We all know that the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible. It’s one of those false proverbs that people who don’t read the Bible think comes from the Bible. But how many phrases do you think you know of the Bible are actually nothing more than phrases spoken by men? Here’s an example, one that I am often asked about in fact:
“The lion and the lamb shall lie down together.”
The convenient alliteration “lion and lamb” is easy to remember. But it is not out of the Bible, at least not as a direct quote. The phrase goes back at most a few centuries and appears in sermons and commentaries, but never as a direct Bible quote. But because of the picture it paints, and the alliteration of the spoken words said, it took hold and many people assume that is a direct Bible quote. So when they read the actual verse, they can be caught off-guard:
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
A lion and a lamb do also appear in one verse in Isaiah 65:25, but again, the Bible paints the picture of a wolf and a lamb together:
Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
The force of memory is so strong that many people have emailed me when reading these verses assuming that something happened to their Bibles because it doesn’t match up with what they have heard preached. “The lion and the lamb shall lie together” is an allusion to verses in Isaiah that appeared in sermons and commentaries, but eventually became remembered as Bible quotes. Here is an example. In a few minutes of research this is the oldest quotation of this phrase I found in the commentaries I have easy access to (there may be others that are older, but this one is certainly the oldest well read use):
“And peace there shall be no end; this respects both the increase and perpetuity of the peace of Christ’s kingdom. The peace of believers, under the Gospel dispensation, is greater than that of the saints under the legal dispensation, whose sacrifices could not remove a consciousness of sin and its guilt; and who, through various laws threatening with death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage; but great is the peace of New Testament saints, through the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, and which may be increased more and more; and in the latter day there will be more peace among themselves; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim; the sticks of Joseph and Judah shall be one nor will there ever be any more discord between Jew and Gentile, the lion and the lamb shall lie down together; there will be no more war among the nations, after the battle of Armageddon; and no more persecution, after the slaughter of the witnesses; and this abundance of peace, spiritual and temporal, will be as long as the moon endures, Ps 72:7 and all this will issue in eternal peace in the world to come:…” -John Gill, comments on Isaiah 9:7, 18th century.
Carefully notice that Dr. Gill includes the phrase but does not offer attribution to the Bible for it. Thus we see Gill’s allusion (not quotation) worked its way into collective memory through other speakers and teachers who used the same (non-Bible) phrase.