Home  »  Curiosities in Proverbs  »  Proverbs Suggested by the Bible or Suggesting the Bible

D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.

Proverbs Suggested by the Bible or Suggesting the Bible

A double-minded man is a post in the mud swinging to and fro. (Telugu).
See James i:8; iv:8; Matt. v:24.
The proverb is applied not only to men who vacillate but to those who seek personal advantage by trying to follow two opposite courses of action.
“The word of an unstable man is a bundle of water.” (Telugu). “Riding two horses at the same time.” (Arabian). “Who stands hesitating between two mosques returns without prayer.” (Turkish). “Do not embark in two boats, for you will be spilt and thrown on your back.” (Malayan).

All seek their own object. (Sanskrit).
See Phil. ii:21; I Cor. x:24, 33; xiii:5.

A match will set fire to a large building. (Marathi).
See James iii:5.
“A little fire burns up a great deal of corn.” (English). “Of a spark of fire a heap of coals is kindled.” (Hebrew). “More than one war has been kindled by a single word.” (Arabian). “A little stone may upset a large cart.” (Italian, Danish).

As a man’s heart is so does he speak. (Sanskrit).
See Matt. xiii:34, 35; Luke vi:45.
“That which is in the mind is spoken.” (Persian). “If better were within, better would come out.” (English). “As we are inwardly, so shall we appear outwardly.” (Marathi). “As the life is, so will be the language.” (Greek).

As is the king, so will the virtue be. (Telugu).
The reference being not to the king’s virtue, but to the virtue of his subjects.
See Isa. xxiv:2; Jer. v:31; Hos. iv:9.
“Such a king, such a people.” (Latin). “Like king, like law; like law, like people.” (Portuguese). “As the king, so are his people.” (Sanskrit).

A woman spins even while she talks. (Hebrew).
See I Sam. xxv.
Abigail sought her own interests while she talked with David.
The proverb is not intended to teach feminine industry so much as shrewdness.

Blind with both eyes open. (Bengalese).
See Mark viii:18; Rom. xi:8.
This proverb is used not so much in referring to people who lack spiritual discernment as in administering reproof to those who, in excess of anger or excitement, do not realize what they are saying or doing.

Bread in one hand, a stone in the other. (German).
See Matt. vii:7; Luke xi:11.

Can water be divided by a stroke? (Tamil).
See II Ki. ii:8, 14; Exod. xiv:16, 21; Josh, iii:13, 16.

Day and night are one to the Ruler. (Telugu).
The reference is to God, the Supreme Ruler.
See Ps. cxxxix:12; Heb. iv:13.

Do not think today of what you are to eat tomorrow. (Osmanli).
See Matt. vi:25–34; Luke xii:22–30.
See Contradicting Proverbs: “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”
“You ought not to suffer today the grief which belongs to tomorrow.” “Enjoy the present time and don’t grieve for tomorrow.” “Who has seen tomorrow?” (Persian). This last Persian question is often used as an excuse for indulgence in pleasure. “Enough for today is the evil thereof.” “Tomorrow never comes.” “Leave tomorrow till tomorrow.” (English). “Tomorrow will be another day.” (Spanish). “Tomorrow is a long day.” (German). “The provision for tomorrow belongs to tomorrow.” (Arabian).
“Avoid inquiring what is to be tomorrow, and whatsoever day fortune shall give you, count it as a gain.”—Horace.
“One today is worth two tomorrows.”—B. Franklin.
“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”—Quoted by B. Franklin and by Lord Chesterfield.

Eat and drink and let the world go to ruin. (Arabian).
See Isa. xxii:13; Luke xii:19; I Cor. xv:32.

Either friends like Job’s friends or death. (Hebrew).
See Job ii:11.

Every Pharaoh has his Moses. (Persian, Osmanli).
See Exod. i:1; xv:27.

Everything forbidden is sweet. (Arabian).
See Prov. ix:17, 18; xx:17.

Except the thread of Mary there was none fit for the needle of Jesus. (Persian).
A proverb of respect for the Virgin Mary.

