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Shoulder

SHOULDER

shol'-der (shekhem, katheph, zeroa` or zerowa`, or zero`ah, shoq; omos, brachion (Sirach 7:31 only)):

The meanings of the Hebrew words are rather varied. The first (shekhem) has perhaps the widest application. It is used for the part of the body on which heavy loads are carried (Genesis 21:14; 24:15,45; Exodus 12:34; Joshua 4:5; Judges 9:48). King Saul's impressive personality is thus described: "There was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people" (1 Samuel 9:2; 10:23). To carry loads on the shoulder or to have "a staff on the shoulder" is expressive of subjection and servitude, yea, of oppression and cruel punishment, and the removal of such burdens or of the rod of the oppressor connotes delivery and freedom (Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).

Figuratively:

The shoulders also bear responsibility and power. Thus it is said of King Messiah, that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" (Isaiah 9:6) and "the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Isaiah 22:22). Job declares that he will refute all accusations of unlawful conduct made against him, in the words:

"Oh .... that I had the indictment which mine adversary hath written! Surely I would carry it upon my shoulder" (Job 31:35).

The Hebrew word katheph comes very close in meaning to the above, though it is occasionally used in the sense of arm-piece and shoulder-piece of a garment. Like Hebrew shekhem, it is used to describe the part of the body accustomed to carry loads. On it the Levites carried the implements of the sanctuary (Numbers 7:9; 1 Chronicles 15:15; 2 Chronicles 35:3). Oriental mothers and fathers carried their children on the shoulder astride (Isaiah 49:22; compare Isaiah 60:4); thus also the little bundle of the poor is borne (Ezekiel 12:6,7,12). The loaded shoulder is likely to be "worn" or chafed under the burden (Ezekiel 29:18). In the two passages of the New Testament in which we find the Greek equivalent of shoulder (omos, fairly common in Apocrypha), it corresponds most closely with this use (Matthew 23:4; Luke 15:5). Of the shoulders of animals the word katheph is used in Ezekiel 34:21 (of sheep, where, however, men are intended) and in Isaiah 30:6 (of asses).

Stubborn opposition and unwillingness is expressed by "withdrew the shoulder" (Nehemiah 9:29), or "pulled away the shoulder" (Zechariah 7:11), where the marginal rendering is "they gave (or "turned") a stubborn shoulder." Contrast "bow the shoulder," i.e. "submit" (Baruch 2:21). Compare "stiffnecked"; see NECK. Somewhat difficult for the understanding of Occidentals is the poetical passage in the blessing of Moses:

"Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of Yahweh shall dwell in safety by him; he covereth him all the day long, and he dwelleth between his shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12). The "shoulders" refer here to the mountain saddles and proclivities of the territory of Benjamin between which Jerusalem, the beloved of Yahweh, which belonged to Judah, lay nestling close upon the confines of the neighboring tribe, or even built in part on ground belonging to Benjamin.

Much less frequently than the above-mentioned words. we find zeroa`, zero`ah, which is used of the "boiled shoulder of the ram" which was a wave offering at the consecration of a Nazirite (Numbers 6:19) and of one of the priestly portions of the sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:3). In Sirach 7:31 this portion is called brachion, properly "arm," but both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) translate "shoulder." Regarding the wave and heave offerings see SACRIFICE. the King James Version frequently translates Hebrew shoq, literally, "leg," "thigh" (which see) by "shoulder," which the Revised Version (British and American) occasionally retains in the margin (e.g. Numbers 6:20).

H. L. E. Luering


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SHOULDER'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.