


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