Father and mother are kind but God is kinder. (Danish).
See Ps. xxvii:10; Isa. xl:11; xlix:15.

Give to him that has. (Italian).
See Matt. xiii:12; xxv:29; Mark iv:24, 25; Luke viii:18.

God afflicts those whom He loves. (Persian).
See Prov. iii:12; Ps. xciv:12; cxix:75; Heb. xii:6; Rev. iii:19.

Good fruit never comes from a bad tree. (Portuguese).
See Matt. vii:15–20; xii:33.
See also Bible Proverbs—New Testament: “The tree is known by its fruit” and “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”
“Good tree, good fruit.” (Dutch). “One knows the horse by his ears, the generous by his gifts, a man by laughing, and a jewel by its brilliancy.” (Bengalese). “Will the tiger’s young be without claws?” (Tamil). “As the tree, so the fruit.” (German). “Of a good tree the fruit is also good.” (Modern Greek).

Good to the good and evil to the evil. (Persian).
See Exod. xxi:24, 25; Levit. xxiv:20; Deut. xix:21; Matt. v:38–42.

Great cry and little wool. (English).
See I Sam. xxv. See also Quotation Proverbs: “‘Mair whistle than woo,’ quo’ the sauter when he sheared the sow.”
“This is derived from the ancient mystery of David and Abigail, in which Nabal is represented as shearing his sheep, and the Devil who is made to attend the churl, imitates the act by shearing a hog. Originally the proverb ran thus: “‘Great cry and little wool,” as the Devil said when he sheared the hogs.’”—E. Colham Brewer.

Hast given (the poor) to eat and to drink, accompany them on their way. (Hebrew).
See Gen. xviii:5–8, 16.
This proverb was taken directly from the story of Abraham’s treatment of the three angels.

He has been weighed in the balances and came out wanting. (Osmanli).
See Dan. v:27.

He is as poor as Job. (Dutch).
See Job i:20–22.

He is a wolf in lamb’s skin. (English).
See Matt. vii:15.

He sells his friend more easily than the brethren of Joseph sold him. (Arabian).
See Gen. xxxvii:23–28.
The story of Joseph is found in the Koran and is therefore familiar to the Arabs.

He that returneth good for evil obtains the victory. (English).
See Exod. xxiii:4; Prov. xxv:21; Matt. v:44; Luke vi:27–38; Rom. xii:20.
“It is easy to return evil for evil; if you be a man return good for evil.” (Persian).

He that sows iniquity shall reap sorrow. (English).
See Job iv:8; Prov. vi:14–19; xvi:28; xxii:28; Gal. vi:7, 8.
See also Bible Proverbs—New Testament: “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”

He that sweareth falsely denieth God. (English).
See Exod. xx:7; Levit. vi:3; xix:12; Deut. v:3; Matt. v:33; James v:12.

He lives in the land of promise. (Dutch).
See Deut. xxvii:3.

He that runs will obtain. (Hindustani).
See I Cor. ix:24.

He was born with Noah in the ark. (Arabian).
See Gen. vi:5; viii:19.
This saying is used by the Arabs in referring to any practice or monument of great antiquity. The story of the flood is found in the Koran.

He who is not satisfied with the government of Moses will be satisfied with the government of Pharaoh. (Arabian).
See Exod. v:21; vi:9; xiii:17; xiv:12; Num. xiv:1–14; The Acts vii:39.
See also Bible Proverbs—New Testament: “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other.”
“This saying has latterly been often quoted to express that those who did not like the Mamelukes must now submit to the still more tyrannical government of Mohammed Aly.”—J. L. Burckhardt.

Hopes delayed hang the heart upon tender-hooks. (English).
See Prov. xiii:12, 13.

Human blood is all of one colour. (English).
See The Acts xvii:26.

Idleness is the root of all evil. (German).
See Eccles. x:18; I Tim. vi:10.

If God save, who can kill? (Marathi).
See Ps. cxviii:6; Rom. viii:31.
The reverse of this question is sometimes heard in Western India. When human effort does not avail to save life the people say, “If God kill, who can save?”

