How many Bible verses do you know, either by heart or a close approximation? You may be surprised to hear that you know more than you think you do. Dozens of short phrases from the Bible have become common terms used in everyday language. How many of the following did you know?
Bite the Dust, a phrase that is famed for its appearance in a well-known Queensong comes from Psalms 72:9: “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.” (KJV)
The Blind Leading the Blind, which describes a situation in which an inexperienced person is advised by an equally inexperienced person comes from Matthew 15:13-14: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
Have you ever escaped something By the Skin of Your Teeth? Well, that phrase can be found inJob 19:20. The Geneva Bible translation reads, “I have escaped with the skin of my teeth.”
I hope you have never had to suffer a Broken Heart but if you have, the Psalmist has written about you. Psalms 34:18: ” The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (KJV).
Can a Leopard Change his Spots? No, it can’t. Jeremiah 13:23 (KJV): “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
Jesus made Cast the First Stone famousin John 8:7: “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Drop in a Bucket is an idiom describing an effort or action that has very little influence in the grand scheme of things. In Isaiah 40:15, the phrase is used to declare God’s sovereignty and power over the nations, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he takes up the isles as fine dust” (ESV).
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry appears in Ecclesiastes 8:15: “because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”
Eye for Eye, Tooth for tooth or the law of retaliation comes from Matthew 5:38: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
Fall From Grace is an idiom referring to a loss of status or respect. In Christianity, Adam and Eve’s sin was seen as a fall from grace. The phrase is written inGalatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
Fly in the Ointment refers to something that spoils the success or enjoyment of something. The idea can be found in Ecclesiastes 10:1 (KJV): “”Dead flies cause the ointmentof the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.””
For Everything there is a Season became part of the title for a number one hit by The Byrdsin 1965. It is adapted from Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV): “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”
Forbidden Fruit obviously comes from the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:3 when they were commanded not to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
To go the extra mile means to make an extra special effort to achieve something. This comes from Matthew 5:41: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (KJV).
Good Samaritan obviously stems from Luke 10:30-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Those who live a violent life are more likely to die a violent death. This is Jesus’ warning in Matthew 26:52: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
How the Mighty have Fallen mockingly remarks that someone of high status has done something demeaning. This comes from 2 Samuel 1:19: “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!”
The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil or avarice gives rise to selfish or wicked action. This is from 1 Timothy 6:10 but has actually been slightly misquoted. The ESV translation says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Nothing but skin and bones, which means extremely thin or emaciated, comes from Job 19:19-20: “All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. I am nothing but skin and bones.”
The Powers that Be, i.e. the people in charge, comes from Romans 13:1 (KJV). Of course, in this case the “powers” come from God. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God:the powers that beare ordained of God.”
The well-known phrase pride comes before a fall is paraphrased from Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (KJV)
Put words in one’s mouth means to make someone say one thing when they really think something else. This can be found in 2 Samuel 14:3: “And come to the king, and speak on this manner unto him. So Joab put the words in her mouth.”
Rise and shine: didn’t you hate hearing that first thing in the morning on a school day? Well, this comes from Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.”
The Root of the Matter is the essential cause of a problem. This is quoted in Job 19:28 (KJV): “But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the Root of the matteris found in me?”
Traditionally, a Scapegoat is an animal that a chief priest has symbolically laid the sins of the people upon, which is then sent out into the wilderness. This appears in the laws of the Old Testament, specifically Leviticus 16:9-10: “Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.”
See eye to eye is a commonly used phrase from Biblical origin. It comes from Isaiah 52:8 (KJV), “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”
Sign of the times – no, not the Harry Styles single – comes from Matthew 16:3 (KJV): “And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
Strait and Narrow means honest and moral. This can be found, although worded slightly differently, inMatthew 7:14: “But small is the gate and narrow the roadthat leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Twinkling of an Eye from 1 Corinthians 15:52 means in an instant. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
There’s nothing new under the sun refers to the monotony of life. It comes from Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV): “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
To wash your hands of the matter means to stop being involved with something. Pilate symbolically washed his hands in Matthew 27:24 (KJV): “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his handsbefore the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.”
“Weighed in the balance” sang Johnny Cash in his song called Belshazzar. The phrase is written inJob 31:6, “Let me be weighed in an even balancethat God may know mine integrity.”
Have you ever told someone you were at your Wit’s End? Well, you were quotingPsalm 107:27 (KJV), “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.”
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing comes from one of Jesus’ sermons in which he warns people to be aware of false prophets. Matthew 7:15 (KJV): “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Writings on the Wall refers to the events in Daniel 5. Now a popular idiom for something bad is about to happen, it refers to the ghostly writing seen by King Belshazzar: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. This meant “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon