Does Isaiah Predict a Zombie Apocalypse?

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On Halloween in the USA, we are all about creepy and scary things. Perhaps it is our fascination with death and a misunderstanding of the resurrection tied to zombies that makes Halloween such a big deal here… Of course, there is the candy and all the kids, too.

While living in Europe, All Hallow Eve wasn’t much to celebrate, but the next day All Saints Day was.  In Mexico, they combine the two in a three-day celebration called the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) and it is a celebration of the lives of the dead. So, I wonder how we got all morbid and dark with our holiday?

To frame the answer to the question in the title, let’s consider one Christian writer’s comment: “There are some parts of the Bible that seem seriously weird to us. Take the end of Matthew 27 for example, with its image of the undead wandering around Jerusalem. It’s one of those passages that I’ve never heard anyone preach on, possibly because it seems to raise more questions than it answers” (When Zombies Roamed the Streets of Jerusalem, Tim Thornborough).

Not so for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We find the same kind of references in Third Nephi 23:8–13 when Jesus asked why the Nephites had not written the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy regarding “…many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them.” Then he asked, “Was it not so?”

Nothing scary or apocalyptic in that verse, but without an accurate understanding of the scriptures, over time, this could be made into a frightening tale around a campfire.

Isaiah and other ancient prophets certainly did not see anything but beauty in the resurrection:

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.

Isaiah 26:19

That is from the King James Version, but there are other translations that use words of the macabre. The opening line in the New Revised Standard Version says: “Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise” and the NET Bible offers this chilling translation: “Your dead will come back to life; your corpses will rise up. …the earth will bring forth its dead spirits.”

Something about rising corpses conjures up the whole zombie thing and while I am not usually one for zombie movies, (mostly because my wife cannot stand them at all), my youngest son insisted that I go see World War Z. I was surprised at the scenes of the city of Jerusalem being overrun by the hordes of the unliving (BTW in the book Jerusalem’s wall keeps them out).

The Feast of Purim (called Mordecai’s Day) was instituted by Mordecai and confirmed by Esther to commemorate the overthrow of Haman and the failure of his plots against the Jews (Esth. 9:20–32). The name Purim (lots) was given in mockery of the lots Haman had cast to secure a day of good omen for his enterprise (Esth. 3:7). The feast was held on the 14th and 15th of Adar (the twelfth month). The 13th of Adar, which was originally a feast to commemorate a Maccabean victory, afterwards became a fast, called the Fast of Esther, in preparation for the feast. During the feast the whole book of Esther was read in the synagogues, and all Israelites—men, women, children, and slaves—were required to be present. The reading was accompanied by clapping of hands, stamping of feet, and clamorous curses on Haman and the Jews’ enemies and blessings on Mordecai, Esther, etc. The feast was celebrated with great joy, shown by distributing gifts.

Does Isaiah Predict a Zombie Apocalypse?
“Wearing costumes is a prominent feature of the holiday,” reported the Times. Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP

For some reason, I had not thought even once about this really bad movie until I got a notice from an Israeli newspaper about Purim and the interesting way it is celebrated in Tel Aviv; looks a bit like Halloween or Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) at least the folks in costume were dressed along those lines.

According to The Times of Israel, “Purim celebrates the thwarted genocide of the Jews in ancient Persia.” The holiday commemorates the story of  Esther (see Esth. 9:26–32), who at great personal risk appealed to King Ahasuerus to reverse Haman’s decree to kill all Jews in Persian captivity. “Wearing costumes is a prominent feature of the holiday,” reported the Times.

I suppose there could have been a lot dead Jews if it weren’t for Esther’s courage, but they would not be walking dead. So where does this notion come from?

Likely a misunderstanding of those that rose with Christ (Matthew 27:50–54) in the New Testament or from the raising of Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary (John 11:1–4412:1–2, 9–11) who was raised by Jesus from the dead. But these are far from the zombies of modern invention that are soulless rotting corpses, hungry for human flesh or brains.

Resurrection and such healing as raising the dead could be confusing to some Bible readers, but an understanding of scripture should help. But there are some pretty tricky verses in Isaiah:

Isaiah 26:19-20 (KJV*)
19 Thy dead men shall livetogether 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.
20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.

*King James Version

It is this verse that most people who want to point to Zombies play with in the Bible. However, there is much beauty here for those who understand resurrection.

Reg Christensen, in Unlocking Isaiah, wrote: “The sweet salvation of the dead centers in the perfect Atonement of our Savior. Through the vicarious ordinances of the temples, the full blessing of our Savior’s victory over death and hell is extended to those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel.”In our homes, our chapels, and our temples, we may shut the doors of the world and bask in the peace and joy of pure gospel light as revealed to our own soul. As ancient Israel closed their doors while the destroying angel passed over them, we may gain the same retreat and protection through our making and keeping of gospel covenants. As we emerge from our silent chambers, the Lord will guide us forward on our mortal journey and will be to us as a protective wall and a sure bulwark against those who would destroy all that is good and eternal. The strength we gain in our quiet and safe places prepares us for the ongoing personal battles we all face. President David O. McKay taught, ‘The greatest battle of life is fought within the silent chambers of your own soul.’”