If God won’t give, how can Solomon give? (Persian).
See I Ki. x:1–29; Job i:21; Ps. civ:1–35; Eccles. v:18; vi:2.

If men had not slept, the tares had not been sown. (English).
See Matt. xiii:25.

If our predecessors were angels, we are human; if they were human, we are asses. (Hebrew).
See Eccles. vii:10.

If you will be great, then be little. (Bengalese).
See Prov. xv:33; xviii:12; xix:23; Matt. xvii:4; xx:26, 27; xxiii:11, 12; Mark ix:33–37; x:35–45; Luke ix:46–48; xiv:7–11; xviii:14.

In Golgotha are skulls of all sizes. (Oriental).
See Matt. xvii:33; Mark xv:22; John xix:17.

In his purse there is the blessing of Abraham the Friend. (Osmanli).
See Gen. xii:2; xviii:4; II Chron. xx:7; Isa. xli:8; Gal. iii:14; James ii:23.

In the place of beauty, disfigurement. (Hebrew).
See Isa. iii:24.

In the twinkling of an eye. (English).
See I Cor. xv:52.
“Father, come; I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.”—Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice.

In truth they must not eat that will not work in heat. (English).
See Gen. iii:19; The Acts xx:33–35; I Cor. iv:11, 12; II Cor. xi:9; Eph. iv:28; I Thess. ii:9; iv:11; II Thess. iii:8–12.
“Paradise, that was man’s storehouse, was also his workhouse. They bury themselves alive that, as body-lice, live on other men’s labours; and it is a sin to succour them. Seneca professed that he had rather be sick in his bed than out of employment.”—John Trapp.

Isaiah does not know Moossa, he knows only himself. (Osmanli).
Equivalent to the saying, “Every man for himself,” which is sometimes lengthened by adding “And God for us all,” or “And the devil take the hindmost,” or “Quoth Merteine.” No such person as Merteine ever lived; he is simply an imaginary man to whom is attributed the authorship of many proverbs both in England and in France. It seemed sometimes necessary to people in olden times to attribute the authorship of a proverb to someone to give it authority or quaintness of expression and “Merteine” was often selected for the purpose.
“In the king’s court everyone is for himself.” (French). “At court everyone for himself,” “Every man is best known to himself.” (English).

It is easier to turn the tongue than a big ship. (Gaelic).
See James iii:4, 5.

Jacob’s voice, Esau’s hands. (German).
See Gen. xxvii:22.

Jacob did not lament so much as he did. (Persian).
See Gen. xxxvii:34; xlv:28; xlvi:30; xlvii:27.

Jesus is a prophet, Moses is a prophet, but the master of all is a club. (Urdu).
A club in the sense of forceful speech.

Job was not half so patient as we were. (Persian).
See Job i:21, 22; ii:9, 10; James v:11.
“The patience of Job is not easy for every servant.”—that is, for every servant of God (Osmanli). Sometimes the proverb takes the form of “The patience of Job is not easy for every man.”

Joseph in Egypt is a king. (Persian).
See Gen. xli:40–45; xlii:6; xlv:8, 26; Ps. cv:21; The Acts vii:10.
The Persian word used in this connection signifies not merely a king in a general sense, but it is a common title for the King of Egypt.

Judge not a man by his appearance. (Japanese).
See Lev. xix:15; Deut. i:16; I Sam. xvi:7; Prov. xxiv:23; Matt. xxii:16; John vii:24; viii:15; II Cor. x:7; James ii:1–9.

Lean not on a reed. (English).
See Isa. xxxvi:6; II Ki. xviii:21; Ezek. xxix:6, 7.

Let everyone be content with what God has given him. (Portuguese).
See Matt. vi:25–34; II Cor. vi:10; Phil. iv:11, 12; I Tim. vi:6, 8; Heb. xiii:5.

