“A house divided against itself”
Without unity there can be no strength In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells a crowd of impudent Pharisees, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” However, the phrase didn’t enter the modern lexicon until it was memorably quoted by Abraham Lincoln in his famous nomination acceptance speech of 1858. Addressing the contentious issue of slavery in the United States, he told an audience of Republican politicians that “a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” His words were prophetic. Three years later, the U.S. government did indeed split, and the resulting civil war between slave and free states cost more than 600,000 lives. The phrase meanwhile, became famous, immortalized as the title of a 1913 movie, a 1935 novel, and, rather grandiosely, an episode of the hit TV series Dallas. Not exactly what Jesus had in mind. Check out these phrases that used to be insults but now people use them as compliments.
“A drop in the bucket”
Stuck between the mighty pharaohs on one side, and a succession of great Mesopotamian empires on the other, Israel was always destined to be a small fish in a big and dangerous pond. By the middle of the sixth century BC, the Jewish kingdoms had been conquered repeatedly, and a decent chunk of the population was living in painful exile in Babylon. Amid all this geopolitical gloom, the Book of Isaiah had some words of comfort. Compared to God, says the prophet, “the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.” These days, in keeping with the modern enthusiasm for “super-sizing,” the “bucket” is often replaced with the “ocean.” Also in today’s modern time, we should definitely bring them back these 10 beautiful words.
In the Book of Exodus, Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt to escape from the tyrannical pharaoh and find the Promised Land. They follow him eagerly enough at first, but it soon becomes clear that the journey will be far from straightforward. As geography students will remember, between Egypt and Israel lies the barren wasteland of the Sinai Desert. It isn’t long before Moses’ flock start complaining: “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt,” they moan, “when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full.” “Flesh pots,” in this passage, means exactly what it sounds like: pots in which you cook flesh. But the fleshpots of Egypt became a popular metaphor for any luxurious scene imagined with regret or disapproval. Gradually, the Egyptian reference dropped away—in 1710, Jonathan Swift writes of the “fleshpots of Cavan Street”— until fleshpot became an all-purpose word for anywhere that was particularly alluring. These days a “fleshpot” can be anything from a casino in Las Vegas to a London nightclub. Did you know that each state in the country has its own slang words?