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Verse 55. O death. This triumphant exclamation is the commencement of the fourth division of the chapter—the practical consequences of the doctrine. It is such an exclamation as every man with right feelings will be disposed to make, who contemplates the ravages of death; who looks upon a World where in all forms he has reigned, and who then contemplates the glorious truth, that a complete and final triumph has been obtained over this great enemy of the happiness of man, and that man would die no more. It is a triumphant view which bursts upon the soul as it contemplates the fact that the work of the second Adam has repaired the ruins of the first, and that man is redeemed; his body will be raised; not another human being should die, and the work of death should be ended. Nay, it is more. Death is not only at an end; it shall not only cease, but its evils shall be repaired; and the glory and honour shall encompasse the body of man, such as would have been unknown had there n no death. No commentary can add to the beauty and force of the language in this verse; and the best way to see its beauty, and to enjoy it, is to sit down and think of DEATH; of what death has been, and has done; of the millions and millions that have died; of the earth strewed with the dead, and "arched with graves;" of our own death; the certainty that we must die, and our parents, and brothers, and sisters, and children, and friends; that all, all must die;—and then to suffer the truth, in its full-orbed splendour, to rise upon us, that the time will come when DEATH SHALL, BE AT AN END. Who, in such contemplation, can refrain from the language of triumph, and from hymns of praise?

Where is thy sting? The word which is here rendered sting (kentron) denotes, properly, a prick, a point; hence a goad or stimulus; i.e., a rod or staff with an iron point, for goading oxen, See Barnes "Ac 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, adh. 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 Barnes "Isa 14:9".

Compare Lowth, Lect. on Heb. Poet. 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 Hos 13:14, which we translate—-

"O death, I will be thy plagues;

O grave, I will be thy destruction."

But which the Seventy render-

"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!

O death, where is thy sting."


{a} "death" Hos 13:14 {1} "grave" "hell"

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