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OPINION

A Quick Bible Study Vol. 181: Common Phrases Rooted in the Bible - Part 3

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Author's Note: All previous volumes of this series are here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book  "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible."  "Part Two," featuring volumes 57-113, was published  in December 2022.

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Thanks for joining our study, as again, we discuss common phrases rooted in the Bible. A month ago, in Vol. 177-“Part 2,” I asked if readers wanted more of this topic, and many hands went up, so here is “Part 3.” If anyone is keeping records, the first installment of this common phrases mini-series was Vol. 67 - June 2021. 

Interestingly, as Bible literacy declines, biblically-rooted sayings endure since most people are unaware of the degree to which the Bible is woven into our lexicon. For example, I was at a restaurant meeting room three weeks ago. As our faith leader finished worship, he pointed to a familiar sign on the wall — “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” — since it was time for all that. Immediately, I blurted out, “That’s from the Bible!” The group responded, “Really?” Yes, really! 

So, when you hear someone using a common phrase from the Bible, don’t be shy about reminding the speaker (or anyone within earshot) — even though they might think you are either a Bible scholar or a know-it-all-jerk. With that in mind, let's begin the sayings in order of biblical appearance:   

“Let there be light.”

The Almighty Creator spoke this famous verse — one of His greatest hits: "And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). 

Considering this phrase is a pop culture cliché, I would wager a significant portion of the population is unaware that “Let there be light” is from the Bible. Moreover, how often do people say this heavenly command without knowing or acknowledging the awesome power from which it came? 

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“Of biblical proportions.”

Yes, I know that phrase is not quoted in the Bible. However, I included it since the media often voices the term to describe a cataclysmic natural disaster. Although unspoken, the age-old reference “of biblical proportions” is the 10 plagues (Exodus 7:14-11:10) that freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Increasingly, I have observed an uptick in media usage usually associated with devastating floods, wildfires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., when there is no comparison except “biblical proportions.” But, what goes unsaid is “only God was powerful enough to have unleashed this horrific event.” There, I said it, and for more discussion, read Vol.175: “God, Natural Disasters and Climate Change.” 

Be a man.”

Uh oh, I might get canceled for quoting the Bible. To modern ears, “Be a man” sounds like an outdated, sexist phrase from an old war movie when a soldier acted cowardly and was chastised by his commanding officer. The term is from 1 Kings 2:2 in the Hebrew Bible, but numerous translations don’t show the phrase “Be a Man.” We begin with the translation that does:

“I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man” (NLT). Here are three more translations of 1 Kings 2:2:

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man” (NIV).

"I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man” (ESV).

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“I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man” (KJV)

You understand why the opposite sex might take offense since strength of character is associated with males. I will say no more since this is a Bible study, not a feminist manifesto.

“Put your house in order.”

Few people know this saying is from the Bible. It means to organize yourself, your household, or business affairs. The verse from which the phrase appears is in 2 Kings: 

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover’” (2 Kings 20:1).

Next, we turn to Job, who wins a prize for having two common phrases in one verse:

“Skin and bones” – “the skin of my teeth.”

The verse read: "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth" (Job 19:20).

Again, I doubt that when someone describes a very thin or sickly person as “skin and bones,” they realize they are quoting the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. And then, a close call or escape “by the skin of my teeth” makes little sense since, last I checked, my teeth don’t have skin. Still, the phrase has survived but is most often uttered by those of a certain age.

“Broken heart”

Overused by songwriters and romance novelists, “broken heart” originates from Psalm 34. Here is how it reads in the King James Bible translation:

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“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18 – KJV).   And below from the New International Version:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 - NIV). 

The prophet Jeremiah writes about his broken heart:

“Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a strong man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words” (Jeremiah 23:9).

“Bites the dust.”

And speaking of how the Bible inspires songwriters, we have this Bible study’s first shout-out to the classic rock band “Queen” for “Another One Bites the Dust.” However, “bites the dust” does not appear in any translation. Here is how the “dust verse” reads in Psalm 72:9 from the King James Bible:

“May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust.”  And amazingly, the NIV reads precisely the same.

Perhaps over time, the word “bites” sounded more graphic than “lick,” but both describe someone who has fallen, is about to die, or has died. It can also mean a person/group that was resoundingly defeated or a failure in general.

“Rise and Shine.”

Another common cliché we say without knowing it is from the Bible:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). This verse also appears in Handel’s Messiah.

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There are many Bible-rooted common sayings we have yet to cover, so look for “Part 4” in an upcoming study. And be sure to comment or email me if you liked today’s topic.

Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible," reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. "Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113. Order it here.   

Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are educational donor-supported ministries dedicated to building a permanent Shroud of Turin exhibit in Washington, D.C. Visit the life-sized Shroud replica in D.C. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com.

 

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