For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. [NLT]Hebrews 4:12-13
- [ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ] (ho logos tou Theou) – the word of God
- [Ζῶν] (zōn) “alive”, “living”
- [ἐνεργὴς] (energēs) “powerful”, “active”, “energized”
- [τομώτερος ὑπὲρ] (tomōteros huper) “sharper than”, “sharper beyond”
- [πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον] (pasan machairan distimon) “sharpest two-edged sword” “every sword double-edged”
- [διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ] (diïknoumenos achri merismou) “cutting between” “passing through to the point of dividing”
- [ψυχῆς] (psuchēs) “soul”
- [πνεύματος] (pneumatos) “spirit”
- [ἁρμῶν] (armōn) joint
- [μυελῶν] (muelōn) marrow
- [κριτικὸς] (kritikos) It “exposes”, “exposing”, “judging”
- [ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας] (enthumēseōn kai ennoiōn kardias) “our innermost thoughts and desires“, “thoughts and desires of the heart”
- [οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις] (ouk estin ktisis) “Nothing in all creation” “there is no creature”
- [ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ] (aphanēs enōpion autou) “hidden from God” “unmanifest” “not laid bare”
- [πάντα] (panta) “Everything” “all things”
- [γυμνὰ] (gumna) “naked”
- [τετραχηλισμένα] (tetrachēlismena) “exposed”
- [τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ] (tois ophthalmois autou) before his eyes “to the eyes of Him”
- [πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος] (pros hon hēmin ho loyos) “He is the one to whom we are accountable” “before the One we the account (word)”
For the word of God is alive and powerful
is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword
cutting between both soul and spirit
between both joint and marrow.
It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires
in all creation is hidden from God.
everything is naked
before his eyes,
and He is
the One to whom we are accountable.
We saw in the last Gem that more is being said in this passage than we imagine. The focus on the sharp two-edged sword is both historical but also anatomically correct. By that I mean the shape and imagery of the tongue shaped double-edged blade is significant. The sharpness is what is in focus and the point is the blade’s ability to penetrate and divide. Which of course is analogous to the cutting power and anatomical accuracy of the Word of God. Notice that it’s the dividing between:
- soul and spirit
- joints and marrow
- thoughts and desires
that’s in focus here. I am sure it was deliberate on the part of the author and I suspect deliberately inspired by God. We are not talking about an autopsy here, nor a dissection of a corpse. God, via the author, is talking about the process of cutting between Soul and Spirit, Joints and Marrow and Thoughts and Desires of the heart. The whole purpose of this section is the discerning of our innermost being: the very essence of us on the inside.
The Soul and the Spirit
Before I analysed this doublet I decided to look at the commentaries because it is a difficult job to discern or pierce to the dividing of soul and spirit. I understand that psychology over the centuries constantly changes the definitions and understanding of exactly how the soul and spirit are different and what defines them. So I thought I would look at the commentaries before I made my summary. This is what I found.
- “The soul is the mind, will and emotions of mankind.”
- “This represents the innermost part of mankind which is not corporeal, or flesh and blood (of the corpus).”
- “The understanding of the two is the division between soulishness (ungodly) and spiritual (godly).”
- “That which is birth in and from man (psuchē) and that which comes from the Spirit of God (pneuma).”
- “To mankind the soul and the spirit are indistinguishable but not to God. Of course there is spirit which is not derived from God’s Spirit. But that too, by definition is ungodly and of the soulish realm.”
Turning to the commentaries to study deeper the exegesis of this verse I find:
- Psuchē is soul life and pneuma is the spirit (as part of human personality).
- The inner life of man is divided into psuchē and pneuma. The former is the seat of the thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires, volitions and actions pertaining to our earthly and bodily existence. The latter is the source of the psuchē, the immaterial part of our being that was breathed into us by the breath of God.
Oh thanks for clearing that up. But there is more; it goes further.
- Some commentaries (listed) say ‘the soul and the spirit are not literally divided’
- Other commentaries claim ‘the soul and the spirit are literally divided’ (also listed).
Oh that is becoming clearer and clearer as I read. On the contrary it has become more clouded and muddy (see the Rick Warren quote in Gem 2083). In fact it gets worse but I will stop there. What is clear is that dividing to the point of the separation between soul and spirit is not clear and the understanding thereof is not given to mankind. But the Word of God is living and active and can discern and divide between the two.
The Joints and the Marrow
How is it that the joints and marrow are divided, separated or sectioned? Well in truth they are not in the sense that the blade comes between them while we are living. That is not the sense of this verse. If indeed the joints are cut then the body loses its functionality as a result of the bones and joints being separated. But if the sense of the verse is to do with the penetration to the point of understanding the difference between the joints and marrow then that makes sense. How and to what degree do we understand the inner workings of these parts? The understanding of stem cell research related to the source in bone marrow only became known in 1981 when the first research was done in mice. That understanding developed to include humanity by 1998.
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue that has many blood vessels and is found in the centre of bones. There are two types of bone marrow: red and yellow. Red bone marrow contains blood stem cells that can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Bone marrow makes nearly all the components of your blood. It’s responsible for creating billions of red blood cells daily, along with white blood cells and platelets. Bone marrow also stores fat that turns into energy as needed. Well isn’t that surprising. If we penetrate to the level of the joints and the bone marrow, our understanding becomes clear as the division between the joints and the marrow. But this text is not talking about the blade separating both joint and marrow. The sense is piercing to the joints and the marrow. Piercing to the marrow is going deeper into the inner being of mankind to yet another level. Isn’t that what the verse is talking about? Our understanding of DNA brings with it the realisation that each single cell of the human body holds the map for the whole body. That thought is mind-blowing. Think on it.
The Innermost Thoughts and Desires of the Heart
Now it is time to investigate the inclusion of the separation of the thoughts and desires (intentions / motivations of the heart). I want to remind you once again that these segments are not separated sentences. They are layered clauses which stem from the one before it. (I have deliberately phrased it like that) That is what this verse is revealing to us and telling us that it is the Word of God which is alive, active and powerful and able to penetrate to the level of the inner workings of mankind.
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? [NLT]Jeremiah 17:9
Isn’t that surprising? Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews are saying the same thing. The Word of God has the power and the ability to penetrate right to the heart of the matter. I believe this verse sheds light on exactly what is going on here both in the verse and in the passage. The clarity will answer the question that a number of you have been asking me in emails and texts. I believe understanding will dawn on us in the next Gem. Yes, that’s right – the next Gem! Largely because in order to put it all together in this Gem will make the Gem far too long and far too deep. I will field complaints about overly long Gems. So I will ‘cut’ the Gem at this point and leave the increasing depth for us to look at in the following Gem. I do believe it will shed light on our quest.
Following that we will have to examine the second part of the same Greek sentence – Hebrews 4:13.
The Infinite squeezed Himself down to the size of an infant.Deron Spoo
The Ultimate is now The Intimate; the veil has been removed. Thereby we begin to understand life in all its fullness.Ian
Become more concerned about the judgement of God so that the judgement of others becomes inconsequential.Ian
The Bible can be intimidating and approachable at the same time.Ian
Even after a lifetime of study the most brilliant theologians admit they have only just begun to plumb the depths of the Bible.Ian