Let the ass of Jesus go to Mecca; when it returns he will be still an ass. (Persian).
See Zech. ix:9; Matt. xxi:1–11; Mark xi:1–11; Luke xix:28–40; John xii:14, 15.
The Persians also say, “The ass of Jesus does not go to heaven.” “Jack will never make a gentleman.” (English). “An ape is an ape even though it wear golden ornaments.” (Latin). “An ape’s an ape though he wear a gold ring.” (Dutch).

(Like) the lamentation of Adam on his departure from Paradise. (Arabian).
See Gen. iii:22–24.
Used in referring to unavailing grief as when one is in great mental distress because of the death of a loved one.

Man has many devices. (Marathi).
See Prov. xvi:9; xix:21.

Many things lawful are not expedient. (English).
See I Cor. vi:12, x:23.

Moses writes so that God alone can read it. (Hindustani).
This curious proverb is applied to one whose writing is so poor or illegible that it is practically useless in correspondence. In the original it is a kind of pun, giving one meaning when written and another when spoken. When spoken it may signify “He that writes as fine as a hair, let him come and read it himself.” The Behar peasants have the same proverb.

Nature teaches us to love our friends; but religion, our enemies. (English).
See Matt. v:43, 44.

Nimrod can never go to heaven by the wings of vultures, nay by the kick of mosquitoes he will fall to the ground. (Persian).
See Gen. x:8, 9; I Chron. i:10.
See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Jehovah,” and Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “There is a gnat for every Nimrod.”
According to an old tradition, Nimrod built the tower of Babel, which was so high that it is said to have taken a year to reach the top. It is declared that there were three classes of builders among those who were engaged in its construction. The first said, “Let us ascend into the heavens and wage warfare with God”; the second said, “Let us ascend into the heavens, set up our idols there, and pay worship to them”; the third said, “Let us ascend into the heavens and ruin the inhabitants thereof with our bows and spears.”
The Koran informs us that the tower of Babel being destroyed by God, Nimrod planned to ascend to heaven by means of a chest borne by four monstrous birds and contend with the Almighty, but when the chest rose from the earth it wandered about in the air for a time and then fell.

Nothing so deaf as an adder. (English).
See Ps. lviii:4.
Though the adder is not deaf it was regarded in the past as at times devoid of hearing. For centuries men sought to discover some plausible reason for its occasional deafness and the explanations that were given were amusing, in that they were absurd and charged the reptile with causing its own deafness. “The adder,” said a twelfth-century preacher, “seeketh a stone and layeth an ear thereto, and in the other ear she putteth her tail, and so stoppeth up both.” John Trapp held the same opinion, as is seen in his commentary on Psalm lviii:5, for he declared, “The serpent here spoken of, when she beginneth to feel the charmer, clappeth one of her ears close to the ground and stoppeth the other with her tail.” He referred to Jerome, Austin, and Cassiodorus as agreeing with him, and added that some declared that “She doeth this, although by hearkening to the charmer, provoking her to spit out her poison, she might renew her age.” George Swinnock gave the same explanation of the serpent’s deafness as did many others in his day. Matthew Henry rejected the theory calling it a “vulgar tradition,” but declared that he believed it was generally accepted as true in the time of David and suggested to him the reference in his Psalm.
There is an old superstition that somewhere on every deaf adder’s body these words may be found in mottled colours:

  • “If I could hear as well as see,
  • No man of life should master me.”
  • At the present time “As deaf as an adder” is a common simile, and the following old English rhyme taken from the above superstition is still repeated:
  • “‘If I could hear and thou couldst see,
  • There would none live but you and me,’
  • As the adder said to the blind worm.”
  • One Joseph and many purchasers. (Persian).
    See Gen. xxxvii:28, 36; xxxix:1; xlv:4, 5.
    Spoken of things that are in great demand or that are wanted by many people but possessed by few.
    There are two other Persian proverbs that express the same thought: “One pomegranate and a hundred sick,” and “One raisin and a hundred Qulundurs.”

    One ploughs, another sows, who will reap no one knows. (Danish).
    See John iv:37.

