in the land of the living

alive; awake; in good condition
—After he spent two weeks in the hospital, it was good to see Mark back in the land of the living.

As Job looked for answers to his problems, he talked about how hard it is to gain wisdom, saying that no one on earth (in the land of the living) knows where to find it. God, he declares, is the only one who is truly wise.

“But wisdom – where can it be found?
Where is the place of understanding?
Mankind does not know its place;
it cannot be found in the land of the living. (Job 28:12, 13)

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behemoth; leviathan

something extremely large and powerful
—It’s going to take a leviathan-sized tax increase to pay for the behemoth that the city is planning to build as its new stadium.

As Job cried out because of his suffering, God finally answered him. God didn’t explain the reason for Job’s troubles but instead said that Job didn’t have the right to question him. God gave examples of his power and wisdom in creation to show how much greater he was than Job. For example, he talked about the behemoth:

Look now at Behemoth, which I made as I made you;
it eats grass like the ox.
Look at its strength in its loins,
and its power in the muscles of its belly.
It makes its tail stiff like a cedar,
the sinews of its thighs are tightly wound.
Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like bars of iron. (Job 40:15-18)

Later, God asked Job,

Can you pull in Leviathan with a hook,
and tie down its tongue with a rope? (Job 41:1)

When it rises up, the mighty are terrified,
at its thrashing about they withdraw.
Whoever strikes it with a sword
will have no effect,
nor with the spear, arrow, or dart.
It regards iron as straw
and bronze as rotten wood. (Job 41:25-27)

Though it is not clear exactly what creatures the behemoth and leviathan are here, some translators believe the behemoth to be a hippopotamus or water buffalo and the leviathan to be a crocodile.

After God’s answer, Job responded with humility and submitted to God’s will. Then God stopped Job’s trials and blessed him more than he had before the testing.

 

promised land

a place of happiness; a longed-for goal that is reached by hard work and patience
—The team believes that their new coach will be able to take them to the promised land of the championship game.

God chose Abraham to be the father of the Hebrew people, later called Israelites, or Jews. God told him to leave his homeland and travel to a place that he promised to give to his descendants. So Abraham, with his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot, went to this “Promised Land,” called Canaan. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Abraham and Sarah are remembered as people of great faith:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land [land of promise—KJV] as though it were a foreign country. . . . By faith, even though Sarah herself was barren and he was too old, he received the ability to procreate, because he regarded the one who had given the promise to be trustworthy. So in fact children were fathered by one man – and this one as good as dead—like the number of stars in the sky and like the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8,9,11,12)

Abraham believed that God would make him the father of a great nation, even though he and Sarah were childless and well past the age for having children. Also in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes about Abraham:

Against hope Abraham believed in hope [against hope believed in hope—KJV] with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.” (Romans 4:18)

Today, hope against hope means “to have faith in a good outcome even though it doesn’t seem likely.”

 

Sodom and Gomorrah; Sodom; Gomorrah

a place of evil, crime, or immorality
—According to my mother’s thinking, my move from the countryside to the big city was going from Eden to Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Canaan, Abraham and Lot, his nephew, decided to separate to give each more room for his livestock and possessions. Lot moved east, toward the city of Sodom, even though it was known as a wicked place. The Lord, accompanied by two angels, appeared to Abraham and told him that his wife, Sarah, would have a son, even though she was past the age to have children.

He also told Abraham about his plans to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. When the angels visited Lot in Sodom, the men of the city surrounded his home and threatened Lot and his guests. In the end, the angels helped Lot and his wife and two daughters escape, as God destroyed the city with burning sulfur from the sky.

Sodomy is the name given to certain sexual acts by those who consider those acts unnatural or illegal.

God bless you; Bless you

said to show affection or thankfulness; said in response to someone who has sneezed
—After his third sneeze, I stopped saying, “Bless you,” and just gave him a tissue.

Just as he had promised, God gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. After this son, Isaac, grew up, he married Rebecca and she gave birth to twin baby boys. When the two boys were born, the younger one was holding on to the heel of his brother. Therefore, he was given the name Jacob, meaning “one who grabs the heel,” which can further mean “supplanter” or “deceiver.”

As a grown man, Jacob tricked Esau to get a blessing from his father. As part of the blessing, Isaac told Jacob to travel to the land of his grandfather to find a wife, saying,

May the sovereign God bless you [God almighty bless thee—KJV]! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants! Then you will become a large nation. May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident. (Genesis 28:3,4)

Today, people often say “Bless you” after hearing someone sneeze. While this is a common custom, it’s origins are unclear. Following are some possible explanations.

