The Dust of Death
Isaiah 26:19
Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust…

If one has seen a place of graves in the East, he will appreciate the elements of this figure, which takes "dust" for death and "dew" for life. With our damp graveyards mould has become the traditional trappings of death; but where under the hot Eastern sun things do not rot into lower forms of life, but crumble into sapless powder, that will not keep a worm in life, dust is the natural symbol of death. When they die, men go not to feed fat the mould, but "down into the dust"; and there the foot of the living falls silent, and his voice is choked, and the light is thickened and in retreat, as if it were creeping away to die. The only creatures the visitor starts are timid, unclean bats, that flutter and whisper about him like the ghosts of the dead. There are no flowers in an Eastern cemetery; and the withered branches and other ornaments are thickly powdered with the same dust that chokes and silences and darkens all. Hence the Semitic conception of the underworld was dominated by dust. It was not water nor fire nor frost nor altogether darkness which made the infernal prison horrible, but that upon its floors and rafters, hewn from the roots and ribs of the primeval mountains, dust lay deep and choking. Amid all the horrors he imagined for the dead, Dante did not include one more awful than the horror of dust.

(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

WEB: Your dead shall live. My dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth will cast forth the dead.

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