Joints and Marrow


My grandfather would sharpen about six well used knives on a slow rpm wheel, with a tin can dripping water on the wheel and knife. Next, on a worn leather strop, the knives were stroked to polish and remove burrs. The product of these processes – very sharp knives. The knives would be used the following day: slaughtering day.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword..”(Heb 4:12).

In this context, the word of God, we find “piercing asunder…the joints and marrow….”

In my mind, and I think I’m not alone, this looked like this: the marrow in the middle of a long bone, is separated from the bone itself. Kind of hollowing the out the bone. Strange. Where did that come from?

One problem with this is the word says joints, not bones. There is no marrow in joints anyway. What would this mean to Hebrews? Break a long bone, then carve out the inside of a bone and get the bloody (bone marrow produces new blood) part out?

Consider this (I may be off, it’s a theory): to a Jew, he would know how to dismantle an animal, for food and for sacrifice. It took a sharp knife to divide the animal carcass asunder, but to was done by separating the major sections at the joints. The head was taken off at the neck joint, front quarter at the shoulder joint, and so on (Lev 8:20). Every year I carve Thanksgiving turkey, and I don't use a hacksaw or bandsaw on the bird; I separate the drumsticks at the joints, and so on.

Marrow, one of those words that has changed meaning. Marrow, biblically, is animal grease, fat, moisture (by reason of fat). A marrowy animal was a stalled ox: corn fed and fat. Psalm 66:15, the word fatlings is defined in the margin: Heb. Marrow. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness…” (Ps 63:5). And, “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Pro 3:8). Moisture, fat, plenty, abundance, as opposed to dryness and scarcity. Note the context in the following verses: “firstfruits…increase…filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out .” Fat, marrow, is the best. It was fat that was reserved for the Lord in the sacrifices “…all the fat is the Lord’s” (Lev 3:16).

I recall slaughtering animals (few years back!) and a dull knife would just slide along on the fatty sinews. Less than sharpness was okay for joints, power was needed there; but sharpness was needed for dividing the fatty stuff (marrow) from the carcass.

Hebrews would understand this analogy. They could adroitly divide a creature asunder. They would know, whet the knife first – get it very sharp. And now, consider how much sharper the word of God is! Dull knives (modern versions) simply won’t cut it.


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