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- in the Old Testament denotes (1) a particular part of the body of man and animals (Gen. 2:21; 41:2; Ps. 102:5, marg.); (2) the whole body (Ps. 16:9); (3) all living things having flesh, and particularly humanity as a whole (Gen. 6:12, 13); (4) mutability and weakness (2 Chr. 32:8; comp. Isa. 31:3; Ps. 78:39). As suggesting the idea of softness it is used in the expression "heart of flesh" (Ezek. 11:19). The expression "my flesh and bone" (Judg. 9:2; Isa. 58:7) denotes relationship.
In the New Testament, besides these it is also used to denote the sinful element of human nature as opposed to the "Spirit" (Rom. 6:19; Matt. 16:17). Being "in the flesh" means being unrenewed (Rom. 7:5; 8:8, 9), and to live "according to the flesh" is to live and act sinfully (Rom. 8:4, 5, 7, 12).
This word also denotes the human nature of Christ (John 1:14, "The Word was made flesh." Comp. also 1 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 1:3).
- a many-pronged fork used in the sacrificial services (1 Sam. 2:13, 14; Ex. 27:3; 38:3) by the priest in drawing away the flesh. The fat of the sacrifice, together with the breast and shoulder (Lev. 7:29-34), were presented by the worshipper to the priest. The fat was burned on the alter (3:3-5), and the breast and shoulder became the portion of the priests. But Hophni and Phinehas, not content with this, sent a servant to seize with a flesh-hook a further portion.
Thorn in the flesh
- (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Many interpretations have been given of this passage. (1.) Roman Catholic writers think that it denotes suggestions to impiety.
(2.) Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers interpret the expression as denoting temptation to unbelief.
(3.) Others suppose the expression refers to "a pain in the ear or head," epileptic fits, or, in general, to some severe physical infirmity, which was a hindrance to the apostle in his work (comp. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 10:10; 11:30; Gal. 4:13, 14; 6:17). With a great amount of probability, it has been alleged that his malady was defect of sight, consequent on the dazzling light which shone around him at his conversion, acute opthalmia. This would account for the statements in Gal. 4:14; 2 Cor. 10:10; also Acts 23:5, and for his generally making use of the help of an amanuensis (comp. Rom. 16:22, etc.).
(4.) Another view which has been maintained is that this "thorn" consisted in an infirmity of temper, to which he occasionally gave way, and which interfered with his success (comp. Acts 15:39; 23:2-5). If we consider the fact, "which the experience of God's saints in all ages has conclusively established, of the difficulty of subduing an infirmity of temper, as well as the pain, remorse, and humiliation such an infirmity is wont to cause to those who groan under it, we may be inclined to believe that not the least probable hypothesis concerning the 'thorn' or 'stake' in the flesh is that the loving heart of the apostle bewailed as his sorest trial the misfortune that, by impatience in word, he had often wounded those for whom he would willingly have given his life" (Lias's Second Cor., Introd.).
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