Isaiah 14:9–11(KJV*)

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
10 All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
11 Thy pomp is brought down to the graveand the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

This verse is equally challenging for those who do not understand the full context of this chapter, which in Understanding Isaiah,  is according to Don Parry, “two parallel texts that should be closely compared and contrasted. The first text speaks of the king of Babylon (14:4–11); the second deals with Lucifer (14:12–20).
“…The Hebrew sheol, translated as “hell” in 14:9 and as “grave” in 14:11, refers to the world of spirits. Isaiah 14:9–11 provides several insights about the world of the spirits: it is perceived (perhaps symbolically) to be a place that is physically lower than heaven or earth (14:9; 5:14); there is life after death there (14:9–10); there individuals are recognized (14:10); it is a place where kings, rulers, and others go (14:9); verbal communication exists there (14:10); it is where many of the dead become weak (14:10), perhaps because their spirits have been separated from their bodies (14:11) but also because they cannot rely on their earthly wealth and glory; and it is where mankind’s pomp (14:11) and earthly glory end.” Which all in and of itself, is pretty creepy.Parry, Donald W.. Understanding Isaiah (Kindle Locations 3743-3749). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.
Isaiah 9:20 (KJV*)
And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

This scripture needs to be read in the context of Isaiah 9:18-21 where the prophet is describing four evils that will befall Israel.

In Great are the Words of IsaiahMonte Nyman explained, “The third evil to visit Israel is the wickedness which is likened to a forest fire. The fire of wickedness will sweep on, using the people for fuel. All will be consumed in wickedness. This wickedness is so severe that brothers will “consume” brothers, members of their own families, and even themselves—and will still not be satisfied.”

Isaiah 13:8 (KJV*)
And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.

This scripture needs to be read in the context of Isaiah 13:6-9 which is part of the description of  Babylon’s destruction, which is a “type” of the destruction of Satan’s kingdom at the time of the Second Coming.

Hoyt Brewster in Isaiah Plain and Simple explains that “this could mean that the faces of …the people in looking at one another could be expressive of their horror in viewing the ravages of a burning disease, or the result of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare. Conceivably, such catastrophes could not only cause a face to “be as flames,” but also the “flesh [to] fall from off [the] bones, and [the] eyes from [the] sockets.” (D&C 29:18–19; see also Behold, I Come Quickly: The Last Days and Beyond, Deseret Book Co., 1994.)

Isaiah 34:2-3 (KJV*)

For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.

Well now that is a pretty gory scene, so if you are looking for the macabre in the Bible, this is a good set of verses.

Kelly Odgen in his Verse by Verse, Old Testment: Volume Two, wrote: ” These verses [1–10] possibly foreshadow nuclear warfare in a battle we often call Armageddon …When the Lord returns to earth at the Second Coming, he may find the wicked destroying themselves, and he will rescue the righteous. Isaiah describes the polluted rivers, the burning pitch, and smoke—all of which sounds like modern warfare. The prophet could hardly have predicted these events in such detail had he not seen them.

Isaiah 49:26 (KJV*)

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Once again, the morbid reader will see bad in a prediction of the LORD‘s Second Comming.

Monte Nyman, in Great are the Words of Isaiah explained, “In 1 Nephi 22:13-14, Nephi gave this verse two interpretations: the great and abominable church would war among themselves and become drunken with their own blood, and the nations who would fight against the house of Israel or against Zion would ‘fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord.’”

 

In all, it looks like the casual reader might see an apocalypse in the words of Isaiah. For me it all about the resurrection. So all I can say is happy Halloween and pleasant dreams!

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I am a retiree from Scouting. There I blogged for VoiceOfScouting.org, a site with more than 250,000 readers. During 42 years in the workplace, I've had many years senior level management with the BSA, professional associations, and high tech user groups. My background includes capital fundraising; outdoor adventure program development; property and construction management; event/conference planning; risk management and safety; lobbying federal, state and local government agencies; public relations; strategic planning; member advocacy and staff/volunteer training. Along the way, I have also taught Gospel Doctrine Classes and been both the ward and stake Sunday School President. In these settings, I have seen teachers and class members minimize Isaiah, a book Christ has commanded us to "search diligently." (3 Ne 23:1) With that in mind, I will do my best to explore and post my discoveries about the book of Isaiah. I am not a Bible scholar; like you, I read Isaiah in the Old Testament cycle of study in LDS Gospel Doctrine Classes and again in the Book of Mormon Cycle, so this is a whole new scripture adventure for me.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I love this! What a cool way to tie in the Halloween season with a gospel doctrine. Never thought about it this way before!

    • In personal study today I noted this in Isaiah 25:8, one chapter before the zombie quote, about the Savior. “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.” Too bad we examine verses out of context. This beautiful promise from Isaiah makes me long for the resurrection now.

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