International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
CUTTINGS IN THE FLESH
(sereT, sareTeth): For relatives or friends to cut or beat themselves even to free blood-flowing, especially in the violence of grief in mourning for their dead (see BURIAL; MOURNING), was a widely prevalent custom among ancient peoples, and is well-nigh universal among uncivilized races today (see Spencer, Prin. of Soc., 3rd edition, I, 163). The fact is abundantly attested for most of the nations of antiquity, but there are two notable exceptions, the Egyptians (Herod. ii.61, 85; Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptian II, 374), and the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 14:1 Leviticus 21:5). According to Plutarch (Sol. 21) Solon forbade the women of Athens to beat themselves to the effusion of blood, and the laws of the Twelve Tables, quoted by Cic. (De leg. ii.23) contained a like injunction. Among the ancient Arabs the forbidden practice was associated, as among the Hebrews, with the cutting off of the hair (Wellhausen, Skizzen, III, 160).
That the prohibition among the Hebrews was urgently called for is made clear by the way it is dealt with by the Law and the prophets. The Law of Holiness reads: "Ye are the children of Yahweh your God: ye shall not cut yourselves" (Deuteronomy 14:1), or "make any incision" (sereT; Leviticus 19:28, sareTeth; Septuagint entomis) in the flesh "for the dead." Probably the earliest reference to the custom as actually prevalent among the Hebrews is in Hosea 7:14 (ERVm). It was widely prevalent in the time of Jeremiah among his countrymen, even as among the Philistines (Jeremiah 47:5) and the Moabites (Jeremiah 48:37; compare Amos 8:10 Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12 Micah 1:16 Ezekiel 7:18).
In seeking for the reason or purpose underlying all such prohibitions, we may note, first, that the "cuttings" and "baldness" forbidden are alike said to be "for the dead." Not less explicitly are they said to be incompatible with Israel's unique relation to Yahweh-a relation at once of sonship (Deuteronomy 14:1) and of consecration (Deuteronomy 14:2). Moreover such mutilations of the body are always dealt with as forming part of the religious rites of the heathen (as of the Canaanitish Baal (1 Kings 18:28) note "after their manner," see article in HDB, under the word). Both such shedding of blood and the dedication of the hair are found in almost all countries of that day in intimate connection with the rituals of burial and the prevailing belief in the necessity of propitiating the spirit of the deceased. The conclusion, then, seems clearly warranted that such tokens of grief were prohibited because they carried with them inevitably ideas and associations distinctly heathen in character and so incompatible with the pure religion of Yahweh, and unworthy of those who had attained to the dignity of the sons ("children") of Yahweh.
See also STIGMATA, MARK;
Benzinger, Heb Arch., section 23; Nowack, Heb Arch., I, 33; Tylor, Prim. Cult.; W. R. Smith, Rel Semitic, Lect IX; and Comm., Knobel-Dillmann, Exodus-Leviticus on Leviticus 19:28; Driver, De on 14:1; and Lightfoot, Galatians on 6:17.
George B. Eager
Used in all senses of the word, the latter, however, most frequently in the sense of kin, family, relationship (compare sha'arah, "kins-woman," Leviticus 18:17): Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 25:49 Proverbs 11:17 Jeremiah 51:35, and probably Psalm 73:26. In all other places she'er means "flesh" = body (Proverbs 5:11) or = food (Psalm 78:20, 27 Micah 3:2, 3). Tibhchah, is "(slaughtered) flesh for food," "butcher's meat" (1 Samuel 25:11). The word 'eshpar, found only in two parallel passages (2 Samuel 6:19 = 1 Chronicles 16:3), is of very uncertain meaning. The English versions translate it with "a good piece (portion) of flesh," the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) with "a piece of roast meat," others with "a portion of flesh" and "a measure of wine." It probably means simply "a measured portion." lachum, literally, "eaten," then food (compare lechem, "bread"), has been rarely specialized as flesh or meat (compare Arabic lachm, "meat," "flesh," so in Zephaniah 1:17, where it stands in parallelism with "blood"). The Greek terms are sarx, and kreas, the latter always meaning "butcher's meat" (Romans 14:21 1 Corinthians 8:13).
