Skip to content

עֶ֫צֶם, Bone as Soul

Hebrew has a lot of figurative usage for different words. “Bone” happens to be one of those. It is pronounced, etsem. Look at these Proverbs:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Prov. 16:24

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones. Prov. 15:30

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Prov. 14:30

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Prov. 3:7-8

Isaiah uses it here:

You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies. Isaiah 66:14

Zophar uses it:

His bones are full of his youthful vigor, but it will lie down with him in the dust.  Job 20:11

Elihu uses it:

Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, And with unceasing complaint in his bones; Job 33:19

It’s an interesting and unique thing to think of bones in the sense of “flourishing” , “healing”, and being full of “vigor”. What are they talking about exactly? Jobs words seems to give the best definition:

“And now my soul is poured out within me;
days of affliction have taken hold of me.
The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.
With great force my garment is disfigured;
it binds me about like the collar of my tunic.
God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes. Job 30:17-19

The context of this is Job’s soul which is being poured out within him. It apparently relates to the substance of the soul. The figurative expression carries over into English. When we say something like, “there’s fire in my bones,” we speak about feeling within the deepest parts of our being.  Jeremiah says exactly this,

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. Jer. 20:9

Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones is an entire word of the Lord based on…bones…

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Eze. 37:11

Looking at Prov. 14:30 again we see that the author was saying that a tranquil heart is good for the body while envy rots the soul. Envy doesn’t do anything to your real bones. So, the interpretation fits. With this in mind, what happens if we apply this to the poetry of Adam in Genesis 2:23?

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

What we find is that Adam wasn’t being redundant but instead saying that the woman was of the same substance as his flesh and the same substance as his soul. This yields insight, I believe, to the act of God “removing one of Adam’s ribs” as taking a piece of Adam’s own soul and generating it into a woman. This presents to us a deeper truth that Adam and Eve were not separate egalitarian creations like the animals but of one and the same substance in flesh and soul. And why would this not also carry over into marriage when the two souls unite to make one flesh? The whole picture is truly enigmatic and prophetic in every way.