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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


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Bâśâr (בָּשָׂר, Strong's #1320), “flesh; meat; male sex organ.” Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic, Arabic, and Aramaic. Biblical Hebrew attests it about 270 times and in all periods.

The word means the “meaty part plus the skin” of men: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof” (Gen. 2:21—the first occurrence). This word can also be applied to the “meaty part” of animals (Deut. 14:8). Gen. 41:2 speaks of seven cows, sleek and “fat of flesh.” In Num. 11:33, bâśâr means the meat or “flesh” of the quail that Israel was still chewing. Thus the word means “flesh,” whether living or dead.

Bâśâr often means the “edible part” of animals. Eli’s sons did not know God’s law concerning the priests’ portion, so “when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s [Eli’s] servant came, while the flesh was [boiling], with a [threepronged fork] in his hand” (1 Sam. 2:13). However, they insisted that “before they burnt the fat … , Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have [boiled] flesh of thee, but raw” (literally, “living”—1 Sam. 2:15). Bâśâr, then, represents edible animal “flesh” or “meat,” whether cooked (Dan. 10:3) or uncooked. The word sometimes refers to “meat” that one is forbidden to eat (cf. Exod. 21:28).

This word may represent a part of the body. At some points, the body is viewed as consisting of two components, “flesh” and bones: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23). That part of the “fleshly” element known as the foreskin was to be removed by circumcision (Gen. 17:11). In other passages, the elements of the body are the “flesh,” the skin, and the bones (Lam. 3:4). Num. 19:5 mentions the “flesh,” hide, blood, and refuse of a heifer. In Job 10:11, we read: “Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast [knit] me with bones and sinews.”

Flesh sometimes means “blood relative”: “And Laban said to him [Jacob], Surely thou art my bone and my flesh” (Gen. 29:14). The phrase “your flesh” or “our flesh” standing alone may bear the same meaning: “Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh” (Gen. 37:27). The phrase she’er bâśâr is rendered “blood relative” (Lev. 18:6; KJV, “near of kin”).

About 50 times, “flesh” represents the “physical aspect” of man or animals as contrasted with the spirit, soul, or heart (the nonphysical aspect). In the case of men, this usage appears in Num. 16:22: “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” In such passages, then, bâśâr emphasizes the “visible and structural part” of man or animal.

In a few passages, the word appears to mean “skin,” or the part of the body that is seen: “By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin” (Ps. 102:5; 119:120). In passages such as Lev. 13:2, the ideas “flesh” and “skin” are clearly distinguished.

Bâśâr sometimes represents the “male sex organ”: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh [NASB, “body”], because of his issue he is unclean” (Lev. 15:2).

The term “all flesh” has several meanings. It means “all mankind” in Deut. 5:26: “For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God …?” In another place, this phrase refers to “all living creatures within the cosmos,” or all men and animals (Gen. 6:17).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Flesh'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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