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In Gen. 2:23, 24 we this term used by Adam in the following way:

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

So the term 'bone and flesh' is used to refer to Adam's wife, Eve.

In Job 2:5 we read this term used in the following way:

But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Is the use of this term deliberate in that it must convey the nuance of refering to Job's wife too?

It seems like that because in 2:9 Job's 'bone and flesh' is 'touched' and responds exactly the way Satan anticipates in 2:5.

I know Satan was expecting Job to respond this way but I the fact that his wife does so at this point in the story seems very significant.

In my mind it is like the author is saying through this nuanced use of the term 'bone and flesh' and Job's wife's response, that even though Job's carnal mind was telling him to give up, he transcended such a response by faith (as becomes even clearer as the book progresses).

If this term is a nuance, then it seems to add depth to these seemingly simple verses.

Is there anything in the Hebrew language that gives evidence for such a nuanced use in Job 2:5 or is it enough evidence that we see it reflected even in the English translation?

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    Bone is structural and mechanical. Flesh is feeling and sensitive. To 'touch' both will affect not only one's feeling senses but also the structure and mechanics of one's stature and mobility. It is comprehensive. Up-voted +1, but I doubt the connection is to Eve, myself.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26, 2022 at 17:43
  • Thanks for your comment @NigelJ. I was not suggesting that the term refers to Eve but simply to Job's wife. We see the term, and the next we see how his wife (which happens to be his 'bone and flesh') responds.
    – user49416
    Apr 26, 2022 at 18:48
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    Yes. Understood. I was meaning womankind in general.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26, 2022 at 18:50
  • 1
    Oh, now I understand. Thanks again!
    – user49416
    Apr 26, 2022 at 18:52
  • Sorry and no. The term 'bone and flesh' is not used, except by you here, or unspecified speakers in unspecified writings. Can you cite them, or discount them? Aug 26, 2022 at 23:28

3 Answers 3

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"Bone and flesh" (or a slight variation) acts in Scripture as Hebraism with the meaning of biological relative. Sometimes a slight variation is a merism for the human body as a whole.

  • Gen 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.”
  • Job 33:21 - His flesh wastes away from sight, and his hidden bones protrude.
  • Luke 24:39 - Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
  • 2 Sam 19:13 - And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’”
  • Gen 29:14 - and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
  • 2 Sam 5:1 - Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.
  • Prov 3:8 - This will bring healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.

Thus, such passages allude to the entire physical body and its relationship with another human relative.

Note: In the NT "flesh and blood" has the meaning of simply mortal or human and appears to allude to the sacrifices of the Torah.

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The term "flesh and bones" in Job 2:5, did not referred to Job's wife nor Eve. It was exactly referred to Job, his physical body. There is no connection to Job 2:9.

In chapter 1, Satan suggested to strike everything Job had, then Job would surely curse the Lord (Job 1:11 NIV). So Job lost his children and his livestock, nevertheless, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22 NIV). So Satan's initial plan didn't work out.

In chapter 2, Satan made up another plan, he said;

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.

5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

What is "Skin for skin"? Satan meant Job's children and livestock were replenishable. Just like if you peeled off your skin, it will grow back. So Satan suggested that it needed to strike Job's body directly, in his pain he would surely curse the Lord.

So why the term "flesh and bones" does not mean Job's wife, and has no connection to Job 2:9? It is because Job's wife was also "skin" to Job. If I were Job and hearing what she said in Job 2:9, I was surely made her replenishable.

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A great question! There is a lot going on here with bone (less so with flesh).

Some excerpts from TDOT[1] explain this:

we find poetic usage in the figurative language of the Psalms and wisdom aphorisms.8 Since bones are “man’s most durable part—his core, so to speak,” ʿeṣem takes on the meaning “self,” as in the formula beʿeṣem hayyôm hazzeh, “on the very day” (Gen. 7:13; etc.).9

So an alternate meaning for "bone" - eṣem - is "self", and it has the connotation of "permanent self", or "true self", or "inner self". This is a hint of life beyond the grave, as the bones persist even when the flesh rots and falls off.

It is for this reason that not a bone of Christ could be broken, or why the passover lamb must be divided without breaking any bones. To break a bone would be to break the eternal self, and the cross did not break Christ's bones, only his flesh was marred. Ezekiel's "valley of dry bones" is another example, as a picture of resurrection and receiving a new body (flesh) on the old bones (your eternal self). When a dead man is thrown into Elisha's grave, he revives when he touches Elisha's bones, because the bones represent the inner life and thus the spiritual power of Elisha, now uncovered by the flesh and thus potent.

2 Kings 13.21 (KJV):

And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

As another example of resurrection, Jacob's bones were carried to the promised land. Not his flesh. And Joseph made his sons promise to carry his bones to the promised land as well. Not his body, but his bones. (Gen 50.25)

The flesh, on the other hand, connotes the complement, the outward self, the frail self, the self that can be wounded and marred by the vicissitudes of life, and the self that withers with age. It is also the self that bears the curse. Paul says that no flesh can glory in God's presence (1 Cor 1.29).

Together, then, flesh and bones cover everything, but contra Dottard, I would not call it a merism ("from A to Z") but rather that together flesh and bones are everything. From this, we get a kinship formula. Here is TDOT again[1]:

The words for the fundamental constituents of the human body, → בשׂר bāśār and ʿeṣem (cf. Job 2:5), are used in the “kinship formula” ʿaṣmî ûḇeśārî ʾattâ/ʾattem, which emphasizes the close relationship between individuals (Gen. 29:14; 2 S. 19:14 [Eng. v. 13]) or groups (Jgs. 9:2; 2 S. 5:1 [par. 1 Ch. 11:1]; 19:13).17 In Gen. 2:23 this formula, “physically graphic,”18 describes the relationship between man and woman.


[1] K. -M. Beyse, “עֶצֶם,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. David E. Green, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 305.

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