Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Up yours, death

In some ancient near-east religions, death was said to swallow its victims. For example, in the Baal cycle, Death, personified as Motswallows Baal (UT 67,i,67, which I think corresponds to KTU 1,4,vii,14-20). The Bible repeats this imagery in a few passages, with Mot being replaced by Sheol, or sometimes Erets, the earth. Isaiah 5:14 says "Sheol expands its jaws, opening wide its mouth"; Proverbs 30:15-16 and Habakkuk 2:5 describe Sheol as being unsatisfiable (which could be described as having an insatiable appetite); and then you have the whole account of Korah and his compatriots being swallowed by the Erets and going alive into Sheol in Numbers 16:28-34 (and elsewhere).

But the Bible also offers a divine response to this theme in Isaiah 25:6-8, in a description of Yahweh's banquet. Whereas death swallows its victims, verse 8 says Yahweh swallows death:

he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.


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