THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


26.     dust

Dust is a generic term for any dry mixture of finely-divided mineral and organic matter that is light enough for a wind to pick up and carry away. The term embraces everything from soil dust and volcanic ash to the fluff under your furniture, which is a mixture of lint (fabric particles) and dandruff (flakes of dead epithelial cells). Dust particles smaller than 2.5 microns (10-6 meters) are small enough to inhale and cause health problems such as silicosis.

Although not a single mineral or completely inorganic, dust nonetheless interests geologists as a component of soils and air pollution. High concentrations of suspended dust particles can produce hazes and affect the climate by absorbing and scattering sunlight.

Biblical Background:

    Dust appears in the Bible as a figure of speech for anything worthless and common. Rhetorically, dust stands too low in the order of creation to have the capacity to praise God and his faithfulness (Psalm 30:9). Dust is associated with mourning, humiliation, and human frailty and mortality (Genesis 3:19). Dust storms, brought by east winds from the deserts of Arabia, were dreaded events associated with divine judgment (e.g., Job 27:21).

Despite its perceived position at the bottom of the scale of creation, God finds value in dust. In describing the way God shaped Adam from the dust of the ground ('adāmāh) and breathed life into him, (Genesis 2:7) the Bible affirms that mankind is a part of God's wholesome creation.

    Elsewhere, covering one's head with dust or ashes expressed mourning or repentance, (Joshua 7:6) or submission to an overlord (Psalm 72:9). Isaiah 47:1 pictures sitting in dust and ashes as a sign of affliction and destitution. Lying down in the dust is a figure of speech for death in Job 7:21, while dust in Psalm 30:9 represents the decayed residue of human remains. Throwing dust became a gesture of contempt (2 Samuel 16:13) which Jesus evoked in instructing his disciples when to shake the dust off their feet (Matthew 10:14). Jesus, however, transformed that ancient gesture of contempt by redefining dust as the unnecessary baggage of hurt feelings or disappointments due to rejection. He urged his disciples to leave all such petty encumbrances behind them in order to set their minds on preaching the gospel.

    Elsewhere, Jesus mixed dust with saliva to make a clay salve for a blind man's eyes (John 9:6), an action that also evokes Isaiah 64:8.


Logan, op. cit.


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