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 two hundred bones and their connecting sinews. (Job 10:11; Eccl. 11:5) Pound for pound, bone is stronger than steel and its construction is comparable to reinforced concrete.
In the light of this fact, Jehovah’s statement to Job is scientifically accurate when he says, in describing “Behemoth”: “Its bones are tubes of copper; its strong bones are like wrought-iron rods.” (Job 40:18) The description aptly fits the hippopotamus, the bones of whose short, powerful legs and heavily built hips support his massive weight of from 5,000 to 8,000 pounds (2,268 to 3,629 kilograms).
A network of connecting tissue called “marrow” is found in the interior of bones. In adults the marrow is red in the flatter bones and yellow in the long, rounder bones. It is in the red marrow, particularly in the flat bones of the skull, the ribs, the sternum and pelvis, that red blood corpuscles (erythrocytes) are manufactured. Recent studies have indicated that the marrow also has a share in producing white corpuscles (leucocytes), which fight disease infections, as well as blood platelets, which have a key role in bringing about clotting. Bones are also storehouses of calcium and phosphorus, ready to be supplied to the bloodstream as the need arises. A constant reconstruction goes on in the bones, old cells and materials being replaced by new. In infancy bones are very flexible, becoming more firm in maturity and finally becoming very brittle in an aged person.
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. (Gen. 2:22, 23) A like expression is used several times in the Scriptures to denote close kinship.—Gen. 29:14; Judg. 9:2; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:12; 1 Chron. 11:1.
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. (Gen. 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. Located in the inheritance of the sons of Joseph “in the mountainous region of Ephraim,” Shechem became one of the cities of refuge.—Josh. 24:32; 20:7.
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 was a powerful attestation or a seal of God as to the genuineness of his faithful prophet.—2 Ki. 13:20, 21.
After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared to some of his disciples, who thought they were beholding an apparition. 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.” (Luke 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 but 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 eleven apostles and many others that he was truly resurrected to life and that the disciples were suffering no hallucination in declaring his resurrection.—1 Cor. 15:3-6.
Under the Law given through Moses, a person was religiously “unclean” if he touched a corpse or a bone of a man or a burial place. (Num. 19:16) Other righteous kings of Judah had fought false worship by tearing down the altars and sacred poles. But King Josiah adopted a more effective method. He filled the places of sacred poles of pagan worship with human bones and burned the bones from burial places on the altars, making them defiled and unfit for use. This he did to the altar of calf worship at Bethel, as well as the other altars and high places of pagan worship in Samaria and Judah. Josiah’s actions had been foretold by Jehovah’s prophet about three centuries earlier. When Josiah came to the place where the bones of the prophet who had foretold this were buried, he respected them and did not uncover them and use them in this way.—1 Ki. 13:2; 2 Ki. 23:14, 16-20; 2 Chron. 34:5.
It was a custom to whitewash graves so that persons would not accidentally touch them and become unclean. The tombs near Jerusalem were whitewashed one month before Passover to avoid uncleanness by accidentally touching them at this special period of worship. Jesus used this custom as a basis for an illustration of the scribes and Pharisees as appearing righteous outwardly but being within “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”—Matt. 23:27, 28.
Since the bones are essential to hold up the body and to protect the organs and since the life (soul) is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, 14), the Bible in its references to bones and marrow highlight their vitalness to the health of the individual and, figuratively and symbolically, to his spiritual health. Of the man who is living in sufficiency and at ease it is said that “the very marrow of his bones is being kept moist.” (Job 21:24) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Prov. 3:8) “A report that is good makes the bones fat.” (Prov. 15:30) “Pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24) On the other hand, a “spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry” (Prov. 17:22), and “jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Prov. 14:30) A wife that acts shamefully is said to be to her husband “as rottenness in his bones.” (Prov. 12:4) While it is true that nourishment and the psychosomatic principle have to do with the actual condition of the human system, including the bones, it is also true that a healthful physical condition, a happy mind and a good spirit can make a person stand straighter and move with liveliness and spring in his step. Conversely, bad mental attitudes bow one down spiritually. A wife being as one flesh with her husband can greatly affect his spiritual standing by showing either respect or disrespect through her course of action and her speech.
By way of wise counsel for us, the power of patience and kind words to overcome stiff, firm opposition is expressed in the Proverbs: “By patience a commander is induced, and a mild tongue itself can break a bone.”—Prov. 25:15.
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. (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 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.—John 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 Babylonish captivity, were as people whose hope had perished. (Ezek. 37:1-11) Similarly, Jeremiah likened the king of Assyria, who took the ten-tribe kingdom into captivity, and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who carried away Judah, to lions devouring His 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, and bring them back to be settled in Palestine.—Ezek. 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.—Ezek. 39:14-16.
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.