The Phrase, “Bowels of mercies…….” In Colossians 3:12 was mistakenly interpreted as “Bowls of mercies…….”
“Bowl” and “Bowel”- are the two different words which look alike with a slight or minimal difference in sound and spelling but with quite two different meanings. I was mistaken with the word ‘Bowel’ which I took for ‘Bowl’. The word ‘Bowl’ means a round deep dish or container used to hold food or fruits or any liquid. As in verbs, ‘bowl’ can be used to mean throwing a ball in a correct manner in a cricket match or as in noun, it can be used in a sentence like, ‘The bowl was perfect and clean’. ‘A bowl of fruit’- placed on the dinning table for guests has become a sign of an aristocracy in modern families. Fruits rich in nutrients are essential for our growth of health or providing a wide range of health boosting with antioxidants and flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Thus, ‘a bowl of fruit’ or ‘a bowl of (spiritual) fruits’ in a figurative language can mean a lot, and it can produce a bunch of ideas. I have come across some phrases or idioms such as, ‘a fresh cup of Grace and a bowl of Mercy’, ‘Bowl for Mercy’, ‘Mercy Bowl’ etc. “Mercy Bowl’ is a name of an event organized to strike up a new awareness and raise charitable funds to support St. Louis Mercy Home and girls. But the interesting fact is that the phrase as ‘Bowls of Mercies…..’ cannot be found in any modern Dictionary nor in the internet. It may be because, the use of the phrase as such could be grammatically or literally unfit for overlapping the meaning of “Bowels of Mercies…” in the Bible. However, I think, the sense is always good and can be interpreted in spiritual senses. The imagery of ‘Bowl’ as an illustration can bring new spiritual innovations in our life.
Now let us come the other word, ‘Bowel’ used in Colossians 3:12, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (KJV). Interestingly, the word ‘Bowel’ literally refers to the innermost parts of the human body, i.e., the human intestines, the abdomen, the heart, the womb (Uterus), the place where the child is conceived.
The Greek word used here is, σπλάγχνον, pronounced as splanchnon which refers to the inward affection, tender mercies—a heart in which mercy resides—a seat where the first love is conceived for a child.
The World English Bible reads this verse,
“Put on… a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility and perseverance.”
Third Millenium Bible reads,
“Put on hearts of mercies, kindness…………”
New American Standard Bible ,
“…….Put on a heart of compassion, kindness………”
The Webster Bible ,
“Put on therefore…………bowels of mercies, kindness……..”
Thus the phrase, “The Bowels of mercies….” in King James version, drawn from the analogy of a bowel—the physical, humanly illustration, helps us delve into the deep spiritual truths or spiritual nuggets.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians was addressed to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who were at Colossae. The letter is also meant to us in this 21st century. The saints are the beloved people of God who are made holy by the blood of Christ or set apart and consecrated for the glory of God. Paul is here by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit emphasizing the fact that the families of God should be like the ‘bowels of mercies, kindness, lowliness, humility, perseverance and compassion. Bowel is a kind of container or heart that contains all the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 such as, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness and self-control (cf Colossians 3:12).
This wonderful analogy of “the Bowels of mercies….” is really full of spiritual meanings and can be a Big Blessing for our family. And this is what God desires for you and me.