You know you’ve been warned when the writing’s on the wall, but do you know where the saying came from?

I remember the morning I was in church and made the biblical connection. I sat straight up and listened closely to the Book of Daniel, “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand” (5:5).

The story goes on as to how the king’s face turned pale and cried out that whoever could read the writing on the wall would be clothed in purple and rank third in the kingdom. Daniel was the only one who could read it.

The message said that King Belshazzar and Babylon’s days were over. Belshazzar was proud and praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone rather than the one true God, even though he knew what happened to his father who acted in a similar way.

From antiquity until today, we live by phrases and sayings such as this that have proven the test of time. And dozens of them have biblical roots.

Here are a few others:

By the skin of my teeth – “My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20).

Out of the mouths of babes – “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2).

Eat, drink, and be merry – “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19. See also Tobit 7:10)

In the twinkling of an eye – “. . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Go the extra mile – “. . . and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40-42).

Put words in your mouth – “And Joab put the words into her mouth” (2 Samuel 14:3. See also Exodus 4:15, Deuteronomy 18:18, 2 Samuel 14:19, Isaiah 51:16, Isaiah 59:21, and Jeremiah 1:9).

Root of the matter – “If you say, ‘How we will persecute him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him . . .’” (Job 19:28).

Signs of the times – “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” (Matthew 16:3).

At their wits’ end – “. . . they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end” (Psalm 107:27).

Wolves in sheep’s clothing – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

And my favorite:

Arise and shine – “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

©2016 Mary K. Doyle

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