We can distinguish the following varieties of meaning in Biblical language:
2. Ordinary Sense:
In a physical sense, the chief substance of the animal body, whether used for food and sacrifice, or not; also the flesh of man (Genesis 2:21 Exodus 21:10 Isaiah 31:3 Ezekiel 23:20 1 Corinthians 15:39 Revelation 19:18, 21).
3. The Body:
The whole body. This meaning is the extension of the preceding (pars pro toto). This is indicated by the Septuagint, where basar is often translated by the plural hai sarkes (Genesis 40:19 Numbers 12:12 Job 33:25), and occasionally by soma, i.e. "body" (Leviticus 15:2 1 Kings 21:27). This meaning is also very clear in passages like the following: Exodus 4:7 Leviticus 17:14 Numbers 8:7 2 Kings 4:34; Proverbs 5:11, where basar and she'er are combined; and Proverbs 14:30 Ecclesiastes 12:12.
4. The Term "All Flesh":
Flesh, as the common term for living things, animals and men, especially the latter (Genesis 6:13, 17, 19 Numbers 16:22 Jeremiah 12:12 Mark 13:20); often in the phrase "all flesh" (Psalm 65:2 Isaiah 40:5, 6 Jeremiah 25:31 Ezekiel 20:48 Joel 2:28 Luke 3:6).
5. As Opposed to the Spirit:
Flesh as opposed to the spirit, both of which were comprised in the preceding meaning (Genesis 6:3 Psalm 16:9 Luke 24:39, where "flesh and bones" are combined; John 6:63). Thus we find in John 1:14, "The Word became flesh"; 1 Timothy 3:16, "He who was manifested in the flesh"; 1 John 4:2, and all passages where the incarnation of Christ is spoken of. The word in this sense approaches the meaning of "earthly life," as in Philippians 1:22, 24, "to live in the flesh," "to abide in the flesh"; compare Philemon 1:16 and perhaps 2 Corinthians 5:16. Under this meaning we may enumerate expressions such as "arm of flesh" (2 Chronicles 32:8 Jeremiah 17:5), "eyes of flesh" (Job 10:4), etc. Frequently the distinction is made to emphasize the weakness or inferiority of the flesh, as opposed to the superiority of the spirit (Isaiah 31:3 Matthew 26:41 Mark 14:38 Romans 6:19). In this connection we mention also the expression "flesh and blood," a phrase borrowed from rabbinical writings and phraseology (see also Sirach 14:18, "the generation of flesh and blood," and 17:31, "man whose desire is flesh and blood" the King James Version). The expression does not convey, as some have supposed, the idea of inherent sinfulness of the flesh (a doctrine borrowed by Gnostic teachers from oriental sources), but merely the idea of ignorance and frailty in comparison with the possibilities of spiritual nature. The capabilities of our earthly constitution do not suffice to reveal unto us heavenly truths; these must always come to us from above.
So Peter's first recognition of the Divine sonship of Jesus did not proceed from a logical conviction based upon outward facts acting upon his mind, but was based upon a revelation from God vouchsafed to his inner consciousness. Christ says therefore to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). Similarly the kingdom of God, being a realm of perfect spiritual submission to God, cannot be inherited by flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:50), nor was the richly endowed mind a competent tribunal to which Paul could refer his heaven-wrought conviction of his great salvation and the high calling to be a witness and apostle of Christ, so he did well that he "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:16). That "flesh and blood" does not imply a sense of inherent sinfulness is moreover shown in all passages where Christ is declared a partaker of such nature (Ephesians 6:12 Hebrews 2:14, where, however, we find in the original text the inverted phrase "blood and flesh").
