Bones: etzem (feminine noun). (Strong’s 6106)
Sounds like: eh-tsem
Somewhere, down the line, a translation error shaped the course of one of our most popular idioms… “flesh and blood”. This phrase has been used, throughout the centuries to describe our family connections. We talk about our darling children, our own flesh and blood. We share “blood-lines” with our family and celebrate our genetic relationship to our relatives.
However, the Biblical term “flesh and blood” is not Biblical at all. The term is actually “bone and flesh”.
Not Flesh and Blood… rather Bone and Flesh:
As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh [atzmi u’vesari]!”
Depending on your translation, if you look up this verse in your Bible, you will likely read something along the lines of, Laban exclaimed, “You really are my own flesh and blood!” But the original Hebrew is atzmi u’vesari (bone and flesh), with no mention of blood at all.
The phrase bone and flesh shows up all over the Bible, including:
“Remember that I am your bone and your flesh [atz’m’kem u-vesar’kem]”
2 Samuel 19:12a
“You are my brothers, my bone and my flesh [atzmi u-vesari]. So why should you be the last to restore the king?”
1 Chronicles 11:1
Then all Israel came together to David at Hebron saying, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh [atz’m’ka u-vesar’eka]…”
This phrase of bone and flesh is even connected to the very first time we see the word bone [etzem] in the Bible:
So YHWH God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he slept, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the area with flesh. And from the rib that YHWH God had taken from the man, He made a woman and brought her to him. And the man said:
“This is now bone [etzem] of my bones [m’atzamay] and flesh of my flesh…”
This phrase is a sign of equality. We are one; we are connected; we are equal… made in the image (reflection) of God. We are of the same bone and flesh.
But our bodies are more than just a bag of bones. We are made by God, and that’s pretty amazing! We are connected to each other by bone and flesh. And for those who have cemented a relationship with YHWH, we are bound together by God’s Spirit (breath).
Job, who often struggled with body pain and frequently questioned the meaning of life, knew, deep down, that the body he had been given had been blessed and cared for by YHWH:
You clothed me with skin and flesh,
and knit me together with bones [u’ve’etza’mowt] and sinews.
You have granted me life and loving devotion,
and Your care has preserved my spirit.
God created us out of love and devotion. He wants us to be filled with His spirit so we can mirror that same kind of love and devotion to others. This idea is addressed in one of the most visually explicit moments in the Bible… Ezekiel’s vision of the “Dry Bones”:
The hand of YHWH was upon me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones [atzamowt]. He led me all around among them, and I saw a great many of them on the floor of the valley, and indeed they were very dry. Then He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones [ha’atzamowt] live?”
“O Lord GOD,” I replied, “only You know.”
And He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones [ha’atzamowt] and tell them: ‘Dry bones [ha’atzamowt] , hear the word of YHWH! This is what the Lord GOD says to these bones [l’atzamowt]: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh grow upon you and cover you with skin. I will put breath within you so that you will come to life. Then you will know that I am YHWH.’”
So I prophesied as I had been commanded. And as I prophesied, there was suddenly a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones [atzamowt] came together, bone to bone [etzem el atzmow]. As I looked on, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and tell it that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, so that they may live!’”
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet—a vast army.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones [ha’atzamowt] are the whole house of Israel. Look, they are saying, ‘Our bones [atzmow’tenu] are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.’
Therefore prophesy and tell them that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘O My people, I will open your graves and bring you up from them, and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, My people, will know that I am YHWH, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I, YHWH, have spoken, and I will do it, declares YHWH.’”
Israel was dead to life; they were like dry bones. But God promised to put His breath in them so that they could LIVE! Here’s the thing, life is not living in a bag of bones… we need the Spirit- God’s breath- to bring us life.
It was Jesus who commissioned the spirit to take root in all who believed in Him [John 14:26-27]. Ezekiel’s vision of living bones coming to life with the Spirit points directly to our own felt need to truly be alive, not living, day to day, just etching out a bare existence. No, we need to be full of life, living for the Creator to help this planet be the best it can be!
With this connection between bones and life and spirit, it’s not surprising that bones played a part in the Tanakh’s prophecies about Yeshua/Jesus.
Bones in the Passover… No Bones to Be Broken
Yeshua often referred to as the Passover Lamb, so let’s take a look at the rules regarding the Passover Lamb in the Torah:
[Speaking of Passover meal:] It must be eaten inside one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you may not break any of the bones.
Then YHWH said to Moses [regarding Passover], “ Such people are to observe it at twilight on the fourteenth day of the second month. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; they may not leave any of it until morning or break any of its bones [w’etzem]. They must observe the Passover according to all its statutes.”
The Psalmist, who was extremely familiar with the Torah, also made an interesting statement about bones:
The righteous cry out, and YHWH hears; He delivers them from all their troubles.
YHWH is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all.
He protects all His bones [atzmowtah]; not one of them will be broken.
YHWH will save, deliver and protect. How?… by bringing a Messiah, a perfect, unbroken, Passover lamb.
Yeshua’s death, on the cross, fulfilled the prophecies of the Tanakh/Old Testament. His bones, although in terrible agony, were never broken:
It was the day of Preparation, and the next day was a High Sabbath. In order that the bodies would not remain on the cross during the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and those of the other.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. The one who saw it has testified to this, and his testimony is true. He knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.
Now these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” And, as another Scripture says: “They will look on the One they have pierced.”
Here is one of those Scriptures quoted, in the voice of the Messiah/Mashiach:
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
They open their jaws against me like lions that roar and maul.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones [atzmotai] are disjointed.
My heart is like wax; it melts away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs surround me; a band of evil men encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones [atzmotai]; they stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
His bones were disjointed, he could feel every one of them, but they were not broken. Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus the Messiah died an agonizing death for us. As His followers we are His representatives on this planet. We are His bones and his flesh.
For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church. For we are parts of his body—of his flesh and of his bones.
We need to take care of ourselves, this body. We are not a bag of bones. We are full of the Spirit and we have great things to do with our lives.
We often see bones as emblems of our mortality. Seeing skeletons are a reminder of our upcoming deaths. But bones show our connection to each other, and to the Messiah. We are His living bones, given a purpose. Skeletons should not be a reminder of death, but a reminder of how great life can be when we are in right relationship with YHWH.
For those who love YHWH… your bones may turn to dust, but your spirit will be delivered to the God who made you. You are under His shield and redeemed by His love.
Next week: shield