Bible Expressions

Q. I’m interested in the many different ways that the Bible has influenced our thoughts.  I understand that many expressions we use like “am I my brother’s keeper?” and “an Eye for an Eye,” come from the Bible.  I think I’ve read these in the Bible before, but what are some other expressions common to our day that have their origin in the Bible?

Am I my brother’s keeper

Gen. 4:9

9* ¶ Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10* He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.

People are often unwilling to assume responsibility for the welfare of others.

Apple of the Eye

Psalm 17:8

8* ¶ Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings

The “apple of the eye” is something precious, or cherished.  There is an old English expression that referred to the pupil of the eye.

Baptism by Fire

Luke 3:16

16* John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

We usually refer to someone getting their “baptism by fire” when they are thrown into a difficult situation.  John had reference to ministry of Jesus.  His “baptism of fire” would purify those who would call them selves Christians.

Bread On The Waters

Ecc. 11:1

1* ¶ Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.

I believe that this entire context is a discussion of benevolence.  The encouragement here is to be a benevolent person, because one never knows when he might be in need of benevolence himself.

The expression “cast your bread on the surface of the waters,” is taken from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into overflowing rivers, or in marshy ground.  When the waters recede, the grain will fall to the soil and spring up.

“Waters” here could be an expression used to represent people, many people, who are recipients of our benevolent efforts, who in turn return to us benevolence in our time of need.

Break Bread

Acts 2:42

42* ¶ They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Luke 24:35

35* They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

Used to refer to the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42) and to a common meal.  Today it is used to refer to inviting someone to eat with you.  “Let’s break bread together.”

Den of Lions

Dan. 6

Da 6:7* “All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den.

We usually use this expression to talk about someone who might be just a bit naive who is forced into a difficult situation.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

This, of course is the so-called “golden rule”, a quote from the lips of Jesus in Matt. 7:12

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die

Ecc. 8:15

15* So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

Life is so uncertain … desert first.

Eye for an Eye

Ex. 21:22

22* ¶ “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide.

23* “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,

24* eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25* burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Originally was intended to limit punishment.

Eye of a needle

Matt. 19:24

24* “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Those who put their trust in riches will find it very difficult to get to heaven.

Fatted calf

Luke 15:23

The story of the prodigal son.  The Fatted calf was slaughtered when he returned.  It reefers to a time of celebration.

Fly in the ointment

Ecc. 10:1

1* ¶ Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.

It’s like saying “he threw a monkey wrench in the works.”

Forbidden fruit

Gen. 3

God placed a prohibition upon eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.  Anything that is forbidden or dangerous is “forbidden fruit.”

Get thee behind me, Satan

Matt. 16:23

23* But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.

Used as a rebuke for those who cause temptation.

Go the second mile

Matt. 5:4

41* “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

Interesting instructions to those who hated the Roman officials.  A Roman official could require any subject of the Roman empire to bear a burden, or carry a load for one mile.  “Going the second mile” means doing more than expected.

Golden calf

Ex. 32

When Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments the children of Israel were busy making a golden calf to worship.  Some use this expression to refer to a false god or anything highly valued above God.

Good Samaritan

Luke 10:2537

Strangers who go out of their way to help others in need.

Handwriting on the wall

Dan. 5:5

5* Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.

Old King Belshazzar, who was proud as can be, saw this handwriting on the wall.  The problem was it was in a language that no one in Babylon understood, so they called for Daniel who was able to interpret the words which pronounced judgment on the Babylonian empire.

We use this expression today to refer to people who have the perception to see some sort of doom in the future.

Hide you light under a bushel

Matt. 5:15

Do not hide your good influence or abilities.

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