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2.3.1. Biblical idioms and body parts

Today, we use the body in a figurative way to convey a message that if heard outside of those who know what these strange phrases mean, would be quite confused. Such as, we might say, “He risked his neck for him”(risk one’s neck –ризикувати головою). “He is my own bone and flesh.” “She was only tickling their ears”(to tickle ears – тішити слух).

These idioms add a vivid word picture to speech, often bringing it to life as it were. This plants the message more clearly and permanently in the listener’s mind. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate the Jehovah God the creator of human communication should fill his Word to us, with such an array of idioms.

For instance, the apostle Paul asked that the Roman congregation give greetings to his fellow Christians Prisca and Aquila, “who risked their necks [their lives] for my life.” [21, Rom. 16:4] Laban said of Jacob, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh,” which meant that they were related, Laban being Jacob’s uncle. [3, Gen. 29:14]. In addition, Paul wrote of persons who were “wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Which meant that these ones only wanted teachers that would say what they wanted to hear [16, 2 Tim. 4:3].

The human neck is a weak part of the human body that leaves a us vulnerable. Therefore, in Scripture, it is often associated with the destruction of life by the defeat of an enemy. When Jacob was on his deathbed, he offer this expression in a blessing to his son Judah, “your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies,” which meant, God will give your enemies into your hand [15, Gen. 49:8]. Likewise, King David praised God in Song, saying, “You gave me my enemies’ necks” or God was the One who “will certainly give me the back of [my enemies’] neck.” [made my enemies run] As you can see, the expression likely comes from the enemy running away; thus, all they are seeing is the back of the enemy’s neck as he is running away. [7, 2 Sam. 22:41; Ps. 18:40, ESV]. Again, this illustrates the danger of translation idioms, as the New Living Translation reads, “you placed my foot on their necks.” This would tend to paint more of a picture of a battle, with defeat as the result. Then, Jehovah God warned of the coming Assyrians against Judah in these ominous terms, “It will reach even to the neck.” This simply meant that the Assyrian army was coming so strongly, with so many troops that they would be should deep in them.— [36, Isa. 8:8; 30:28].

Another expression is that of placing one’s foot on the neck of your enemy. Both the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments have depictions, where monarchs are pictured in battle with their foot on the enemy’s neck. We find this with Moses replacement, Joshua, the leader and commander of the Israelites.

24When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, "Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings." So they came near and put their feet on their necks [16, Joshua 10:24].

In addition the removal of one’s hair and beard represented imminent destruction. The Ancient Near East viewed the possession of such as a prize. The Israelites viewed the beard as manly dignity. [16, 1 Chron. 19:5]. It was only during extreme sorrow, shame, or humiliation that a beard would be mutilated or removed. [36, Ezra 9:3; Isa. 15:2; Jer. 41:5; 48:3]. Therefore, we can better understand King David’s strategy of . . .

13So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard [16, 1 Samuel 21:13].

Now that we have this Bible background, we can better understand the conquest of Assyria:

20In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also [7, Isaiah 7:20].

Assyria was going to invade and conquer Judah like they had Samaria and the rest of the region, but for the fact that . .

33"Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David."

36And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place [7, Isaiah 37:33 - 38].

The destruction of Jerusalem had finally come at the hands of the Babylonians, more than a century later, it being illustrated this way . . .

1"And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber’s razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. 2A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them [7, Ezekiel 5:1 – 2].

The burning in the fire, striking with the sword and scattering to the wind of the three portions of hair signified that a third of the people would die of pestilence and be consumed with famine, a third were to die by the sword and the final third would be scattered to all the winds.

12A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them [7, Ezekiel 5:12].

At the opposite end, one who was able to keep his hair meant that he would not die, and signifies complete safety or guaranteed protection. The Israelite military loved Jonathan, his life was in danger, and they proclaimed,

45But the people said to Saul, "Must Jonathan die, who accomplished such a great deliverance for Israel? No, as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he worked with God's help today." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die [10, 1 Samuel 14:45].

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