Some say that, in the past, people believed that sneezing could expel a person’s spirit. Saying “Bless you” prevented the spirit from being snatched by Satan before it could return. Others say that the phrase comes from an old belief that sneezing was the body’s way of ridding itself of an evil spirit. Saying “Bless you” therefore kept the spirit from returning. Still others say that in times past people believed that when a person sneezed, his heart stopped. Saying “Bless you” encouraged the heart to start again. Still another theory is that during a plague, a sneeze was seen as a symptom of the disease, so a response of “Bless you” was asking God to heal the sick person.

Now, for most people, this phrase is simply a polite response, with no actual meaning behind it.

Even thought the name Jacob has a strange meaning, according to the US Social Security Administration, it was the most popular name chosen for baby boys in the US during the first decade of the 2000s. In fact, of the top-ten boys’ names for that time period, eight come from the Bible (Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel, Andrew, Ethan, and Joseph), while three out of the top-ten girls’ names are biblical in origin (Hannah, Abigail, and Elizabeth).

Go to the appendix for a list of over 150 biblical names, along with their meanings and backgrounds, that are often used in the US.

coat of many colors

a multi-colored coat or similar garment or covering; something that makes others envious
My favorite time of year is spring, when the flowers bloom and my mother’s garden is clothed in a coat of many colors.

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and blessed him with 12 sons. Of these sons, Joseph was Israel’s favorite, and he showed this by giving Joseph a special gift:

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was a son born to him late in life, and he made a special tunic for him [a coat of many colours—KJV]. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated Joseph and were not able to speak to him kindly. (Genesis 37:3,4)

Over time, the brothers’ anger toward Joseph increased, until one day they sold him to some merchants who took him as a slave to Egypt. When the brothers went back to their father, they told him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal, convincing Israel of this by showing him Joseph’s coat, which they had dipped in the blood of a goat.

fat of the land

the best things available in life
—Bill’s dream is to become a famous actor, move to Hollywood, and live off the fat of the land.

After Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave, he was sold to an officer of the pharaoh, the Egyptian king. The officer’s wife tried to seduce him, but when Joseph refused her, she accused him of being the seducer. Joseph was put in prison and stayed there until the pharaoh heard about Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. After Joseph told him the meaning of his dream, the pharaoh set him free and made him second in command of Egypt. Later, there was a famine in Canaan, and Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. Joseph forgave his brothers for what they had done to him and invited his family to come live in Egypt. When the pharaoh heard this, he was glad and told Joseph,

Say to your brothers, “Do this: Load your animals and go to the land of Canaan! Get your father and your households and come to me! Then I will give you the best land in Egypt and you will eat the best of the land [fat of the land—KJV].” (Genesis 45:17,18)

Here, fat of the land means “the best the land has to offer.”

stranger in a strange land

a person in unfamiliar surroundings
—When I arrived at the university campus from my small-town home, I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

The descendants of Israel, called Israelites, grew in number while they lived in Egypt. In fact, there came to be so many of them that the Egyptians became afraid. A new pharaoh, who didn’t know about Joseph, made them slaves, forcing them to work making bricks and laboring in the fields. He even told the midwives to kill the Israelites’ newborn baby boys. One of these babies was Moses, whose mother put him in a basket and hid him in the water near the shore of the Nile River. The pharaoh’s daughter found him, felt sorry for him, and raised him as her own son.

When Moses grew up, he was angry at how the Egyptians treated his people. After killing an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite, he ran away to the unfamiliar territory of Midian, where he met Reuel, the priest of that area.

Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. When she bore a son, Moses named him Gershom, for he said, “I have become a resident foreigner in a foreign land [a stranger in a strange land—KJV].” (Exodus 2:21,22)

The name Gershom sounds like the Hebrew for “an alien there.”

 

burning bush

something that gives a clear direction for future actions
—Seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre was his burning bush. That’s when he decided to quit his job and work on his art full time.

One day, while Moses was taking care of some sheep in the desert, God got his attention by causing a bush to catch on fire. When Moses came close, God spoke to him:

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from within a bush. He looked—and the bush was ablaze with fire [the bush burned with fire—KJV], but it was not being consumed! So Moses thought, “I will turn aside to see this amazing sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:2-4)

 

land flowing with milk and honey; land of milk and honey

a place giving an abundance of good things
—Many people who move to the city thinking it is a land flowing with milk and honey soon realize that good-paying jobs are hard to find.

While speaking to Moses from the burning bush, God told him to return to Egypt to lead his people back to the Promised Land. He called it “a land flowing with milk and honey” because of the great amount of food and other blessings he would provide for them there. God said,

I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the region of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. (Exodus 3:7,8)

When Moses asked God what his name was, God called himself “I am.” Then he used a name for himself that comes from the Hebrew for to be, meaning something like “the one who always is.” Today this name is often pronounced as Jehovah (based on the Hebrew spelling), but it is shown in most English Bibles as the LORD (or the Lord):

God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. (Exodus 3:14,15)