set one’s teeth on edge

to be irritated by a situation; to be unnerved by something
—His refusal to help me really set my teeth on edge.

During the time of the prophet Ezekiel, a popular proverb among the Jewish people was “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” To have one’s teeth set on edge is the feeling a person gets in his mouth after eating something extremely sour. The words for set on edge in the original Hebrew can also be translated as made blunt or made dull. When the people of Israel used this phrase, they were complaining that God was punishing them for the bad things their ancestors had done.

God told Ezekiel that in the future, the people would recognize his clear justice, when those who did wrong would be punished, and their punishment would not extend to their descendants:

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by quoting this proverb concerning the land of Israel,

“‘The fathers eat sour grapes

And the children’s teeth become numb [teeth are set on edge]?’

“As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, you will not quote this proverb in Israel anymore! Indeed! All lives are mine—the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine. The one who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:1-3)

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