Loose earth, used both literally and figuratively. Dust is used in figures of speech for a multitude (Genesis 13:16;
Isaiah 29:5) or for an abundance (of flesh,
Psalms 78:27; of silver,
Job 27:16; of blood,
Zephaniah 1:17). Dust is used as a metaphor for death, the grave, or Sheol (Job 10:9;
Daniel 12:2). Dust on a balance is a picture of something insignificant (Isaiah 40:15). Human lowliness in relationship with God as well as humanity's close relationship with the rest of creation is expressed in the making of persons from dust (Genesis 2:7;
Psalms 104:29). To return to dust is to die (Genesis 3:19;
Job 17:16). To place dust on one's head was a sign of mourning (Lamentations 2:10;
Revelation 18:19). This act was sometimes accomplished by rolling in dust (Micah 1:10). Dust on the head may have been a sign of defeat and shame as well as mourning in
Joshua 7:6. To throw dust was a sign of contempt (2 Samuel 16:13), though to throw it in the air may have been a demand for justice (Acts 22:23).
To defile a crown in dust (Psalms 89:39) was to dishonor the office of king. To eat or lick dust (Genesis 3:14;
Micah 7:17) was to suffer humiliation and powerlessness before an enemy. To lay one's horn (glory) in the dust was to experience humiliation and loss of standing (Job 16:15). To lay a soul in the dust (Psalms 7:5;
Psalms 22:15) is to kill. To make something dust (Deuteronomy 9:21;
2 Kings 13:7) is to completely destroy it. To raise from the dust (1 Samuel 2:8) is to rescue or exalt. To sit in the dust (Isaiah 47:1) is to suffer humiliation.
For Jews to shake dust off their feet was a sign that Gentile territory was unclean. In the New Testament this action indicates that those who have rejected the gospel have made themselves as Gentiles and must face the judgment of God (Matthew 10:14-15;