    Pride will have a fall. (English, Scotch, Hindi, etc.)
    See Prov. xi:2; xvi:18; xvii:19; xviii:12.
    See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
    “Pride goes before and shame follows after.” (English). “When pride’s in the van, begging’s in the rear,” “Ye’ll fa’ in the midden looking at the moon.” (Scotch). “Pride sought flight in heaven, fell to hell.” (Basque).

    Samson was a strong man yet could not pay money before he had it. (English).
    See Judges xiv:1–20.

    The braying of an ass and the sweet songs of David are alike to him. (Persian).

    The children of Adam are formed of clay; if they are not humble, what pretensions have they to name? (Persian).

    The deluge alone can extinguish the fire of the heart of Noah. (Persian).

    The faults of a mother are visited on her children. (Tamil).
    See Exod. xx:5; xxxiv:7; Num. xiv:18; Job xxi:19; Ps. xxxvii:28; cix:10–14; Isa. xiv:20, 21; Jer. xxxii:18.
    See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “As the mother, so is her daughter.”

    The fewer the words the better the prayer. (German).
    See Matt. vi:7, 8.

    The generous man enriches himself by giving; the miser hoards himself poor. (Dutch, Danish).
    See Prov. xi:24.
    “What is given to the poor will be paid on the day of doom.” (Welsh). “Giving much to the poor doth increase a man’s store.” (English, Scotch). “Spend and God will send, spare and be bare.” (Scotch).

    The greatest conqueror is he who conquers himself. (German).
    See Prov. xvi:32.

    The hand that gives is above (the hand) that receives. (Osmanli).
    See The Acts xx:35.

    Their grandfather has eaten sour grapes and the teeth of the grandchildren are made to ache. (Osmanli).
    See Jer. xxxi:29.

    The Lord will not fail to come, though he may not come on horseback. (Danish).
    See Hab. ii:3; Heb. x:36, 37.

    The meekness of Moses is better than the strength of Samson. (English).
    See Num. xii:3; Judg. xiv:5, 6; xv:4, 14, 15; xvi:3, 6, 12, 29, 30.

    The Panre would teach others; but he himself stumbles. (Behar).
    See Ps. l:16; Isa. iii:12; ix:16; Mal. ii:8; Matt. xv:14; xxiii:1–39; Luke vi:39; John ix:34; x:41; The Acts xxi:21; Rom. ii:19–23; I Tim. i:6, 7; v:3–5; II Tim. iii:5.
    See also Bible Proverbs—New Testament: “Physician, heal thyself.”
    Panre is a Brahman sect—the word is used in this proverb for one who presumes to teach others.
    “Practise what you preach.” “An ounce of practice is worth a pound of preaching.” “Practice is better than precept.” “Example is better than precept.” “A good example is the best sermon.” “Examples teach more than precepts.” (English). Example does more than much teaching.” “Good example is half a sermon.” “He is a good preacher who follows his own preaching.” “There are many preachers who don’t hear themselves.” (German). “He is past preaching who does not care to do well.” “Precept begins, example accomplishes.” (French). “Good preachers give fruits, not flowers.” (Italian).
    “Men trust more fully to their eyes than to their ears: the road is long by precept; by example it is short and effective.”—Seneca.

    The people will worship a calf if it be a golden one. (English).
    See Exod. xxxii:1–6.

    There is a special providence in the fall of the sparrow. (English).
    See Matt. x:29; Luke xii:6, 7.

    There is a time for all things. (English).
    See Eccles. iii:1, 7; viii:6.
    “There is a time to gley, an’ a time to look even”; (Scotch). “Everything has its time.” (Portuguese). “There is a time to wink, as well as to see.” (English). “Time for food, time for worship.” (Welsh). “It will happen in its time, it will go in its time.” (Hindoo). “There is a time to fish and a time to dry nets.” (Chinese). “There is a time to jest and a time when jests are unreasonable.” (Spanish). “Yule’s good on Yule even.” (English). “Everything must wait its turn—peach blossoms for the second month and chrysanthemums for the ninth.” (Japanese).

