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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The soft portions of the animal body, internally connected with the skeleton of bones and externally enclosed by the skin (Genesis 2:21 Job 10:11 ). Flesh is an article of food (Daniel 7:5 ), generally roasted over the fire or boiled (1Samuel 2:13,15 ). The word is also applied to the flesh of birds (Numbers 11:33 ). Otherwise, the Hebrew has, usually the word (Exodus 21:10 Psalm 78:20,27 ). In a graphic description of the oppressive tactics of the powerful, Micah charges them with eating the flesh () of the people, preparing it "as flesh [] for the caldron" (Micah 3:2-3 , Hebr.). Eating of flesh with the blood in it was associated with a riotous, gluttonous disposition (Proverbs 23:20 ). A familiar but terrible menace is that one's flesh shall be given over to the birds to eat (Genesis 40:19 1Samuel 17:44 Ezekiel 32:5 ).

In an enlarged sense, "flesh" assumes the meaning of "body" (Exodus 4:7 Leviticus 14:9 , 19:28 2 Kings 6:30 Zechariah 14:12 ) or of parts of it (Leviticus 6:10 Ezekiel 44 7). Employed figuratively, "flesh," soft and impressionable, is contrasted with "stone," hard and unyielding ("stony heart" as against "heart of flesh": Ezekiel 36:26 ).

As the corruptible and weak part of the body, "flesh" expresses weakness, as against "spirit," which indicates strength (Isaiah 31:3 ) in Job 6:12 it is similarly contrasted with "brass." Thence also its use as designating "man" ( Jeremiah 17:5 Psalm 78:39 ), especially in the phrase "all flesh" for "all mankind" (Genesis 6:12-13 [A. V. "every living thing"], 6:19, 7:21 Numbers 16:22 Job 34:15 Psalm 65:2 , 136:25 "All flesh is grass," Isaiah 40:6 "the God of all flesh," Jeremiah 32:27 ). "Flesh," therefore, denotes also a person "my flesh"= "I" (Psalm 16:9 , 63:2 ) one's whole being is expressed by "my heart and my flesh" (Psalm 84:3 ).

The original meaning of "flesh"— clan— underlies its use in Adam's welcome to Eve and in the designation of husband and wife as "one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-25 ). It is probable, if the correct reading were given in the other parts of the passage, that in Job 19:26 "in my flesh" would be found to have this meaning: His "go' el" (blood-avenger) even now liveth from his own clan will he arise. Not to "withhold thyself from thine own flesh" ( Isaiah 58:7 ) expresses, therefore, the obligation to help one's fellow man. In Ecclesiastes "flesh" carries the implication of carnal appetite, as the sensual part of man's being (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ), a use very general in the New Testament. "Take my flesh in my teeth" (Job 13:14 ) is an idiomatic equivalent for running dangerous risks.

The word is explained by the Talmudists as composed of the initials ב = "shame" ש =ם = or , "corruption" or "Sheol" ד = , "worm" (Sotṭ ah 5a), an opinion which reflects a certain theological leaning toward the Pauline view of the sinfulness of the flesh (Romans 8:1 Colossians 2:11 ). Judaism knows nothing of the "mortification of the flesh" (see Abstinence Asceticism Body ) the vows of castigation are called "nidre ' innui hanefesh," not "ha-basar" (Yer. Ned. 11:42c). The "mortifications" on Yom ha-Kippurim consist in abstaining from eating and drinking, washing, ointments, shoes, and cohabitation (Yoma 76a). "Flesh and fish" represents substantial food as against a vegetable diet (Shab. 140b compare the English expression "neither flesh, fowl, nor fish," or the German "weder Fisch noch Fleisch").

E. G. H.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Flesh'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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