Composed of living tissues, bones form a strong framework in the bodies of vertebrates. Too complicated in construction to be fully understood by scientists, man is ‘woven together’ with a skeleton of more than 200 bones and their connecting sinews. (Job 10:11; Ec 11:5) Pound for pound, bone is stronger than steel, and its construction is comparable to reinforced concrete. In fact, in describing “Behemoth,” Jehovah says: “Its bones are tubes of copper; its strong bones are like wrought-iron rods.” (Job 40:15, 18) The description aptly fits the hippopotamus, the bones of whose short, powerful legs and heavily built hips support his massive weight of from 2,300 to 3,600 kg (5,000 to 8,000 lb).
The common Hebrew word for “bone” is ʽeʹtsem (Ge 2:23); a synonym is geʹrem. (Pr 25:15) O·steʹon is the Greek term.—Joh 19:36.
Eve, the first woman, was formed from a rib taken from Adam. This was appropriate in view of the fact that bones are the body’s foundation, are wholly made up of living cells, and are blood-cell producers. Adam could truly say of Eve: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” She was the closest possible relative of Adam. (Ge 2:22, 23) A like expression is used several times in the Scriptures to denote close kinship.—Ge 29:14; Jg 9:2; 2Sa 5:1; 19:12; 1Ch 11:1.
Faith-Strengthening Attestations. Joseph knew that it would be some time before God would lead Israel up out of Egypt and establish them in Canaan. In faith, as a testimony to Israel, he commanded that his bones be taken up when Israel went out. (Ge 50:25; Heb 11:22) Israel kept this in mind, and Moses followed out the injunction when he led Israel up out of Egypt. (Ex 13:19) Joseph’s bones were finally buried in Shechem in the tract that Jacob had bought.—Jos 24:32.
A miracle performed in connection with Elisha (posthumously) was the immediate raising to life of a man whose dead body was thrown into Elisha’s burial place and touched his bones. This was proof that it was God’s power, not Elisha’s, that performed the miracles Elisha had accomplished, and it was a powerful attestation or a seal of God as to the genuineness of his faithful prophet.—2Ki 13:20, 21.
After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared to some of his disciples, who thought they were beholding a spirit. To reassure them Jesus said: “Feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.” (Lu 24:39) Jesus’ not saying he was flesh and blood has caused some to say that he had a “spiritualized” body of flesh and bones with no blood. There is no foundation for this argument, for the disciples could see that he had bones and flesh, but no blood was running from his body for him to call to their attention. Jesus thereby provided evidence by the mouth of 11 apostles and others assembled with them on that occasion that he was truly resurrected to life and that the disciples were suffering no hallucination in declaring his resurrection.
Uncleanness. Under the Law given through Moses, a person was religiously unclean for seven days if he touched a corpse, a bone of a man, or a burial place. (Nu 19:16) King Josiah fought false worship by filling with human bones the places where sacred poles of pagan worship had been and burning on the altars the bones from burial places, thus making the altars defiled and unfit for use.—2Ki 23:14, 16, 19; 2Ch 34:5.
Figurative Usage. The Bible in its references to bones highlights how vital they are literally to the physical health of the individual and figuratively to his spiritual health. The bones are the interior supporting framework of the body, and as such are used in the Bible metaphorically to represent one’s being, especially as affected by deep feelings and emotions. Thus, the bones of a fearful individual are said to be “filled with dread.” (Job 4:14) One’s bones can shake because of extreme dejection or be “hot from dryness” because of disease. (Jer 23:9; Job 30:30) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Pr 3:8) A good report is said to ‘make the bones fat’ or fill them with marrow, that is, invigorate the whole body. (Pr 15:30) “Pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Pr 16:24) On the other hand, negative emotions can have a harmful effect on one’s organism. “A spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” (Pr 17:22) A wife that acts shamefully is said to be to her husband “as rottenness in his bones.” (Pr 12:4) The harboring of jealousy toward others can also be destructive to a person physically and spiritually, and so “jealousy is rottenness to the bones.”—Pr 14:30.
Because of the strong construction of bones, Proverbs 25:15 says concerning the power of patience and kind words to overcome stiff, firm opposition: “By patience a commander is induced, and a mild tongue itself can break a bone.”
Prophetic Usage. At the institution of the Passover, Jehovah commanded that the lamb (or goat) be roasted whole and “you must not break a bone in it.” (Ex 12:46) This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God,” who is the antitypical Passover sacrifice. (Joh 1:29; 1Co 5:7) Jesus died on the torture stake. The soldiers came around to break the legs of those who were impaled that day, as was the custom in order to hasten death. They broke the legs of the two evildoers. However, they found that Jesus had already died, so they did not break his legs, but one jabbed his side with a spear.—Joh 19:31-36; Ps 34:20.
Jehovah gave Ezekiel, in Babylon, a vision in which he likened Israel to dry bones lying in a valley plain. In the vision, as Ezekiel prophesied to the bones, they miraculously came together, and flesh came upon them. Then he prophesied to the wind, and it brought breath into their bodies so that they stood up as a great army. Jehovah explained the vision as applying to Israel who, swallowed up in Babylonian exile, were as people whose hope had perished. (Eze 37:1-11) Similarly, Jeremiah likened the king of Assyria, who took the ten-tribe kingdom into exile, and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who carried away Judah, to lions devouring God’s people and gnawing on their bones. (Jer 50:17) God had permitted this because of Israel’s apostasy. But Jehovah was going to remember them and put into them his spirit, which would revive and revitalize them as well as bring them back to be settled in the Promised Land.—Eze 37:12-14.
After Jehovah’s destruction of Gog and his hordes who come up in attack against Jehovah’s people, there will be continual employment “for seven months” in marking the places of the bones of Gog’s crowd and burying them, in order to cleanse the surface of the earth from all uncleanness and defilement.—Eze 39:14-16.
With a reference to bone marrow, Jehovah figuratively describes the rich blessings he will bring to his people when he wipes out death, saying that he will make for them a banquet of “well-oiled dishes filled with marrow.”—Isa 25:6; see also MARROW.