bite the dust

to fail; to be defeated; to die, especially on the battlefield
—The economy is so bad, I predict that half of the businesses on our street will bite the dust this year.

The subject of Psalm 72 is the “king,” or the “royal son.” It is both a prayer for Solomon, David’s son, and a prophecy about another descendant of David who would become Israel’s eternal king—later called the Messiah, or Christ. Among the characteristics of his reign is that he would rule over his enemies:

Before him the coastlands will bow down,

and his enemies will lick the dust. (Psalm 72:9)

Many years later, the prophet Micah spoke of a great king coming from the town of Bethlehem and also predicted a time when God would restore Israel’s glory:

Nations will see this and be disappointed by all their strength,

they will put their hands over their mouths,

and act as if they were deaf.

They will lick the dust like a snake,

like serpents crawling on the ground.

They will come trembling from their strongholds

to the Lord our God;

they will be terrified of you. (Micah 7:16,17)

Lick the dust, which in these two passages refers to someone bowing down in humility (much like fall flat on one’s face), led to the present-day bite the dust, which began with the meaning “to be killed” before gaining its current definition.

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