6. Applied to the Carnal Nature:
Flesh in the sense of carnal nature (sarkikos, "carnal"; the King James Version uses sarkinos in Romans 7:14). Human nature, being inferior to the spiritual, is to be in subjection to it. If man refuses to be under this higher law, and as a free agent permits the lower nature to gain an ascendancy over the spirit, the "flesh" becomes a revolting force (Genesis 6:3, 12 John 1:13 Romans 7:14 1 Corinthians 3:1, 3 Colossians 2:18 1 John 2:16). Thus, the fleshly or carnal mind, i.e. a mind in subjection to carnal nature, is opposed to the Divine spirit, who alone is a sufficient corrective, Christ having secured for us the power of overcoming (Romans 8:3), if we manifest a deep desire and an earnest endeavor to overcome (Galatians 5:17, 18).
7. In the Sense of Relationship:
Flesh in the sense of relationship, tribal connection, kith and kin. For examples, see what has been said above on Hebrew she'er. The following passages are a few of those in which basar is used: Genesis 2:24; Genesis 37:27 Job 2:5; compare the New Testament passages: Matthew 19:5, 6 Romans 1:3; Romans 9:3, 5, 8. The expressions "bone" and "flesh" are found in combination (Genesis 2:23; Genesis 29:14 Judges 9:2 2 Samuel 5:1; 2 Samuel 19:12, 13 Ephesians 5:31, the latter in some manuscripts only).
8. Other Meanings:
Some other subdivisions of meanings might be added, for example where "flesh" takes almost the place of "person," as in Colossians 2:1: "as many as have not seen my face in the flesh," i.e. have not known me personally, or 2:5, "absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit," etc.
H. L. E. Luering
THORN IN THE FLESH
thorn (skolops te sarki): Paul thus characterizes some bodily ailment which afflicted him and impaired his usefulness (2 Corinthians 12:7). The data are insufficient to enable us to ascertain its real nature, and all the speculations on the point are therefore inconclusive. All that we are told is that it was a messenger of Satan; that thereby he was beaten as with a fist, which might be figurative or actual; that it rendered his bodily presence unattractive. It appears that the infirmity recurred, for thrice he sought deliverance; but, by the help of God, he was able to glory in it. Sir W. Ramsay sees in it some form of recurring malarial fever. It was something that disabled him (Galatians 4:12-15); hence, Farrar supposes that it was ophthalmia, from the reference to his eyes, from his inability to recognize the high priest (Acts 23:5), from his employing amanuenses to write his epistles, and his writing the Galatian letter in large characters with his own hand (Galatians 6:11). Krenkel has at great length argued that it was epilepsy, and thereby endeavors to account for his trances and his falling to the earth on his way to Damascus, but his work is essentially a special pleading for a foregone conclusion, and Paul would not have called his visions "a messenger of Satan." It is also beside the question to heap up instances of other distinguished epileptics. On the whole Farrar's theory is the most probable.
It is probably only a coincidence that "pricks in your eyes" Septuagint skolopes) are mentioned in Numbers 33:55. Any pedestrian in Palestine must be familiar with the ubiquitous and troublesome thorny shrubs and thistles which abound there.
THORNS, THISTLES, etc.
thornz: There are very many references to various thorny plants in the Bible, and of the Hebrew words employed great uncertainty exists regarding their exact meaning. The alternative translations given in the text of English Versions of the Bible and in the margin show how divided are the views of the translators. In the following list the suggestions given of possinle species indicated, usually by comparison with the Arabic, are those of the late Professor Post, who spent the best years of his life in study of the botany of Palestine. In the great majority of instances, however, it is quite impossible to make any reasonable suggestion as to any particular species being indicated.
(1) 'aTadh (Judges 9:14, English Versions of the Bible "bramble," the King James Version margin "thistle," the Revised Version margin "thorn"; Psalm 58:9, English Versions of the Bible "thorns"): Probably the buckthorn (Rhamnus Palestina Post). Atad occurs as a proper name in Genesis 50:10, 11.
(2) barqanim (Judges 8:7, 16, English Versions of the Bible "briers"): Some thorny plant. The Egyptian-Arabic bargan is, according to Moore (Commentary on Judges), the same as Centaurea scoparius (Natural Order, Compositae), a common Palestinian thistle.
(3) dardar (Genesis 3:18 Hosea 10:8, English Versions of the Bible "thistle"; Septuagint tribolos): In Arabic, shauket ed-dardar is a general name for the thistles known as Centaureae or star-thistles (Natural Order, Compositae), of which Palestine produces nearly 50 species. The purple-flowered C. calcitrapa and the yellow C. verutum are among the commonest and most striking.
