cup runneth over

to have more than is needed of something
—What a week! I got a promotion, I’m engaged, and I found my lost dog. My cup runneth over!

David’s 23rd Psalm, which compares his relationship with God to that of a sheep with its shepherd, is one of the most widely recognizable portions of the Bible. Because of its emphasis on God’s care, this psalm gives comfort to those facing difficult times, such as sickness, or the death of a loved one.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23, King James Version)

Many people are familiar with this psalm as it is translated in the King James Bible, completed in 1611 under the direction of King James I of England. Its older style of English gives the King James Bible a poetic, formal feel, but it also contains older words that may be difficult for modern readers to understand. Examples of “King James English” include thee, thou, and ye (“you”); thy and thine (“your”); shalt (“shall”); unto (“to”); doth (“do”); whatsoever (“whatever”); and several verbs, such as runneth, that used to end with –eth but today end with –s.

Valley of the shadow of death is a well-known phrase from Psalm 23, referring to the dangers faced in life. Another, similar phrase is in Psalm 84, which says,

How blessed are those who find their strength in you,

and long to travel the roads that lead to your temple!

As they pass through the Baca Valley [the valley of Baca—KJV],

he provides a spring for them.

The rain even covers it with pools of water.

They are sustained [go from strength to strength—KJV] as they travel along;

each one appears before God in Zion. (Psalm 84:5-7)

In this passage, the Valley of Baca is a dry, barren place that travelers cross on their way to worship in Jerusalem. The Wycliffe Bible has Valley of Baca translated as valley of tears. Today, valley of tears, or vale of tears (vale is another word for valley), has the meaning of “this world or one’s life, filled with sorrow and troubles.” Veil of tears is commonly used as well.

In current usage, go from strength to strength means “to move forward, from success to success.”

Comments are closed.
  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed by Craig Thompson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    Any reproduction of this content using passages from the NET Bible must follow NET Bible's copyright policy for use of those passages.

    For information on creating translations of Putting Words in Our Mouths, please go here.

  • Visit My Blog: Clearing Customs

    What Ever Did We Do before the Invention of Empathy? and Prince Philip’s Confession in “The Crown”

    Did you know there once was a time when empathy didn’t exist in the English-speaking world. During that time, all those poor souls lived in a “Dark Age” of feelings in which they had only sympathy to rely on when faced with others’ pain. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the word empathy was […]

    When in Rome . . . or Santiago or Nairobi or Chiang Mai [—at A Life Overseas]

    When in Rome, sometimes we do as the Romans do just to fit in. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. Sometimes it’s because their way is actually better. And sometimes it’s because, well—Why not give it a shot? Has your host culture offered you ways of doing things different from what you’re used to, ways you’ve […]