    There is a gnat for every Nimrod. (Persian).
    See Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Jehovah,” and preceding proverb—“Nimrod can never go to heaven by the wings of vultures, nay by the kick of mosquitoes he will fall to the ground.”
    The proverb is taken from the story of Nimrod’s war with Abraham as found in the Koran, where we are informed God plagued Nimrod’s followers with swarms of gnats. One gnat, it is said, penetrated Nimrod’s brain through his ear or nostril and then increased its size, giving him great pain. Finally Nimrod in the extremity of his suffering ordered that his head should be beaten with a mallet. This practice of having his head beaten to relieve his pain was, according to the tale, kept up for four hundred years.

    There is more Samson than Solomon in him. (English).
    That is, he has more brawn than brains.

    There is no greater folly than turning back after having once ventured to run a risk. (Telugu).
    See I Ki. xix:19–21; Luke xvii:32.

    There must be a blow for a blow and a word for a word. (Telugu).
    See Gen. ix:6; Exod. xxi:12, 23–25; Lev. xxiv:17–21; Num. xxxv:30, 31; Deut. xix:11–13, 21; Matt. v:38.
    This proverb is not used by the Telugus so much in the sense of Exod. xxi:23–25 as in the sense of the Italian saying, “One word brings another.”

    There will be a day when (one) will see face to face. (Osmanli).
    See I Cor. xiii:12.

    The provision for tomorrow belongs to tomorrow. (Arabian).
    See Matt. vi:34.

    The right hand knows nothing of the left hand. (Arabian).
    See Matt. vi:3.
    This saying was probably borrowed by Mohammed from the words of Jesus. Another of Mohammed’s expressions is: “A man distributes alms, and his left hand does not know what his right hand dispenses.”

    The son of Noah associated with the wicked; and lost the dignity derived from his father. (Persian).

    The time will come when they will solicit God’s mercy from Pharaoh. (Arabian).
    Times are so hard that the reign of Pharaoh will seem a blessing.

    The tongue produces good and evil. (Tamil).
    See James iii:10.

    The wolf and the lamb drink together. (Persian).
    See Isa. xi:6; lxv:25.

    The wolf instead of being falsely accused by Yoosoof (Joseph) obtains acquittal. (Persian).
    See Gen. xxxvii:31.
    The Persians sometimes say, “The wolf was unjustly accused of devouring Joseph.”

    This is not the place for even Gabriel to speak. (Persian).
    An allusion to the necessity of silence on the part of those who live under a tyrannical government.

    To become a mountain from a grain of mustard. (Hindustani).
    See Matt. xvii:20.
    Used in referring to anyone who has risen from poverty to wealth, power, and influence. It is also said, “He (God) turns a grain of mustard to a mountain and a mountain to a mustard seed.”

    Until I see with my own eyes I will not believe. (Hindi).
    See John xx:25.

    Were an ant to crawl on the head of Solomon, people would not esteem it any disgrace to him. (Persian).
    People of real worth and high rank do not suffer from the disrespect of others.

    What! beautify the outside of a wall, while the inside is neglected? (Tamil).
    See Matt. xxiii:25, 26; Luke xi:39, 40.
    The Tamil people also say, “Garnish the inside of the wall and then the outside.”

    What can the enemy do if God be our friend? (Persian).
    See Num. xiv:9; Ps. cxviii:6; Rom. viii:31.

    What dread has he of the waves of the sea, who has Noah for a boatman? (Persian).
    See Gen. vii:23.
    Sometimes the Persians change the form of rendering the proverb and say, “What has he to fear from a storm who has Noah with him?”
    The question is asked in speaking of people who are under powerful protection.

    What is seen is perishable. (Marathi).
    See II Cor. iv:18.

    When Christ was alone the Devil tempted Him. (German).
    See Matt. xli:1; Mark i:12, 13; Luke iv:1.

    When David grew old, he sang pious psalms. (German).
    See Ps. xxxvii:25.

    When the tale of bricks is doubled then comes Moses. (Hebrew, German).
    See Exod. v:1–23.

    Women are part cut out of men. (Arabian).
    See Gen. ii:23.