Common Bible Sayings
19 November 2018
City Church Christchurch
The Bible’s influence on culture and everyday language has endured for thousands of years, transcending generations, civilisations and cultures across the globe. Its impact on society continues to this day, demonstrated in part by common sayings that originate from Scripture.
It’s important to note, the current use of these phrases does not necessarily align to their original context. Definitions and meanings for many have changed or shifted with time. We recommend a broader study of the Bible to understand what God is actually communicating through Scripture.
In order of occurrence, here are 50 common sayings from the Bible.
1. Let there be light.
Definition: A lighthearted remark when someone turns on a light.
Genesis 1:3 (NIV) "And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light."
2. Forbidden fruit.
Definition: Something desired, but not permitted.
Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV) "And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
3. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Definition: Most commonly said at funerals, it is a reference to the cycle of life. We come from the ground, and return to it at death.
Genesis 3:19 (NIV) "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
4. An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.
Definition: A principle of compensation by which a person is punished in equal portion to the harm they have caused another.
Exodus 23-25 (NIV) "But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
Leviticus 24:19-20 (NIV) "Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury."
Matthew 5:38-39 (NIV) "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."
Definition: A person who takes the blame for another's mistakes.
Leviticus 16:10 (NIV) "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."
6. Apple of my eye.
Definition: Something or someone cherished, usually above others.
Deuteronomy 32:10 (NIV) "In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,"
Zechariah 2:8 (NIV) "For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you — for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye —"
7. A man after my own heart.
Definition: Admiration for someone who shares the same opinion or interests. A kindred spirit.
1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV) "But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command."
Acts 13:22 (NIV) "After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: "I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do."
8. How the mighty have fallen.
Definition: A description for a once-great person or entity that has since diminished in stature or respect.
2 Samuel 1:25 (NIV) "How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights."
9. Put words in one’s mouth.
Definition: The false suggestion that someone said or meant something else.
2 Samuel 14:3 (NIV) "Then go to the king and speak these words to him." And Joab put the words in her mouth."
10. Nothing but skin and bones.
Definition: Extremely thin. Emaciation.
Job 19:20 (NIV) "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth."
11. By the skin of your teeth.
Definition: Very narrow margin (i.e. time, efficiency or competency) of completion.
Job 19:20 (NIV) "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth."
12. The root of the matter.
Definition: The core reason for something.
Job 19:28 (KJV) "But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?"
13. Weighed in the balance.
Definition: Equal consideration of two opposing views.
Job 31:6 (NLT) "Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for he knows my integrity."
Daniel 5:27 (KJV) "Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."
14. Broken heart.
Definition: An intense longing for something lost (typically related to love), exhibited by feelings of sorrow, despair, stress and grief.
Psalms 34:18 (KJV) "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."
15. Bite the dust.
Definition: Stop existing or living. Die.
Psalms 72:9 (ESV) "May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!"
16. Wits’ end.
Definition: An exhausted state of worry or distress.
Psalm 107:27 (NIV) "They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits' end."
17. Pride comes before a fall.
Definition: The principle of having too much pride or confidence will cause foolish mistakes.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
18. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Definition: An idiom for the monotony of life. It's all been experienced, seen, created and done before.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV) "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
19. For everything there is a season.
Definition: There is a right time or period for everything.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven"
20. Eat, drink, and be merry.
Definition: A jovial call for others to enjoy themselves and make the most of the moment (usually at a party or celebration).
Ecclesiastes 8:15 (KJV) "Then I commended mirth, 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."
Luke 12:19 (NIV) "And I’ll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."
21. Fly in the ointment.
Definition: A blemish. A small imperfection or flaw that diminishes the quality of the whole.
Ecclesiastes 10:1 (KJV) "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour."
22. Four corners of the earth.
Definition: The length and breath (far reaches) of the globe.
Isaiah 11:12 (ESV) "He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
23. Drop in a bucket.
Definition: An addition, action or effort that seems very insignificant in comparison to the whole.
Isaiah 40:15 (NIV) "Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust."
