Category: biblephrases

Eye for an eye

This week’s phrase is from Exodus 21:24:

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot

When this verse was given, punishment by the state for crime was usually excessive and so it was to ensure that the punishment fitted the crime – that justice was done.

Today it is generally used to state ones personal entitlement to revenge rather than justice!

Burning bush

This week’s phrase is from Exodus 3:2

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

In modern English, this phrase is used to indicate an epiphany.


This week’s phrase comes from Leviticus 16:10:

But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Much like in the Old Testament where the sins of the people were symbolically placed upon an innocent goat, the phrase is used today to refer to someone, or something, which is blamed for something instead of the guilty party.

Thou shalt not kill

This week’s phrase is actually repreated a few times in the bible. Its most notable reference is probably Exodus 20:13:

Thou shalt not kill.

It’s generally used as read, although a better translation would be “You shall not murder”, rather than kill.

A peace offering

This week’s phrase is from Leviticus 3:6

And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering unto the LORD be of the flock; male or female, he shall offer it without blemish.

To turn aside someone’s wrath through an offering.

Manna from heaven

This week’s phrase is from Exodus 16:15:

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

To quote Merriam-Webster:

…sudden and unexpected source of gratification, pleasure, or gain.

Harden your heart

This week’s phrase is from Exodus 4:21:

The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go…

To harden one’s heart to to be stubborn, obstinate, unwilling to change, even if the facts clearly put one in the wrong!

The land of Nod

This week’s phrase is from Genesis 4:16:

And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Originally, Nod referred to a place east of Eden, where Eden is paradise. It meant a place of exile and of discomfort. Today it is more likely to mean quite the opposite – to be fast asleep!

Let there be light

This week’s phrase is from Genesis 1:3

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Used metaphorically when one suddenly understands an idea, or literally when there is illumination!

Fat of the land

This week’s phrase is from Genesis 45:18:

And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

Back in the days before dieting and obesity were problems, fat was a good thing. Fat was a sign of prosperity, and so to live off the fat of the land meant to live off the prosperity, the riches, the wealth, of the land.

Fire and brimstone

This week’s phrase comes from Genesis 19:24-26:

Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah— from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities— and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Fire and brimstone is not so much a phrase, but more an adjective used to indicate something involves the anger and judgement of God.

As old as Methuselah

This week’s phrase comes from Genesis 5:25-27:

And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:
And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.

Really, really, old!

Ashes to ashes

This week’s verse is Genesis 3:19 (again!)

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

However, in this instance it is the latter part of the verse which is of interest. The Book of Common Prayer uses this verse during its Order for the Burial of the Dead.

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.

Although, even outside the Church, the phrase is used widely.

Quite simply, we came from dust and we shall return to dust.

By the sweat of your brow

This week’s verse is Genesis 3:19

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Alas, work is arduous and sometimes painful and we know it. We use this phrase so often when what we labour for is difficult.

Breath of life

This week’s verse is Genesis 2:7

the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

‘Breath of life’ is pretty much self-explanatory, and used fairly straightforwardly.