(4) chedheq (Proverbs 15:19, English Versions of the Bible "thorns"; Septuagint akantha; Micah 7:4, English Versions of the Bible "brier"): From former passages this should be some thorny plant suitable for making a hedge (compare Arabic chadaq, "to enclose," "wall in"). Lane states that Arabic chadaq is Solanum sanctum. Post suggests the oleaster, Eleagnus hortensis.
(5) choach; Septuagint knide, and akantha (2 Kings 14:9 Job 31:40, English Versions of the Bible, "thistle," margin "thorn"; 2 Chronicles 25:18, English Versions of the Bible "thistle," the King James Version margin "furze bush," the Revised Version margin "thorn"; Hosea 9:6 Songs 2:2, English Versions of the Bible "thorns"; Isaiah 34:13 the King James Version "brambles" the Revised Version (British and American) "thistles"; Proverbs 26:9, English Versions of the Bible "a thorn"; 1 Samuel 13:6, "thickets"; chawachim, is, however, according to Driver and others a corruption for horim, "holes"; Job 41:2, the King James Version "thorn" the Revised Version (British and American) "hook"; 2 Chronicles 33:11, the King James Version "thorns," the Revised Version (British and American) "in chains," margin "with hooks"): Clearly choach stands for some plant with very strong thorns, but it is quite impossible to say what species is intended; indeed, probably the word was used in a general way.
(6) mecukhah, occurs only in Micah 7:4, where it means a "thorn hedge."
(7) na`atsuts (Isaiah 7:19, the King James Version "thorns," the Revised Version (British and American) "thorn hedges"; Isaiah 55:13, English Versions of the Bible "thorn"): The word is derived from the root na`ats, "to prick," or "pierce," and probably applies to any prickly plant. The Septuagint translation has stoibe (Isaiah 55:13), suggesting the thorny burnet, Poterium spinosum, so common in Palestine (see BOTANY). Post says, "It may be one of the thorny acacias" (HDB, IV, 752).
(8) cirim (Ecclesiastes 7:6, "the crackling of thorns (cirim) under a pot" (cir); Isaiah 34:13, "Thorns shall come up in its palaces"; Hosea 2:6, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns"; Nahum 1:10, "Entangled like thorns (King James Version "folden together as thorns").... they are consumed utterly as dry stubble"): The thorny burner, Poterium spinosum, is today so extensively used for burning in ovens and lime-kilns in Palestine that it is tempting to suppose this is the plant especially indicated here. In Amos 4:2 ciroth, is translated "fish-hooks."
(9) cillon (Ezekiel 28:24, English Versions of the Bible, "brier"); callonim (Ezekiel 2:6, English Versions of the Bible, "thorns"): Arabic, sallu = "thorn."
(10) carabhim (Ezekiel 2:6, English Versions of the Bible, "briers;" the King James Version margin "rebels"): The translation as a plant name is very doubtful.
(11) cirpadh (Isaiah 55:13, "Instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree"): The Septuagint has konuza, which is (Post) the elecampane, Inula viscosa (Natural Order Compositae), a plant 2 or 3 ft. high, growing on the bare hillsides of Palestine, not infrequently in close association with the myrtle.
(12) tsinnim (Job 5:5 Proverbs 22:5, English Versions of the Bible, "thorns"); tseninim (Numbers 33:55 Joshua 23:13, English Versions of the Bible, "thorns"): The words apparently have a very general meaning.
(13) qots; the Septuagint akantha: A general name for thorny and prickly plants, the commonest in the Old Testament (Genesis 3:18 Exodus 22:6 Judges 8:7, 16 2 Samuel 23:6 Psalm 118:12 Isaiah 32:13; Isaiah 33:12 Jeremiah 4:3; Jeremiah 12:13 Ezekiel 28:24 Hosea 10:8).
(14) qimmosh (Proverbs 24:31, "thorns"; Isaiah 34:13; Ho 9:6, "nettles").