24. See eye to eye.
Definition: To concur. Agree.
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."
25. No rest for the wicked.
Definition: The principle that those who do wrong will lack peace and tranquility. Sometimes used in jest to explain why a person must work.
Isaiah 57:21 (NIV) "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."
26. Rise and shine.
Definition: A call to wake up, get out of bed and start the day.
Isaiah 60:1 (ESV) "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you."
27. Like a lamb led to the slaughter.
Definition: Innocent and naive to the dangers ahead.
Jeremiah 11:19 (NLT) "I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me!"
Isaiah 53:7 (NLT) "He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth."
28. Can a leopard change his spots?
Definition: To suggest a person or creature cannot change its essential nature.
Jeremiah 13:23 (NIV) "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil."
29. Sour grapes.
Definition: Someone who is bitter about something unobtainable.
Ezekiel 18:2 (NLT) “Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: 'The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children's mouths pucker at the taste'?”
30. Writing is on the wall.
Definition: An idiom for imminent peril.
Daniel 5:5-6 (NIV) "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking."
31. Ends of the earth.
Definition: The far reaches of the world. Extreme effort to overcome difficulties.
Zechariah 9:10 (NIV) "I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."
32. Go the extra mile.
Definition: Go above and beyond what is necessary or expected.
Matthew 5:41 (NIV) "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."
33. Straight and narrow.
Definition: To behave in a way that is proper or virtuous.
Matthew 7:14 (KJV) "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
34. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Definition: Someone who seems friendly or harmless, but is wicked and shouldn't be trusted.
Matthew 7:15 (NIV) "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
35. The blind leading the blind.
Definition: A description for two or more people who are going astray through their own ignorance and incompetence.
Matthew 15:13-14 (NIV) "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit."
36. Sign of the times.
Definition: Something that underscores the current state of society, usually negative.
Matthew 16:3 (ESV) "And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."
37. What God has joined together, let no one separate.
Definition: A warning against divorce, affirming God's intentions for marriage are greater than man's desires to seperate.
Matthew 19:6 (NIV) "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
38. Kiss of death.
Definition: An event or action that's certain to cause disaster, or something to fail.
Matthew 26:48-50 (NLT) "The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: 'You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.' So Judas came straight to Jesus. 'Greetings, Rabbi!' he exclaimed and gave him the kiss. Jesus said, 'My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.' Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him."
39. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.
Definition: The principle that those who commit acts of violence will ultimately fall victim to them in the future.
Matthew 26:52 (NLT) "Put away your sword," Jesus told him. "Those who use the sword will die by the sword."
40. Wash your hands of the matter.
Definition: To absolve responsibility for something contentious, therefore distancing oneself from possible future blame.
Matthew 27:24 (NIV) "Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!'"
41. Good Samaritan.
Definition: A selfless person who helps someone (especially a stranger) in a time of need.
Luke 10:30-37 (NIV) "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion."
42. O ye, of little faith.
Definition: Usually said in jest to rebuff someone's pessimistic attitude.
Luke 12:28 (KJV) "If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
43. Throw the first stone.
Definition: Be the first to judge something or someone critically.
John 8:7 (NLT) "They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!"
44. The powers that be.
Definition: A reference to the authorities of people in control.
Romans 13:11 (KJV) "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."
45. Twinkling of an eye.
Definition: Something that happens very quickly.
1 Corinthians 15:52 (NIV) "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."
46. Letter of the law.
Definition: To the fullness and precise wording of the law, with no consideration to any perceived intent or spirit in which it was written.
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
47. Fall from grace.
Definition: To fall out of favour, usually following unfavourable conduct.
Galatians 5:4 (NASB) "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."
48. Labour of love.
Definition: Something primarily completed for pleasure, not money or reward.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV) "Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
49. The love of money is the root of all evil.
Definition: The principle that the love of money will result in greed, selfishness and wicked behaviour.
1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV) "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
50. Fight the good fight.
Definition: An encouragement to persist and overcome any difficulties, by doing what is right.
1 Timothy 6.12 (NLT) "Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses."