on 1-corinthians 15 :55
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? - Που σου, Θανατε, το κεντρον· που σου, ᾁδη, το νικος· These words are generally supposed to be taken from 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.
on 1-corinthians 15 :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 a glory and honor shall encompass the body of man, such as would have been unknown had there been 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 strewn 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 splendor, 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 (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?
O death, where is thy sting?"
on 1-corinthians 15 :55
15:55 O death, where is thy sting? - Which once was full of hellish poison. O hades, the receptacle of separate souls, where is thy victory - Thou art now robbed of all thy spoils; all thy captives are set at liberty. Hades literally means the invisible world, and relates to the soul; death, to the body. The Greek words are found in the Septuagint translation of Hosea 13:14. Isaiah 25:8