Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The joints of his loins were loosed

About a month ago someone on brought up the Christian Standard Bible translation of Daniel 5:5-6,[i] related to Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall.
Daniel 5:5-6 (CSB) At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together.
The CSB translation indicates that Belshazzar was so scared he soiled his clothing with excrement and/or urine. Many translations lean toward his hips giving out (and falling down) and his knees knocking. On first blush I thought this sounded weird. After reflection I wonder if we haven’t been reading all along a “polite” rendering of this in the KJV.
Daniel 5:5-6 (KJV) In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
Loins in the Bible are the region of bodily function (e.g. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26). I’m not sure that it ever means hips specifically. The actual “joints of the loins” could easily be the sphincters rather than skeletal joints,[ii] and the loss of control of that variety. Losing control of the hips would cause one to fall down. Knees’ knocking is usually a standing up condition. Loss of bowel control seems to fit as well or better with knee knocking than hips giving out.

Perhaps this short diverging path down an odd trail won’t be too offensive. I find it interesting that we may have been reading the idea of Belshazzar losing his bowel control and missing it all along.

[i] Septuagint, v. 6: τότε τοῦ βασιλέως ἡ μορφὴ ἠλλοιώθη, καὶ οἱ διαλογισμοὶ αὐτοῦ συνετάρασσον αὐτόν, καὶ οἱ σύνδεσμοι τῆς ὀσφύος αὐτοῦ διελύοντο, καὶ τὰ γόνατα αὐτοῦ συνεκροτοῦντο.
[ii] the parts of the body between the hips and the lower ribs, especially regarded as the seat of physical strength and generative power, the genital and pubic area. Cf. also Isaiah 45:1.

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