O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?
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Where is thy sting? - The word which is here rendered sting (κέντρον kentron) denotes properly a prick, a point, hence, a goad or stimulus; that is, a rod or staff with an iron point, for goading oxen; (see the note on Acts 9:5); and then a sting properly, as of scorpions, bees, etc. It denotes here a venomous thing, or weapon, applied to death personified, as if death employed it to destroy life, as the sting of a bee or a scorpion is used. The idea is derived from the venomous sting of serpents, or other reptiles, as being destructive and painful. The language here is the language of exultation, as if that was taken away or destroyed.
O grave - ᾅδη hadē. Hades, the place of the dead. It is not improperly rendered, however, grave. The word properly denotes a place of darkness; then the world, or abodes of the dead. According to the Hebrews, Hades, or Sheol, was a vast subterranean receptacle, or abode, where the souls of the dead existed. It was dark, deep, still, awful. The descent to it was through the grave; and the spirits of all the dead were supposed to be assembled there; the righteous occupying the upper regions, and the wicked the lower; see the note on Isaiah 14:9; compare Lowth, Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vii; Campbell, Prel. Diss. vi. part 2, 2. It refers here to the dead; and means that the grave, or Hades, should no longer have a victory.
Thy victory - Since the dead are to rise; since all the graves are to give up all that dwell in them; since no man will die after that, where is its victory? It is taken away. It is despoiled. The power of death and the grave is vanquished, and Christ is triumphant over all. It has been well remarked here, that the words in this verse rise above the plain and simple language of prose, and resemble a hymn, into which the apostle breaks out in view of the glorious truth which is here presented to the mind. The whole verse is indeed a somewhat loose quotation from Hosea 13:14, which we translate,
"O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction."
But which the Septuagint renders:
"O death, where is thy punishment?
O grave, where is thy sting?"
Probably Paul did not intend this as a direct quotation; but he spoke as a man naturally does who is familiar with the language of the Scriptures, and used it to express the sense which he intended, without meaning to make a direct and literal quotation. The form which Paul uses is so poetic in its structure that Pope has adopted it, with only a change in the location of the members, in the "Dying Christian:"
"O grave, where is thy victory?Hosea 13:14, where the Hebrew text stands thus: אהי דבריך מות אהי קטבך שאול ehi debareyca maueth; ehikatabca sheol: which we translate, O death! I will be thy plagues; O grave! I will be thy destruction; and which the Septuagint translate very nearly as the apostle, που ἡ δικη σου, Θαντε; που το κεντρον σον, ᾁδη; O death, where is thy revenge, or judicial process? O grave, where is thy sting? And it may be remarked that almost all the MSS., versions, and many of the fathers, interchange the two members of this sentence as they appear in the Septuagint, attributing victory to death; and the sting, to hades or the grave; only the Septuagint, probably by mistake or corruption of copyists, have δικη, dike, revenge or a judicial process, for νικος, nikos, victory: a mistake which the similarity of the words, both in letters and sound, might readily produce. We may observe, also, that the אהי ehi (I will be) of the Hebrew text the Septuagint, and the apostle following them, have translated που, where, as if the word had been written איה where, the two last letters interchanged; but אהי ehi, is rendered where in other places; and our translators, in the 10th verse of this same chapter (Hosea 13:10) render אהי מלך ehi malca, "I will be thy king," but have this note in the margin, "Rather, where is thy king? King Hoshea being then in prison." The apostle, therefore, and the Septuagint, are sufficiently vindicated by the use of the word elsewhere: and the best Jewish commentators allow this use of the word. The Targum, Syriac, Arabic, Vulgate, and some MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi, confirm this reading.
Having vindicated the translation, it is necessary to inquire into the meaning of the apostle's expressions. Both Death and Hades are here personified: Death is represented as having a sting, dagger, or goad, by which, like the driver of oxen, he is continually irritating and urging on; (these irritations are the diseases by which men are urged on till they fall into Hades, the empire of Death); to Hades, victory is attributed, having overcome and conquered all human life, and subdued all to its own empire. By the transposition of these two members of the sentence, the victory is given to Death, who has extinguished all human life; and the sting is given to Hades, as in his empire the evil of death is fully displayed by the extinction of all animal life, and the destruction of all human bodies. We have often seen a personification of death in ancient paintings - a skeleton crowned, with a dart in his hand; probably taken from the apostle's description. The Jews represent the angel of death as having a sword, from which deadly drops of gall fall into the mouths of all men.
