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],

he provides a spring for them.

The rain even covers it with pools of water.

They are sustained [go from strength to strength] 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.”

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