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2014

Cast thy bread on many waters

Ecclesiastes 11 This phrase is both “useful” and “dangerous” argues David Crystal in his book, “Begat”.  The reason? Because no-one knows quite what it means! What is “thy bread”?  What are “the waters”?  And what is the outcome that is promised? Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.  (Ecclesiastes […]

A little bird told me

Ecclesiastes 10:10-20 When we use this phrase it’s often with a wry smile… “Now what’s this I hear about you and a new lady love..?” we tease. “… a little bird told me you were out with so-and-so.” In our modern usage it’s a bit of fun and a playful way of concealing our sources. […]

A fly in the ointment

Ecclesiastes 10:1-9 –  Doctor, Doctor, there’s a fly in the ointment! –  Yes, he’s recovering from a nasty soup burn. Ehem. “A fly in the ointment” is a minor detail that causes major irritation. The phrase has evolved from its biblical origins in Ecclesiastes: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth […]

Two are better than one

Ecclesiastes 9 You have to pick your wedding encouragements carefully. The story is told of an uncle who could not make it to the happy day and so telegrammed his greeting as a simple bible reference.  It was 1 John 4:18: “Perfect love casteth out fear.” A word in season, as the good book says […]

Eat, drink and be merry

Ecclesiastes 8 “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.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:15) This seems like good advice.  There is nothing better in life than to […]

To everything there is a season

Ecclesiastes 3 Aside from the title – “Turn, Turn, Turn” – Pete Seeger wrote 6 words.   Solomon wrote the other 173.  Yet today, it’s probably the the Byrds’ cover version that’s more famous than either! No chart-topper has older lyrics than this song.  So why have these words from Ecclesiastes 3 found such enduring and […]

Nothing new under the sun

Ecclesiastes 2 –  “History repeats itself.” –  “What goes around comes around.” –  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Anyone who lives long enough will observe a relentless circularity to life.  That was certainly Solomon’s experience.  And it bred in him a desperate world-weariness. Here’s how he began his spiritual journal: […]

Vanity of vanities

Ecclesiastes 1 In Proverbs we heard the wisdom of Solomon.  But here in Ecclesiastes, we eavesdrop on his despair. “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.  Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2) Thus begins the spiritual journal of the richest, wisest and most famous […]

A soft answer turneth away wrath

Proverbs 15 Why doesn’t God simply forgive us our sins?  Why do we need the mess and the agony of the cross?  Why is  atonement so elaborate: prefigured through millions of animal deaths, and then purchased with the blood of God? Surely Jesus could go to our sin folder, hit “Select all” and drag it into the Recycle […]

Spare the rod and spoil the child

Proverbs 13 This phrase is biblical in origin, but distilled through the poetry of Samuel Butler: “Love is a Boy, by Poets styl’d, Then Spare the Rod, and spill the Child.” In 1662 “spill” was an alternative spelling for “spoil.”  But it seems that Butler relied on a yet more ancient poet.  In 1377 William […]