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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


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Mâveth (מָוֶת, Strong's #4194), “death.” This word appears 150 times in the Old Testament. The word mâveth occurs frequently as an antonym of hayyim (“life”): “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live …” (Deut. 30:19). In the poetic language, mâveth is used more often than in the historical books: Job-Proverbs (about 60 times), Joshua-Esther (about 40 times); but in the major prophets only about 25 times.

“Death” is the natural end of human life on this earth; it is an aspect of God’s judgment on man: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Hence all men die: “If these men die the common death of all men … then the Lord hath not sent me” (Num. 16:29). The Old Testament uses “death” in phrases such as “the day of death” (Gen. 27:2) and “the year of death” (Isa. 6:1), or to mark an event as occurring before (Gen. 27:7, 10) or after (Gen. 26:18) someone’s passing away.

 “Death” may also come upon someone in a violent manner, as an execution of justice: “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree …” (Deut. 21:22-23). Saul declared David to be a “son of death” because he intended to have David killed (1 Sam. 20:31; cf. Prov. 16:14). In one of his experiences, David composed a psalm expressing how close an encounter he had had with death: “When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; the sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me” (2 Sam. 22:5-6; cf. Ps. 18:5-6). Isaiah predicted the Suffering Servant was to die a violent death: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isa. 53:9).

Associated with the meaning of “death” is the meaning of “death by a plague.” In a besieged city with unsanitary conditions, pestilence would quickly reduce the weakened population. Jeremiah alludes to this type of death as God’s judgment on Egypt (43:11); note that “death” refers here to “death of famine and pestilence.” Lamentations describes the situation of Jerusalem before its fall: “… Abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death” (Lam. 1:20; cf. also Jer. 21:8-9).

Finally, the word mâveth denotes the “realm of the dead” or che’ol. This place of death has gates (Ps. 9:13; 107:18) and chambers (Prov. 7:27); the path of the wicked leads to this abode (Prov. 5:5).

Isaiah expected “death” to be ended when the Lord’s full kingship would be established: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 25:8). Paul argued on the basis of Jesus’ resurrection that this event had already taken place (1 Cor. 15:54), but John looked forward to the hope of the resurrection when God would wipe away our tears (Rev. 21:4).

Teumtah means “death.” One occurrence is in Ps. 79:11: “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die [literally, sons of death]” (cf. Ps. 102:20).

Mâmoth refers to “death.” Mâmoth appears in Jer. 16:4: “They shall die of grievous deaths …” (cf. Ezek. 28:8).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Death'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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