In seeking greater understanding about this phrase’s meanings, I searched the Bible for similar phrases.
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and , and , shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and forsake thee: them about thy neck; write them upon the of thine :
4 So shalt thou find and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 in the Lord with all thine ; and lean not unto thine .
6 In all thy ways him, and he shall thy .
7 Be not in thine own eyes: the Lord, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Proverbs 3:8 is the only other match to “health in [their] navel and marrow to [their] bones” in all of scripture!
Health in Their Navel and Marrow to Their Bones
I decided to dissect the phrase on BibleHub.com to see what I could learn.
A quick view in the lexicon.
It shall be health
a cure, a healing — health.
to thy navel
a string, i.e. (specifically) the umbilical cord (also figuratively, as the centre of strength) — navel.
a beverage; moisture, i.e. (figuratively) refreshment — drink, marrow.
to thy bones
a bone (as strong); by extension, the body; figuratively, the substance, i.e. (as pron.) selfsame — body, bone, life, (self-)same, strength, very.
Curiosity peaked, so I went in for a deeper look.
Health: A Healing
It shall be health: riphuth. This is the only use of this word in the Bible! It’s a feminine noun meaning a healing. Riphuth comes from the word rapha, a verb meaning to heal. This verb is found 67 times all over the Old Testament in various scenarios like the Lord declaring He is the healer (for I am the Lord that healeth thee) to Moses pleading for God to heal Miriam’s leprosy to Elisha healing/purifying the waters of Jericho to the Lord forgiving His people’s sin and healing their land.
As I’m studying this, a healing rain begins to fall outside my window.
I’d often interpreted health as a status quo. “I am not sick therefore I have health.” To see it as a healing totally changed my mental image of the sentence. It’s ongoing. It’s desperately needed. It’s a gift given by God rather than something I did for myself.
What is the ultimate healing and cure? “These the Lord taught, and gave them crowned with ….” and eternal lifeto come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be
Navel: Umbilical Cord
To thy navel: shor. This word is used twice in the Old Testament—once in Proverbs 3:8 and once in Ezekiel 16:4 where the Lord is comparing Jerusalem to an abandoned baby with an uncut umbilical cord.
Perplexed, I went to Google and typed in the Hebrew word שֹׁר. Another lexicon gave this explanation:
The pictograph s [this letter: שֹׁ] is a picture of the teeth representing pressure, the r [this letter: ר] is a picture of the head representing the top or beginning. Combined these mean “press the beginning“. Ropes and cords were usually made of bark strips such as from the cedar or from the sinew (tendon) of an animal. The rope is made by twisting two fibers together….The twisting of the fibers in opposite directions causes the fibers to lock (press) onto each other making a stronger rope. The rope is used to tightly secure or support something, such as a load to a cart or the poles of the tent.
Sinews were used for making cords by twisting them together. The umbilical cord, and navel, as a cord that binds the infant to the mother.
In trying to think why the word umbilical cord would be derived from a word meaning enemy, I saw the umbilical cord going both ways—being attached to God or being attached to our fallen nature.
But remember that he that persists in his ownnature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no made, being an enemy to God; and also is the an enemy to God (Mosiah 16:5.)
So the promise of a healing is a promise to restore the breach caused by the Fall. Atoning redemption restores fallen man’s severed “umbilical” relationship to God.
Marrow: A Drink, Refreshment
And marrow: shiqquy. This masculine noun is used only twice in the Old Testament and is translated as drink or refreshment in those verses. The other reference, Hosea 2:5, refers to Hosea’s wife Gomer who decided to leave her covenant relationship and go to her lovers for bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink. Realizing the two verses using this word are juxtaposed just like the two verses using navel were juxtaposed cannot be a coincidence.
Shiqquy comes from the verb shaqah meaning cause to drink water, give to drink, a beverage, moisture. 61 uses of this verb include watering the whole Earth in Genesis 2, Rebekah giving drink from her pitcher, and the Lord making people and lands drink various things.
Marrow seems so different than drink! The 1828 Websters Dictionary defines marrow as a soft oleaginous substance contained in the cavities of animal bones and the essence; the best part.
Other Old Testament usages of the word marrow point to the meaning of the word I expected, cheleb meaning fat, rich food, offered in sacrifice. choicest part.
Other translations of the Bible translate marrow in this verse as refreshment. The NASB Lexicon (New American Standard Bible,) for example, translates the verse as
It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.
In John 7:37-38, Jesus offered refreshment and drink.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man , let him come unto me, and .
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
This refreshing water stands opposed to the waters, land, and bones that are dried up.
Bones: Bone, Substance, Self
To your bones: etsem. This feminine noun means bone, substance, or self and is used 121 times in the Old Testament. Woman is bone of my bones (both bones are etsem.) In the selfsame day is a frequent usage. A fascinating usage of etsem is Exodus 24:10 And they saw the God of Israel and there was under His feet as it were a work of paved sapphire stone and it was very like the heavens in its clarity.
Etsem derives from atsam which means to be vast, mighty, numerous. and is used 20 times throughout the Old Testament. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says atsam is
A primitive root; to bind fast, i.e. Close (the eyes); intransitively, to be (causatively, make) powerful or numerous; denominatively (from etsem) to crunch the bones — break the bones, close, be great, be increased, be (wax) mighty(-ier), be more, shut, be(-come, make) strong(-er).
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are scriptural examples of receiving this promise by following the Lord’s law of health.
As for these four children, God gave them : and Daniel had and skill in all and wisdom in all and dreams.
And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the and astrologers that were in all his realm.
They saved many lives by interpreting dreams, withstood lions, and stood in a fiery furnace. Hopefully, we won’t have to face those same challenges, but we are promised those same blessings.