Hades, which we here translate grave, is generally understood to be the place of separate spirits. See the note on Matthew 11:23.Hosea 13:14 and that they belong to the times of the Messiah, the ancient Jews acknowledge; and the Chaldee paraphrase interprets them of the Logos, or Word of God, rendering them thus,
"my Word shall be among them to kill, and my Word to destroy;''
wherefore the apostle is not to be charged with a misapplication of them, nor with a perversion of them, as he is by the Jew (s): in the prophet they are thus read, "O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction"; between which, and the apostle's citation of them, there is some difference; the word which we render in both clauses, "I will be", the apostle translates "where", and that very rightly, and so it should be rendered there; and so it is by the Septuagint interpreters, who render the whole as he, with a little variation, "where is thy revenge, O death? where is thy sting, O grave?" and so the Arabic version of Hosea still nearer the apostle, "where is now thy victory, O death?" or "where is thy sting, O grave?" and even the Chaldee paraphrase on Hosea 13:14 renders the same word "where"; for instead of, "I will be thy king", the Targum reads, , "where is thy king?" and Aben Ezra, a Jewish writer of great note, on Hosea 13:14 observes, that there are some that say the word is to be inverted as if it was "where", and he adds, and it is right; a like observation he makes on those words in 1 Corinthians 15:14 and that that is the true sense of the word in both verses, is attested by Ebn Jannahius Tanchuma (t); so that the apostle is thus far to be justified, in his citation of this passage: it is further to be observed, that instead of "thy plagues", he reads, "thy sting"; and I doubt not, but that among the many things which signifies, as it must be owned it does signify the plague, or pestilence, see Psalm 90:6 and which perhaps is so called, from the venomous nature of it, and the poisonous sting that is in it, so likewise a sting, though there is no instance of it; certain it is, that bees are called and as Cocceius (u) observes, from their sting; and so in the Chaldee and Arabic languages, a bee, or a wasp, is called and it is to such sort of creatures, that the allusion is here made; who having lost their stings, can do no hurt; and which will be the case of death in the resurrection morn, when risen saints will insult over it in this triumphant manner; having nothing more to fear from it, any more than a man has to be afraid of any animal whatever, that has lost its sting: and in the following clause,
O grave, where is thy victory? instead of "destruction", as it must be allowed the word signifies, see Psalm 90:6 the apostle reads victory; but then there is no difference in the sense; for the grave gets its victory over its thousands, and ten thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousands, and millions of millions, by the destruction of them, which now it glories in, and boasts of; but in the resurrection morn, when its destruction will be at an end, the triumphant saints may reasonably ask, where is its boasted victory, since it can destroy no longer.O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?O death, where is thy sting? This is quoted from Ho 13:14. It is here the triumphant shout of the apostle as he sees by faith the final victory over death.Verse 55. - O death, where is thy sting? A triumphantly fervid exclamation of the apostle, loosely cited from Hosea 13:14. The apostles and evangelists, not holding the slavish and superstitious fetish worship of the dead letter, often regard it as sufficient to give the general sense of the passages to which they refer. O grave, where is thy victory? In the best attested reading (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), "death" is repeated, and in the best manuscripts this clause precedes the last. But if the reading, "O Hades," were correct, our translators, since they held it here impossible in accordance with their views to render it by "hell," ought to have taken warning, and seen the pernicious inapplicability of that rendering in other places where they have used it to express this same Greek word. Here "Hades" has probably been introduced into the Greek text from the LXX., which uses it for the Sheol of the original.
grave. or, hell.
is thy victory.
From Hosea 13:14, a free version of the Sept.: "Where is thy penalty, O Death? Where thy sting, O Hades? Heb.: Where are thy plagues, O Death? Where thy pestilence, O Sheol?
O grave (ἅδη)
Which is the reading of the Septuagint. The correct reading is θάνατε O death. So Rev. Hades does not occur in Paul's writings. In Romans 10:7 he uses abyss. Edwards thinks that this is intentional, and suggests that Paul, writing to Greeks, may have shunned the ill-omened name which people dreaded to utter. So Plato: "People in general use the word (Pluto) as a euphemism for Hades, which their fears lead them to derive erroneously from ἀειδής the invisible" ("Cratylus," 403).
In the Septuagint for the Hebrew pestilence. See on Revelation 9:9. The image is that of a beast with a sting; not death with a goad, driving men.
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