Meaning of phrase- "numbered all my bones"


#1

There is a beautiful prayer called "Prayer before a Crucifix" that includes a verse about the prophet David saying "They have numbered all my bones."

What does it mean that they have numbered my bones? I am just trying to understand the full meaning of this beautiful prayer.

Here's a link to the full prayer: catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=867


#2

That’s from Psalm 22.

Yea, dogs are round about me;
a company of evildoers encircle me;
they have pierced my hands and feet –
I can count all my bones

they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my raiment they cast lots.
(Psalm 22:16-18 RSV)

David was undergoing severe trial, driven into the desert, living in caves, with little to eat. He was probably gaunt from lack of food. Elsewhere David states that he is “gaunt from fasting.”

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone, like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.

I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to thy steadfast love!
(Psalm 109:22-26)*

Either way, from fasting or starvation, he was probably pretty thin. Psalm 22 is referenced in the Gospels as part of the crucifixion accounts. This Psalm is seen as prophecy, pointing forward to Jesus’ crucifixion.

-Tim-


#3

The Psalmist is looking ahead prophetically to the death of our LORD (I.e., pierced hands and feet).

When hanging by one’s hands, as our LORD did, the body would be so brutally distended that one would feel all his bones.

GOD Bless and ICXC NIKA.


#4

More commonly cited are the Gospel verses about God numbering the hairs on our heads:

Mathew Chapter 10:

29 Are not sparrows sold two for a penny? And yet it is impossible for one of them to fall to the ground without your heavenly Father’s will. 30 And as for you, he takes every hair of your head into his reckoning. 31 Do not be afraid, then; you count for more than a host of sparrows.

Luke Chapter 7:

6 Are not sparrows sold five for two pence? And yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 7 As for you, he takes every hair of your head into his reckoning; do not be afraid, then; you count for more than a host of sparrows.


#5

It’s from Psalm 22 (21 if you’re using the Douay-Rheims, the Vulgate, or the Septuagint) - which in Christianity is commonly read in the light of the Crucifixion. In the literal context, the psalmist, using graphic hyperbole, is describing himself as being in a dire situation: surrounded by his enemies (figuratively described as animals: “bulls of Bashan” with mouths “like a ravening and roaring lion” and “dogs”) and being insulted and mocked by them. He is portraying himself as becoming broken because of their dehumanizing abuse that he might as well be dead.

“Bones” can signify one of two things in Hebrew expression: either health and wealth (“his bones are full of his youth,” Job 20:11; “the marrow of his bones is moistened,” Job 21:14; “good tidings make the bones fat,” Proverbs 25:30; “your bones shall flourish,” Isaiah 46:14) or sickness and woe (“my bone cleaves to my skin;” Job 19:20; “his bones that were not seen stick out,” Job 33:21; “my bones are troubled,” Psalm 6:3; “my bones are burned as a firebrand,” Psalm 102:4; “he has broken all my bones,” Lamentations 3:4).

Many bulls encompass me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax,
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
thou dost lay me in the dust of death.

Yea, dogs are round about me;
a company of evildoers encircle me;
they have pierced[a] my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my raiment they cast lots.


#6

Just as well he doesn’t number our teeth. My card will have been twinked out too often. :o


#7

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