Latter-day Saint scholars David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes have discussed how the Book of Mormon contains ties with ancient Near East traditions of personifying death and hell. They remark how the personification of inanimate objects such as sleep, heaven, hell, and death was a widespread phenomenon in the ancient Near East.
In the Book of Mormon death is referred to as a “monster” several times by Jacob, for example in 2 Nephi 9:10 we read:
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
Bokovoy and Tvedtnes conclude:
The personification of Death and Hell, together with motifs such as bands of death, preparing an escape route, and swallowing up one’s adversary, demonstrate an authentic core to the Book of Mormon’s claim for ties with the ancient Near East. Until quite recently, biblical scholars were unaware of these cosmological elements in the Old Testament. Yet Book of Mormon authors drew upon these archaic themes with poetic ease when presenting their testimonies that Christ was victorious over the grave.– David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes – The Personification of Death and Hell
Would Joseph Smith have understood this kind of symbolism just from reading the Bible if even biblical scholars were unaware of these cosmological elements in the Old Testament?