(15) sikkim, plural of sekh, same as Arabic shauk, "a thorn" (Numbers 33:55, "pricks").
(16) shayith: A word peculiar to Isaiah (5:6; 7:23;; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4) and always associated with shamir (See (17)), always translated "thorns."
(17) shamir: References as above (16), and in Isaiah 32:13, where it is with qots (see (13)) always translated briers." The Arabic samur is the thorny acacia A. seyyal and A. tortilis (Post).
(18) akanthos: The equivalent of qots (see (13)) (Matthew 7:16; Matthew 13:7, 22; 27:29, etc.). Always translated "thorns."
(19) rhamnos (Baruch 6:71, "white thorn"): The Rhamnus Palaestina.
(20) skolops (2 Corinthians 12:7, English Versions of the Bible "thorn," margin "stake").
See THORN IN THE FLESH.
(21) tribolos (Matthew 7:16, "thistle"; Heb 6:8, the King James Version "briers" the Revised Version (British and American) "thistles").
The extraordinary plentifulness of various prickly plants in Palestine-in its present condition-is evident to any traveler during the summer months. Many of the trees and shrubs are thorny and the ground is everywhere covered thick with thistles, many of which are very handsome and some of which attain a height of 6 or 8 ft. Before the peasant can plow, he must dear these away by burning (compare Isaiah 10:17). The early autumn winds often drive before them in revolving mass some of the star-thistles-a sight so characteristic that it may be the "thistle down" (the King James Version margin, the Revised Version (British and American) "whirling dust") of Isaiah 17:13. Thorns and thistles are described (Genesis 3:18) as God's curse on the ground for sin. The Talmud suggests that these must be edible and are therefore artichokes. The removal of them and the replacement by more useful plants is a sign of God's blessing (Isaiah 55:13 Ezekiel 28:24).
Genesis 3:18 uses the words qots and dardar for "thorns" and "thistles." Midrash Rabba' to Genesis (Midr. Gen. Rabba' 20 10) says that qots ("thorn") is the same as (`akkabhith), which means an edible thistle (compare Levy, Dictionary, 645), and that (dardar, "thistle") is the same as (qinrac; Greek kunara, "artichoke") (compare Levy, Dictionary, 298). "But," adds the Midrash, "some reverse it, and say that (dardar) is ('akkabhith) and that (qots) is (qinrats)."
The neglected vineyard of the sluggard "was all grown over with thorns the face thereof was covered with nettles" (Proverbs 24:31), and in God's symbolic vineyard "there shall come up briers and thorns" (Isaiah 5:6); "They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have put themselves to pain, and profit nothing" (Jeremiah 12:13).
Jotham compares the usurper Abimelech to a bramble (Rhamnus Palaestina) (Judges 9:14 f), and Jehoash king of Israel, taunted Amaziah, king of Judah, by comparing him slightingly to a thistle (margin "thorn"), readily trodden down by a wild beast (2 Kings 14:9).
Nevertheless, thorns and thistles have their uses. On them the goats and camels browse; scarcely any thorns seem to be too sharp for their hardened palates. The thorny burner (Poterium spinosum), Arabic ballan, which covers countless acres of bare hillside, is used all over Palestine for ovens (Ecclesiastes 7:6) and lime-kilns. Before kindling one of these latter the fellahin gather enormous piles of this plant-carried on their heads in masses much larger than the bearers-around the kiln mouth.
Thorny hedges around dwellings and fields are very common. The most characteristic plant for the purpose today is the "prickly pear" (Opunctia ficus Indica), but this is a comparatively late introduction. Hedges of brambles oleasters, etc., are common, especially where there is some water In the Jordan valley masses of broken branches of the Zizyphus and other thorny trees are piled in a circle round tents or cultivated fields or flocks as a protection against man and beast (Proverbs 15:19 Micah 7:4, etc.).
The Saviour's "crown of thorns" (Matthew 27:29) was according to Palestinian tradition constructed from the twisted branches of a species of Rhamnaceae either the Zizyphus lotus or the Z. spina.
E. W. G. Masterman
FLESH AND BLOOD
See FLESH, 5.